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Big gifts continue after house fire
When it rains generosity, it pours.
Tony Gianopoulos, a 79-year-old lifelong resident of Yuma, and his family have seen this first hand in the last week. A devastating fire claimed Tony's longtime home, and people who do and don't know Tony have lined up to help him rebuild.
Tony and his son Demetrius have already thanked the community, and now a few days later they have an update: The support is still going strong, and some of the donations are big, really big.
Demetrius praised Chris Morris of Yuma's Calculated Designs, who has volunteered to draw up the blueprints for Tony's new house for free — it's personal for him, since he lost everything to a house fire in 2009.
He said a general contractor has pledged, for free, his services for the rebuild.
He mentioned that a demolition crew, with a permit expedited by the city, will bring down the remains of the house today at no cost to the family so they can concentrate on rebuilding.
He shared that the local Harley-Davidson shop will host a charity run on Tony's behalf on Jan. 26.
“I've never seen so many people help other people like that,” Demetrius said.
Fire ripped through Tony's La Casita Drive home on Dec. 9, destroying nearly everything he owned and leaving his two beloved dogs — Rocky, a brown chihuahua/dachshund mix, and Bubba, a black-and-brown chihuahua — missing, with their remains nowhere to be found amid the rubble. Tony, a retired car salesman, lived independently and modestly in the house for decades, with no homeowner's insurance and only liability insurance on his car.
In the days immediately following the fire, Tony's bosses at Sam's Club, where he has worked for many years, granted him all the time off he needed and started collecting donations for him at the store.
The relief drive at Sam's Club, where Tony is known as the friendly greeter who draws smiley faces on receipts, quickly replaced basics such as clothing and furniture and has drawn in a few thousands of dollars in cash. Tony now has a rental home near his original home, and he will live there with his other son Diomedes.
Demetrius said that if people still want to help, the family needs about $15,000 more in cash for the rebuild project. They'd also be grateful for subcontractors, including landscapers, roofers, plumbers and concrete specialists, to donate services. A Wells Fargo account is now open in Tony Gianopoulos's name.
When the house is done, Demetrius is considering inviting the public over for an open house to celebrate the gifts.
He has committed to his father getting a new home as soon as possible. The brothers won't bring Tony out to the demolition — it might be a bit much for him to see — but they do intend on taking him to the bare site to show him that progress is happening.
Hillary Davis can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6857. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSHillaryDavis or on Twitter at @YSHillaryDavis.