When a young family lost everything, their community dropped everything to help.
For Megan and Seth Harding, Thursday, May 9, started off like any other Thursday.
They were both at work, having dropped off their young children at daycare, when lightning struck their home on Angola Road, igniting a devastating fire. Between the torrential rain dropped by the thunderstorms rolling across Louisiana, and firefighters’ efforts to douse the flames, those belongings not lost to fire were ruined by water. By the end of the day, not much remained.
“It was just tragic watching it burn,” recalls Megan, who works at Bank of St. Francisville as a bookkeeping clerk. “I kept thinking, ‘This is my children’s home.’”
Word of the catastrophe spread to the bank and throughout the St. Francisville community, and quickly, a series of kindnesses emerged in response, one after the other. “Within minutes of the fire, someone had paid for us to spend the night in the Best Western, and brought pajamas and changes of clothes for our children,” says Megan. She recalls her coworkers at the bank shopping for the family’s favorite snacks and convenience items on the day of the tragedy to stock their hotel room. When shoppers overheard bank employees discussing it, they asked if they could chip in too.
Saddened to hear of the young couple’s misfortune, friends, acquaintances, and more than a few strangers stopped what they were doing to lend a hand, prepare a meal, or pick up a package of diapers.
Naturally enough, the bank became ground zero for coordinating assistance for the family. BSF’s People Pay —available through BSF online banking and the BSF app—provided an ideal vehicle for the community to easily contribute money to the cause. Individuals from the community continued to drop off other donations to the bank, including children’s clothing.
“I’ll never know all the people who helped us,” says Megan. “It was overwhelming in the best possible way.”
Local representatives from the Red Cross met with the Hardings and provided emergency relief, and a friend of Seth’s allowed the couple to move into a vacant family property, where they are living until their home can be rebuilt.
Natives of the Beaumont area, the Hardings moved to St. Francisville in 2015 after Seth was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps and took a job as a helicopter flight instructor in Baton Rouge. He has since taken a position at River Bend Nuclear Power Station, and also works as a helicopter pilot for the West Feliciana Sheriff’s Department’s Crisis Response Team. During their first year in St. Francisville, the Hardings lived in a camper to save enough money to buy their house. They found their dream home on three acres on the Angola Road in 2016.
“We had been looking for a couple of months, but when we walked into it, we both said, ‘this is the one,’” Megan says. “It was just so open and inviting and perfect for us.”
The process of rebuilding the Hardings’ home has begun. When complete, it will occupy the same foot print as the original home they fell in love with.
Looking back, Megan finds the silver linings: the letters that she and Seth exchanged when he was in active duty in the Marine Corps were spared, so they can still pass them down to their children. The house was unoccupied when the fire started, so no one was hurt. And while she and her family lost almost everything, they gained a circle of friends and witnessed a little small-town magic at work.
“I can’t stress enough how grateful I am to every person who helped us,” Megan says. “I knew this was a great community, but I had no idea just how great.”