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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Family stays on Island after fire
islander news story
Happy digs, happier days
Sherry and Roger Phillips, their niece and four children, left to right, Brook, 7, on Christine's lap, Brianna, 18 months on mom's lap, Celeste, 8, on dad's lap, and James, 4, posed in their "new" living room before school Tuesday. Roger said they wanted to say "thank you to everyone" for the donations to help their family get back on their feet after their Bradenton Beach apartment and possessions burned Feb. 10.

Islanders and Islander newspaper readers have opened up their hearts and wallets to a family of seven that lost their apartment and nearly everything else in a Bradenton Beach fire Feb. 10 ( The Islander , Feb. 16).

Roger and Sherry Phillips along with their four young children and Roger's niece, Christine, were living in a Bradenton motel on American Red Cross donations after the fire, wondering how to rebuild their shattered lives. They had just moved to Anna Maria Island on Feb. 1 from Apollo Beach when the fire took away their Island dream.

But Islanders responded, thanks in part to an Islander- led appeal for donations.

The family has rented another apartment in Bradenton Beach with the help of cash assistance from the Red Cross and All Island Denominations.

In addition, Islander readers contributed more than $1,250 to the family along with innumerable toys, clothes and household items, and the West Manatee Fire & Rescue firefighters gathered several boxes of clothing and toys, and Island churches have responded with similar donations. Readers from as far south as Port Charlotte also answered the appeal.

"This is wonderful," said Sherry. "We'd like to thank everyone for the donations and The Islander for its efforts. Our kids are able to continue at Anna Maria Elementary and everything is looking a lot better than last week."

Roger's job prospects are looking a bit brighter also. He lost his job as a traveling chef with the RSB restaurant corporation in Plant City because the fire destroyed some company computer files he had and he was unable to travel after the fire, but he's considering a position at the Beach House Restaurant.

He said he still has to get a new driver's license, Social Security card and voter registration as all those were lost in the fire.

"But we'll get through this," added Roger. "We're getting through this and the support has been tremendous. This is a great place and the people are great."

Readers wishing to donate to the family can contact Bonner Joy at The Islander at 778-7978, or bring donations to the newspaper at 5404 Marina Drive in the Island Shopping Center in Holmes Beach.

The family still needs girls clothing for Celeste and Brook, ages 8 and 7, sizes 6X and 4-5. The other children are a 4-year-old boy and an 18-month-old girl.

Apartment fire still under investigation

Fire investigators from the West Manatee Fire and Rescue believe the cause of the Feb. 10 in Bradenton Beach that left a family of seven homeless was electrical in nature, but are still continuing their investigation

Capt. Ernie Cave of the WMFRD said that "At this point, we are sticking with our initial finding that the cause of the fire was electrical in nature, but the investigation is continuing."