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Family overwhelmed at community generocity

Posted: July 13, 2013 - 11:05pm
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Photo by Valerie Rowell  A recreational vehicle fire shut down parts of Interstate 20 Tuesday afternoon.  Valerie Rowell
Valerie Rowell
Photo by Valerie Rowell A recreational vehicle fire shut down parts of Interstate 20 Tuesday afternoon.

Rodger Marsh thinks his run of bad luck might have turned a corner.

Until earlier this month, Marsh had been living in Roswell, N.M. with his wife and two small sons. He said money was tight and the people were mean.

“I had pretty much decided that humans weren’t worth wasting my time on anymore,” he said. “I just didn’t trust people. It was us against the world.”

They had to find something better. His wife, Ronda Odom, found a lead on a nursing job in Charleston, S.C., and the family set off for what they hoped was a brighter future some 1,600 miles away.

It was not to be.

They came up short on Tuesday when their 1977 Ford Econoline motorhome began to overheat on Interstate 20 near the Belair Road exit. Marsh hauled it to the side of the road as smoke and flames began to spout from the engine compartment.

He had just enough time to evacuate his wife, sons Jesse, 4, and Caleb, 2; and Kola, their Australian shepherd before the RV and all their possessions went up in flames.

All he could do was stand on the side of the highway and watch it burn.

“I thought, ‘What am I going to do now? I’ve got nobody,’” he said.

That’s when Merian Robinson showed up.

Robinson had spotted Marsh’s smoking motorhome from the other side of I-20 while on her way to work.

“I saw him pull over and it looked like it was overheated,” said Robinson, a pharmacist at Eldercare Pharmacy on Belair Road. “By the time I got down to the other side (of the highway), the smoke was getting darker.”

Robinson directed a co-worker to call 911, but the fire progressed so fast there was no saving the RV, she said. She and her colleagues could only stand and watch the scene from the pharmacy parking lot.

“I said to one of the girls, ‘This was one of the times we can be of help to somebody,’” she said.

So, Robinson marched down to the highway and offered to rent the family a hotel room. Soon she was joined by other passersby, who also stopped to offer help.

Marsh said he was stunned by the instant outpouring of generosity.

“Right off the bat somebody slipped $100 in my hand. I was floored,” he said. “If this was out West where I come from, they never would have stopped to begin with. It really blew my mind.”

That night the family stayed at the nearby Red Roof Inn while visitors with donations and offers of help continued to come knocking.

By Thursday, the room was heaped with donated clothing, toys and food.

“I’ve had to start turning people away,” said March, who was preparing to move on to Columbia and another job possibility that emerged in recent days.

“We’ve got more than 200 diapers for the littlest one, and we’ve got toys out the wazoo.”

Robinson said the business storeroom at Eldercare Pharmacy also is filling up as more people bring by clothing and household items for the family. She said everything they can’t use will be donated to other needy families in the Augusta area.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how nice people have been,” she said.

Marsh said he was been overcome by the entire experience.

“Everything that they did really changed my outlook on life,” he said. “They are a wonderful community and a great bunch of people here, and if I had my way I would just stay.”

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