Jupiter family loses home, gains faithful helpers
By Randall Murray staff writer
November 26, 2003

A Jupiter family of four lost their home Sunday when a pot of food left on a stove ignited, gutting their duplex just off Center Street.

But two Jupiter women, acting on their biblical values, pitched in to help the family members realize they were not alone.
No one was injured in the fire shortly before noon. But the family of Alonzo Silvestre lost all of their belongings one month before Christmas. The Silvestres have two children, ages 2 years and 2 months.

The home at 809 Lee Court was fully involved in flames when firefighters from Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue arrived. It took 10 minutes to bring the blaze under control. The report filed by firefighters said a pot left on the stove when the family went to church was responsible for the blaze

Two Jupiter women were driving by the scene and stopped to see if they could help. Penny Holsinger, a teacher at Jupiter Elementary School, and Connie Miller were on their way to donate food from their church dinner to the Guatemalan-Mayan community in that area.

The two are members of the recently formed Sand Harbor Presbyterian Church, which meets in the gymnatorium at Jupiter Christian School. Miller’s husband Mike is pastor of the congregation.

"We were cleaning up after the dinner, and I thought we cannot throw all this food away," said Miller on Monday. As they were handing out the leftovers near the Circle K store on Center Street, the two saw the fire equipment and asked what happened.

Although the Silvestres speak little English, a neighbor translated their tale of sorrow to Holsinger and Miller. Calling upon the scriptural dictate "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," the women went to work to help the stunned family.
"We knew we could not just pass by," said Miller.

Both women were reluctant to draw attention to themselves, but Holsinger said, "We just wanted to get the word out to the community so perhaps others can help this family."

Said Miller, "We do our good deeds so as to bring glory to our father in heaven," a passage from the Book of Matthew 22:37-38.

So the two went to the store and from the church’s "mercy fund" bought toiletries, paper plates, a stuffed animal for the older child, diapers and formula for the baby, a gift certificate, a phone card and more.

"They were just so grateful, the man kept saying, ‘gracias, gracias’ over and over to us," said Miller. "We just wanted to let them know they did not have to go through this by themselves."

Other aid is being generated for the Silvestre family. Tim Steigenga, a professor at Florida Atlantic University’s Honors College, heads the organization Corn Maya, that works with Jupiter’s migrant community. He reported that the owner of the damaged duplex will relocate the family to another property he owns in Palm Beach Gardens. The owner could not be reached for comment.

"We’re working to get more information so we can help the family," Steigenga told The Jupiter Courier on Tuesday. Corn Maya will make its resources available, he said.

Those wishing to help the Silvestre family can call Corn Maya at 745-9199 or bring goods to the Corn Maya office at 500 N. Old Dixie Highway, Jupiter.

- randall.murray@scripps.com