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Coles overwhelmed by amount of community support

Bill and Anne-Marie Cole would much rather have been sitting in the comfort of their country home on Saturday night, but being surrounded by hundreds of friends and supporters, including many strangers who wanted to help, ended up being one of the mo
Bill and Anne-Marie Cole have been overwhelmed by the amount of community support offered to them since a fire destroyed the family home and Bill’s successful heavy
Bill and Anne-Marie Cole have been overwhelmed by the amount of community support offered to them since a fire destroyed the family home and Bill’s successful heavy equipment repair business. That support contnued Saturday with a successful fundraiser, where hundreds showed up for a silent and live auction that helped raise more than $70,000.

Bill and Anne-Marie Cole would much rather have been sitting in the comfort of their country home on Saturday night, but being surrounded by hundreds of friends and supporters, including many strangers who wanted to help, ended up being one of the most memorable nights of their lives.

After a devastating fire destroyed the home where they raised their six children — and Bill's successful heavy equipment repair business — in the early morning of Nov. 5, the Coles have been on an emotional rollercoaster.

The fire destroyed their home and business, but also showed how many friends they have in the community as dozens of friends, colleagues and business owners have rallied around them to provide emotional support and help clean up the mess left as a result of the blaze.

This past Saturday night, several hundred people poured into the Beaver River Fish and Game hall as part of a benefit evening to help the Coles on their long road to recovery. The evening included a silent and live auction as well as live entertainment.

Saturday's event raised in excess of $70,000 and that number is expected to increase substantially as many auction items haven't been paid for yet and local graphic design company Thinkwerx Inc. has raised in excess of $7,000 from T-shirt sales to support the Coles.

Bill and Anne-Marie were genuinely touched so many people would show up to help them.

“The amount of help we've received from day one has just been incredible, but to see so many people here tonight is just overwhelming,” said Bill. “It has been so good to have so many good people around us since the fire because they haven't let us sit around and wonder what we have to do.

“They've kept us busy trying to clean things up and attempt to move on because that's all we can do.”

Anne-Marie agreed.

“Without the amazing amount of support we've received, I just don't know how we would have got through this,” she said.

“There have been so many people who have shown up to help or called to offer kinds words. It has been an amazing experience.”

The fire destroyed property, but no one was hurt and that's ultimately what matters the most, said Bill.

“When you see your home going up in flames, it's devastating and you don't know what to do or where to turn,” he said. “But everyone got out safely and that's ultimately what matters the most.”

Anne-Marie said she felt “helpless and hopeless” in the hours following the fire, but the endless amount of support her family has received since has made the recovery a positive experience.

Saturday's fundraising event will never be forgotten by her or her family, she said.

“I can't believe the turnout,” she said. “It's one hell of a shindig, that's for sure. To see so many people come out to show support is amazing, I can't believe the number of people who are here and how this all turned out.”

With winter weather now setting in, the Coles realize there's not much they can do now except wait until the spring and then start rebuilding their home and business.

“We plan to rebuild in the spring,” said Bill. “This just happened, so all we can do is take things one day at a time and focus on tomorrow.”

There are too many people to thank, but they all know who they are and they won't be forgotten, said Bill.

“All we can say to everyone who has helped us is thank you from the bottom of our hearts,” he said. “We can't thank enough all of those good people who have been there for us during this very tough time.”

Anne-Marie echoed the same sentiments.

“This has been an amazing experience and made us very proud to call Bonnyville home,” she said.

Family friend Bob Fontaine said the only reason so many people have shown so much support since the fire is because Bob and Anne-Marie are wonderful people.

“I don't know how many times Bob and Anne-Marie have been there for me to help me get through some tough times,” he said. “I can't count the number of times Bob has been there to help people when they need it.

“Anne-Marie is always over at my house cleaning up because I just don't have the time to keep the house the way I should. That's the kind of people they are … they're always there to help a friend.”

Kelso Brennan, the owner of Thinkwerx Inc., said his company wanted to do something special to help a couple and family who are good friends to so many people in this community.

Not only did Thinkwerx develop a new website called Become the Horsepower to help promote the cause to help the Coles, but they also have sold T-shirts to raise funds with more than $7,000 in sales already.

Bill has brought all kinds of community support to Bonnyville, simply by doing what he knows and loves — engines and power, said Brennan.

Bill Cole is a huge promoter of local motor sports events like Powerama, he said.

“If it weren't for Bill Cole and his entire family, unique opportunities like Powerama simply wouldn't be the same … his insane passion for parts and power make his family unique to Bonnyville,” says the Become the Horsepower website. “I'm proud of this town, I'm proud to know the Coles. And I'm proud to help.”

Not only are all proceeds from T-shirt sales going to the Cole family, but Thinkwerx also paid for all the material and supplies to make the T-shirts, he said.

“I don't think we're close to where we want to be … I don't see any reason we can't reach $10,000 in sales,” said Brennan.

Brennan said he and his brother grew up as great friends of the Cole family and he couldn't think of a nicer or better family for his company and all the other local supporters to assist during this difficult time.

“It couldn't happen to nicer people,” he said.

A trust fund in the name of Bill and Anne-Marie Cole has also been set up at the Royal Bank of Canada branch in Bonnyville.