With his house in Glenelg left smoldering and all of his family's personal belongings gone, William Piccioni searched through rubble recently to discover the only thing that survived the Feb. 7 fire -- a silver dollar.
Locked in a safe deposit box that failed to protect the family's valuable papers, the silver dollar was something Piccionihad held onto for close to 30 years. Its value was sentimental, he said.
But the lucky piece may have brought the Piccioni family something more.
In the little more than a week since fire claimed the two-story tenant house where the Piccionis lived on the Circle C horse farm, community groups and individuals have come forward to provide thefamily with a new home, clothes and food.
A trailer that had beenvacant on the farm was renovated, and the family moved in on Monday.Donations also have included furniture and household items. A fund established for the family at a local bank has received more than 100 checks.
Denise Sharp, a neighbor helping to organize contributions, said that so many clothes donated to the Piccionis were dropped offat her house that those that were not the right size had to be hauled to a thrift shop.
"I was flooded with clothes," said Sharp. "I couldn't fit into my living room. It was floor to ceiling with clothes, toys, furniture and household goods."
Sharp and her husband, Chuck, own Sharp Farm, which is next door to the Circle C. The Piccionishad gone to the Sharps' for help the night of the fire.
Firefighters believe the blaze started around 5:40 a.m., when a space heater set fire to a living room couch. Family members were unable to extinguish the fire, and the entire house was engulfed in minutes.
The flood of giving appears to have surprised many, except those who know the Piccioni children.
Many of the donors' only contact with the family was through the children -- 20-year-old Oliver, a former GlenelgHigh School wrestling champion, and 8-year-old Laura and 10-year-oldTracy, both of whom attend Bushy Park Elementary.
"There are a lot of people who care about these kids," said Tom Thrasher, a social studies teacher at Glenwood Middle School and one of the organizers ofthe relief effort. "We need them as much as they need us."
Thrasher said hundreds of people were helping the family. In addition to Howard County residents, responses came from people in Baltimore and Baltimore County.
The Piccionis have lived at the Circle C farm for about seven years, where Piccioni takes care of the farm's 10 horses.The farm is owned by Dr. Ernest J. Colvin, a Baltimore dentist.
Colvin said he eventually plans to move a larger trailer onto the farmso the Piccionis can be more comfortable.
He said the tenant house that burned was a nice home, but was very old. And "once the flame hit it, it was gone."
Another house on the farm is Colvin's residence.
Colvin is chairman of the state racing commission. To avoid any conflict of interest with his position with the racing commission,Colvin said, he leases the horses to others so they can be raced.
A fund established for the Piccioni family through the Citizens National Bank branch at Ten Oaks Plaza has received more than a hundred donations of cash, said branch manager Olga Sealing. A tally of the donations was not available.
"The community has been outstanding," said Sealing. "Everybody's been in there as a unit, and they've taken care of one of their own.
In addition to individual donations of money and clothing, several local businesses donated services or goodsto the trailer renovation project.