The Oxford community is working to bring holiday joy to a local police officer and his wife who lost everything in their home and the building itself.
Pete Durkin and his wife were sleeping on the couch of their Dunham Drive home Dec. 14 when the structure caught fire and Durkin got a call from a dispatcher.
“They said, ‘Pete, we’re getting a lot of reports. We think your house is on fire,’” Durkin told our media partner, WCPO.
About half of the house was engulfed at that point, according to Oxford Division of Police. By the time Durkin, his wife and four dogs escaped, nearly the whole structure was ablaze.
The couple attempted to corral the dogs, who were “very frightened and confused,” the department posted via its Facebook page. One of the dogs even ran back in the burning house, only to be brought back out by emergency personnel while another rescued the family’s cat.
The Durkins lost their home and all of their possessions, but a day after the fire, Durkin, a 10-year veteran of the Oxford Division of Police, turned out to volunteer at the department’s charity event, Christmas Caravan.
“We couldn’t think of a better time to do it. We didn’t even think twice,” Durkin, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in Operation Desert Storm, told WCPO.
The community didn’t think twice either, holding a Dec. 23 fundraiser at Fiesta Charra in uptown Oxford to raise money for the family, organizing more than 35 donated raffle and silent auction items. The restaurant even donated 10 percent of all revenue from the event to the Durkins.
A GoFundMe page has raised nearly $6,000 of its $10,000 goal as of Dec. 25.
Community members also reached out to Oxford police department via phone, email and social media, with many dropping off cash, checks and gift cards for the Durkins, police officials said.
“We are happy to accept these monetary donations on behalf of Pete and his wife,” the department posted via its Facebook page. “We think these are a great idea because the Durkins can get needed items as they are able.”
Durkin said the outpouring of love and support from the community has been “overwhelming.”
“It’s been a tremendous help,” he told WCPO. “We can’t thank everybody enough.”
Through it all, Durkin remains optimistic this holiday season.
“It was probably the best Christmas we’ll ever have,” Durkin told WCPO. “For the fact that my wife and I were able to be here for Christmas for one.”
Donations of cash, checks or gift cards are being accepted by Oxford Division of Police, 11 South Poplar Street, Oxford, Ohio 45056. Checks should be made payable to Pete Durkin.