Kids raise money for Kenwick neighbor who lost her home in a fire

By Valarie Honeycutt Spears

Published in the Lexington Herald Leader on August 4, 2012


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Tomi Ross lived on Lexington's Bassett Avenue for 27 years in a Victorian style home where the neighborhood children always felt welcome.

When the house caught fire after an apparent lightning strike just around midnight July 27, Ross was out of town. She lost nearly everything she had, including furniture and appliances, clothes, her stained glass studio and Cora, one of her four cats.

Ross said the heartfelt response of her neighbors, and of the members of the fire department who helped her bury Cora, made it "the worst and best day of my life."

As she combed through the ashes, neighbors Isaac Krause, 10, and his brother Caleb Krause, 7, walked down the street to bring her hand-drawn pictures. They just wanted to do something.

"I will treasure these," Ross said she told them, "and when I have a refrigerator again, I will put them on it."

The boys realized then that Ross didn't even have a refrigerator, said their mother, Renea Buckles. Isaac said in an interview Saturday that he got an idea: "Why don't we have a lemonade stand."

Members of the Kenwick Neighborhood Association board spread the word.

On Saturday, nine children who live in the Bassett Avenue area, with the help of their parents, manned a lemonade and treat stand. Neighbors filled a donation jar and wrote checks.

"I've been wanting to do something," said neighbor Margaret Ryle, 85, and the lemonade stand "gave me the opportunity."

The proceeds of the stand totaled $1,161.75, according to Buckles.

"People have been very generous," she said. "We're very blessed to live in a neighborhood with such caring neighbors and such wonderful kids that are thoughtful and creative."

Ross, 54, a senior facilities manager for the University of Kentucky hospitals, was not in town Saturday but said on Friday that she will demolish the burned house. She plans to rent another house on Bassett Avenue while she builds a house on her property.

The fact that the children wanted to open a lemonade stand for her "touched my heart," Ross said. She said she will use the donation in a way that honors "the best neighbors in the world."

"What I hope to do is something that will be visible to the neighborhood," Ross said. "Maybe it will have something to do with the front porch or the landscaping or something in the back yard that the kids can enjoy."