Christmas gifts and a family's possessions went up in smoke Thursday as fire ravaged a Chester County home.
No one was injured, since the parents and two children were not home when the blaze was reported at 12:02 p.m. in the 900 block of Cornwallis Drive in East Goshen Township, officials said. It was declared under control at 12:31 p.m.
News of the devastation spread almost as quickly as the flames had.
When the school staff and administrators for the West Chester Area School District heard what happened, they were determined that the family's "holiday wouldn't be spoiled" and began reaching into their wallets.
Members of the Westtown-East Goshen Regional Police Department had a similar response, said Detective William Cahill. The police officers' association, he said, quickly decided to write a check after responding officers had described the damage.
"It was a real-life version of It's a Wonderful Life," said Robert Partridge, a district spokesman, describing an unsolicited outpouring of assistance.
The family, who requested anonymity, has two students in the district, he said, a fourth grader at East Goshen Elementary School and a seventh grader at Fugett Middle School.
Partridge said that when Dennis Brown, the East Goshen principal, arrived at the home, he was not the only one bearing gifts. "The police were there," Partridge said, "and so was the Red Cross."
Dave Schrader, a spokesman for the Red Cross, said the family has a place to stay and received money for clothing and meals from the agency.
"It's an amazing statement about the generosity of this community," Partridge said.
Other neighbors, friends, and friends of friends are trying to help.
"My house burned down when I was 12 years old, and other people helped us," said Karen Gordon said. "The worst time for such a tragedy is Christmas. We want to help salvage Christmas for the family."