National Guardsman and family lose house in fire - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

National Guardsman and family lose house in fire

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CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) -

The Russell family lost their house to fire on Saturday. They're now living in a hotel, but they're focusing on the positives.  

"We got lucky," said Stacey Russell.

Lucky, she says, because they all got out -- even the cat.

In the past week, they've seen how the community can pull together in these situations.

"Definition of what community, what Iowa, and what our nation's about," said Steve Russell.

The kindness started when Cedar Rapids firefighters rescued Buddy the Elf from the fire and a police officer delivered him to the Russells' daughter after the family left him in a squad car.

"We were thankful that the police officer returned him to us," said Stacey. "Such a small thing to her was huge."

A few hours after the fire, a captain in the Cedar Rapids Fire Department brought the family a gift -- another Elf on the Shelf. He noticed the family had a boy elf, but two little girls in the family. So he brought them a girl elf to have, too.

The family has been getting help from total strangers. A friend set up an online fundraising page just to raise a thousand dollars to help the family out. Word got out that Steve is in the National Guard and people have donated about ten times that much in less than a week.

"Insane, is what it is," said Stacey. "We were not expecting it. It's overwhelming."

"It's very humbling," said Steve.

The Russells plan to use some of the money to fix up their home and replace their belongings. The rest they'll pay forward, setting up a way to help others when disaster strikes.

To donate, click here.

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