Friends have created a website to collect donations for a family whose home near Paola burned to the ground just four days after they moved in earlier this month.
Joey Lutes, 41, his wife, Melissa, and four children were uninjured. But Lutes said they hadn’t had a chance to secure renters’ insurance, and now they are left with virtually nothing but the clothes on their backs.
“We didn’t even have Internet yet,” said Lutes, who works for Sprint in Overland Park. “We were just getting the lights and everything turned on. Insurance was on the list of things to do. We lost everything.”
The family was out at dinner June 2 in nearby Louisburg with Lutes’ parents, who had come to visit, when the property manager for the house called him about the fire. Driving home, they could see the smoke from 13 miles away. Emergency crews were on the scene, but the house was engulfed in flames. The family sat and watched the fire for 21/2 hours.
The cause of the fire was being investigated.
Lutes sifted through the rubble last week with a shovel and recovered a few of his children’s things: a class ring, a viola and some books. Also, a stuffed mouse that belonged to his son, Jack, 7.
For now, Joey and Melissa Lutes are staying with his parents north of Lawrence. Their children are with various family members, and Lutes is eager to get his family back together again.
Within days of the fire, friends created a website,lutesfirerelief.org
, to collect donations to help family members get back on their feet. They are asking for donations of cash or gift cards so the family can buy clothes and basic personal items.
Lutes’ friend James Mattingly, 38, built the site and said Thursday that it had collected about $1,000 in a bank fund. But, he said, the family will need more help, and he planned to continue posting photos, updates and specific requests on behalf of Joey Lutes.
“He’s not quick to ask for help,” Mattingly said. “But they need it.”