Last year, Wen Gutreuter began a Random Acts of Kindness Day to honor the death of her 2-year-old daughter. In a recent twist of fate, however, her family has found itself in a time of need with the annual event just a month away.
A fire roared through the Gutreuters' Noblesville, Ind., home on Tuesday in what could be a total loss. On Friday, wreckers took away the family's two destroyed cars, and the Gutreuters awaited word from an adjustor who would let them know if they can ever move back into the house.
Still, Wen Gutreuter remained hopeful. The community is paying it forward with the same passion she showed in turning her daughter's tragedy into positive action.
Donations of money, used furniture and lodging have poured in. The Gutreuters, with four children from ages 6 to 19, stayed at a neighbor's house the first few nights, and the Red Cross is putting them up at a local hotel through Sunday. They have other offers of temporary shelter after that.
"My goodness we have been so surrounded with love and support, it's been incredible," the mother told The Huffington Post.
According to Fox 59, Wen's eldest son first noticed the fire and alerted everyone to run outside. The family members avoided injury but must now rebuild their lives.
They aren't doing it alone, though. Hinkle Creek Elementary School, Noblesville High School and the family's place of worship, the Church for the Nations, were instrumental in getting them help, Gutreuter told HuffPost.
It was the least folks could do, Randy Howard explained to Fox. If similar misfortune touched someone else, "She’d be right here, helping," he said.
The Gutreuters' good Samaritan streak emerged from despair. In 2005, Wen's daughter Emily Grace, an otherwise healthy 2 year-old, went to bed with what seemed to be a routine cough and fever and never woke up.
Gutreuter created Random Acts of Kindness Day on Oct. 15, 2012, to keep Emily's legacy alive. Hundreds participated. The Gutreuters celebrated by paying for others' meals. One of the participants, Jennifer Doudt, told WRTV that she bought groceries for a family she did not know.
Given the blaze and another family tragedy -- Gutreuter's sister died on Thursday -- she could understandably shelve the do-good remembrance this year. But that's not her style.
Asked if the Gutreuters would still be hosting the October event, she replied, "You better believe we are."
To bestow an act of kindness on the Gutreuters, visit the Church for the Nations website and click on "Donate to Fire Victims."