NEWARK VALLEY, N.Y. — On April 22, tragedy struck a single mother and her son when a fire destroyed their home and most of their belongings in what daughter Sarah Mitchell described as a total loss.

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Fire investigators attributed the blaze to a faulty space heater. It rocked the lives of Vickie Eggleston, a breast cancer survivor, and her teenaged son Nate. Although none were injured, smoke inhalation landed Vickie Eggleston in the hospital.

The greatest damage, Mitchell said, was to the family’s property; she said, “Most of the trailer caught on fire (…) there was so much smoke damage that everything is just black and melted.”

Having lost nearly all their possessions and lacking the means to replace much of it, the family was at a loss.

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Mitchell recalled the effect on her mother as, “overwhelming (…) I remember the first time we went shopping for stuff and she just stood in the middle of the store crying. She said to me, ‘I don’t even know where to begin.’”

During the months following the incident, the pair, along with their two dogs, stayed in a small camper that lacked electricity and running water. Although Vickie Eggleston was recently able to purchase a small manufactured home, due to damage done to the electrical pole on the property, the home still lacks electricity.

“The electric pole on the property, which my mother owns, was damaged in the fire and she has to pay an ungodly sum of money to get the electricity back on,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell described an outpouring of support for the family, primarily through a Gofundme page that she set up since the accident, and expressed gratitude for what they had received.

“People just started sharing and pitching in and wanting to help and, you know, everybody has been unbelievably amazing,” she said.

Vickie Eggleston also expressed her appreciation.

“Through all the trial, struggles, ups and downs in this life. …I have learned that there are far more good in the majority of people than bad. I’m blessed to be here, to be alive and to have such an amazing network of caring, loving people in my life,” she said.

The Gofundme page has not yet reached its goal, as the family is still in need of a great deal of help. Additionally, a benefit will be held on Sunday June 7 at Poor Shots restaurant in Berkshire, NY, a 30-minute drive from Ithaca.


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Rubin Danberg Biggs

Rubin Danberg Biggs is an intern with the Ithaca Voice. He can be emailed at rdanbergbiggs@ithacavoice.com.