Janesville fire victims receive flood of donations

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Thursday, December 22, 2011
— When tragedy strikes, Janesville responds.

Family members affected by a house fire Tuesday are seeing it firsthand.

Brittney “Zam” Szambelan had to run to U.S. Cellular twice for a battery swap Wednesday morning after receiving continuous phone calls offering help.

She is the sister of Matt Tuescher, whose family lost many of their belongings in a Tuesday afternoon fire. They’ll be displaced until their home at 1916 Mount Zion Ave. can be reconstructed.

“I’m absolutely amazed by the help Matt and (his wife) Codie’s family has received,” Szambelan said.

When Jodi Coyer, general manager of the Janesville Mall, saw the Gazette’s front page Wednesday, she was struck by the fact that the family has two kids similar in age to her own. The Tueschers’ children are Nicholas, 5, and Gwenyth, 13. A relative, Larry Schoville, also lives with them.

“No matter what sort of place you’re in financially, you have to start all over again three days before Christmas. It’s daunting,” Coyer said.

Her staff of six talked about forgoing their holiday party and donating the money to the family. The mall ownership at CBL & Associates Properties “stepped up to the plate” and provided $500 for the family, she said.

Coyer and her coworkers also donated $200, providing $700 in mall gift cards for the family.

“Obviously, we can’t get them back in their home,” she said, “but hopefully we can replace some of their holiday spirit.”

Janesville City Council member Sam Liebert helped organize a donation drive for the Tueschers. He spread word through his blog, Facebook and an appearance with a family friend on Your Talk Show on WCLO radio Wednesday morning.

His website provided two donation drop-off sites—Szambelan’s home and Cutting Edge Salon. He also allowed people to donate online through his city council campaign account.

He said he used the campaign account because he wanted to respond quickly, and he’ll direct people to a bank account once one is set up. He said he had less than $100 left in his campaign account and would donate that to the family, too.

“It was amazing just to see how many people in Janesville responded so quickly—before 24 hours of this happening,” said Laura Hoops, who with Amanda Ladd owns Cutting Edge Salon.

In addition to acting as a donation drop-off, the salon is donating hair highlighting for Codie and Gwenyth Tuescher.

Hoops said it made her day to see people arrive every 10 minutes all morning with clothes, toys and gift cards.

“One lady said her mother’s house burnt down last year, so she knew what it was like,” she said. “She got them a gift card for Walmart.”

The American Red Cross supplied hotel vouchers for the Tueschers and Schoville. When the vouchers expire, the family likely would live with other family members, Szambelan said.

Schoville lost his two cats, and the family dog, Wiggles, was unconscious when firefighters carried him out. Wiggles remained at the vet’s office Wednesday trying to overcome lung damage from smoke inhalation.

Damage to the home and its contents are estimated at $50,000, firefighters said.

The family had put out a fire in the dryer’s lint screen earlier in the day, according to a news release from the fire department. Investigators determined that the fire started in the dryer.


People who want to donate items or money to the Tuescher family, who lost most of their belongings in a fire Tuesday, can drop items off at:

-- The home of Brittney “Zam” Szambelan, 1251 N. Fremont Ave., Janesville, (608) 728-2748.

-- Cutting Edge Salon, 1808 N. Washington St., Janesville, (608)-373-3787.

Donations also can be made at Janesville City Council member Sam Liebert’s website, samliebert.blogspot.com, where he is using his old campaign account until an account is set up at a local bank.

A benefit also will be held at 7 tonight at the Back Bar, 1901 Beloit Ave., Janesville. Donations can be dropped off, and proceeds from the evening will go to the family.

Clothing needs for the family by priority include boys size 5T and medium shirt; men’s size 46x30 pants and 3XL shirt; junior’s size 5 jeans and medium shirt; men’s size 32 jeans and large shirt; and junior’s size 11 jeans and large shirt.

The family’s insurance won’t cover the veterinary bills for Wiggles, the family dog, so the family would appreciate donations to cover those costs.

Last updated: 7:03 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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