(CBS) -- Neighbors, relatives and strangers have come to the aid of an Elgin family that recently was hit hard with a couple of major calamities.
On April 19, 54-year old truck driver John Estep passed away of a sudden heart attack. A week later, while a luncheon was underway after his funeral, the Estep house caught fire, and was severely damaged. The family's two dogs and cat died in the fire, which firefighters believe was caused by an electrical problem in a microwave or a nearby outlet.
"In a week's time, their entire life was thrown upside down," said Erica Gnadt, the goddaughter of Estep's widow, Terri.
Loved Ones Raise Money For Family Struck By Two Catastrophes
Gnadt and neighbor Michael Bush have organized an online fundraiser for the Estep family through YouCaring.com. Their initial goal was to raise $10,000 for the Esteps, but when they raised half that during the first 24 hours, they contemplated increasing the goal amount. The money is intended to help the family get on its feet and provide for day-to-day expenses, in addition to the income from Terri Estep's job.
Gnadt said John Estep was a wonderful, hard-working family man.
Bush echoed that sentiment, and added John Estep "wasn't rich in dollars, but he was rich in humanity."
In addition to his wife, Terri, John Estep left behind a 21-year-old daughter, Samantha, who is studying to become a nurse; and a 25-year old son, John, who is working two jobs and going to school.
"They are holding on by a thread, but they're holding on because they have amazing faith in each other, and all of us that are trying to step up," Gnadt said.
Across-the-street neighbor Michael Bush says John Estep "wasn't rich in dollars but he was rich in humanity".
Gnadt said even strangers are donating to the Estep family. She thinks it's because the Esteps story resonates with them.
"Everybody is one step away from that being you. You never know when something like this can happen," Gnadt said.
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