Paul Foss stood in the middle of a mobile home. Or rather, what will be a mobile home.
The walls have been torn apart, floorboards pulled up, leaving planks with gaping holes and the ground peeking through. Mid-morning Monday was cold and rainy. The only source of warmth for Foss and the other volunteers was a portable heater.
Behind Foss, through the window of the mobile home, stood a burned mobile home. A third of it was charred and torn down.
Foss is president of Waterboyz for Jesus, a men’s ministry that spans a number of churches. The group also volunteers, sometimes adopting families to ensure they have Christmas gifts, or in other cases, coming together to a total home makeover, as the group is with the Mount Airy mobile home.
On Nov. 18, firefighters from Frederick, Carroll, Montgomery and Howard counties battled a mobile home blaze around 3 p.m. The mobile home, on Hill Road West in Mount Airy, was declared a total loss, according to previous News-Post reporting.
At the time, a woman, a man and a child were inside. Another child was at school. The Romero family escaped but grabbed only the woman’s purse. The family rabbit died in the fire, Foss said.
The cause of the fire is still unknown, said Doug Alexander, spokesman for the Mount Airy Volunteer Fire Co. The Romero family does not know any more information, they said in an email.
When the fire happened, Foss said he received calls and emails asking him to help. He wavered at first — this is already a busy time of year for the Waterboyz — but he felt that he was denying God if he did not respond to the requests.
“And I remembered Matthew 25, which is where God said, ‘the hungry, you fed me, I was naked, you clothed me.’ And all I could hear God saying, ‘I was homeless, you housed me,’” Foss said.
He called a fellow member of the Waterboyz, Eric Closs, and told him they needed to help. Closs was already on his way, Foss said. He had a similar calling. When Closs arrived at the mobile home, a neighbor told him she had prayed someone would come help, Foss added.
The family recently bought a double-wide mobile home that had water damage. They did not have the resources to renovate it right away, so the Waterboyz decided to gather volunteers and donations in order to provide the family a home in time for Christmas.
The Red Cross put the family up in a motel, but a member of the Waterboyz offered their in-law suite for the family to use. Still, it is not a home or theirs, Foss said. The family is living out of a suitcase.
The goal is to have the mobile home move-in ready by the middle of the month, he said. In a statement, the family said they are grateful to the Waterboyz for helping fix the mobile home.
“I feel the protection and care of the community," Bianca Romero said. "They make me feel like family.”
At least 50 volunteers have come in the past two weeks to help with the renovations. About 25 companies have donated items such as refrigerators or HVAC units, Foss said.
“And so you know really what what I’ve discovered in the last week is that this is like the perfect time to do a project like this, because people are thinking about giving gifts,” Foss said. “You’re thinking about being grateful for what they have.”
There is still a long way to go on the home, Foss said, but the group has done 10-day total home makeovers before, he said. So he is hopeful the project will be completed in time.
He expects more volunteers will come before the project finishes. A GoFundMe page raising money to cover the cost of materials has, so far, raised $6,304 of the $10,000 goal.
“What I really love about this project is we have volunteers from more than a dozen different churches who are participating in this through the Waterboyz ministry,” Foss said. “And it’s just cool when you see people coming together who have kind of a common faith and, and working for the purpose of helping somebody else.”
This story has been updated to correct who was in the home at the time of the fire, as well as add comments from the family.