Community comes together to help Meza family

Jeff Wallace auctions off items at the Meza benefit, put on by the Milton-Freewater School District Sunday afternoon.

Thanks to faith, and help from the Milton-Freewater community, members of the Meza family are slowly trying to put their lives back together.

On Oct. 19, tragedy struck. A fire burned their home and killed daughter Malani. The flames and smoke injured other members of the family who tried to rescue her.

“We are all just trying to hang in there,” said Mari Meza, the mother of the family. “We have our moments where we’d like to pull each other up. We have faith we’re going to be all right.”

After such an event, it is almost impossible to get back to normal.

Today the family is living in a temporary house provided by a community member.

All the kids are back in school, except Genesis, who was badly burned in the fire. The family has made trips back and forth to Portland for treatments for her.

The Milton-Freewater School District held a massive auction and rummage sale Sunday. Before the sale took place, the Meza family took what it needed to furnish the home.

“We have pretty much all the furniture we’re needing,” Mari said.

People also have donated clothes for the kids, though she noted with a bit of a chuckle it is hard to find clothes to fit Christian, her lanky teenage son.

The rest of the items, which filled a good portion of the school district’s warehouse on the old cannery property, were sold on Sunday. The district didn’t price anything, just asked for people to donate what they thought items were worth.

FFA students also handed out pie and coffee, much needed on the cold snowy day.

Eddee Lankhaar, of Milton-Freewater, sat down with a piece of apple crisp on Sunday. She said she didn’t come to the sale needing anything in particular.

“I just want to help out,” she said. “I don’t know the family, but I know the story. I just wanted to come and see what I can do to help.”

The district also auctioned off items. The biggest seller was a dirt bike that went for $250.

In all, the benefit raised nearly $3,000. 

On Monday Superintendent Marilyn McBride said monetary donations were still coming in.

Mari said it is difficult to put into words how thankful her family is for all the help it has received from the community — from anonymous gifts to strangers reaching out.

“We deeply thank anyone who has thought of us,” Mari said. “We really appreciate it. Things can never replace Malani, but it does help us get by on our daily living and keep us going.”

 Mari also said faith, and the faith of others, helps too.

“We really deeply appreciate the prayers,” she said. “The prayers from everybody help us get to sleep at night. We’re thankful for that.”

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