The Barbeque that Changed Everything

Contributed by Greg Ralich, Lotsa Helping Hands Member Services Representative

Here at Lotsa Helping Hands, we often find ourselves talking about the word community. Our vision is a world where everyone can give and receive help through the power of community. For us, community means so much. It’s about sharing one another’s life experiences. We too have our own community of dedicated people who spend much of their time designing and developing the best service possible, and ensuring that our free service gets into the hands of those who need it. On our Blog, we will be sharing reflections from our Team. This second one comes from Greg Ralich, Member Services Representative.


When I was 15 a barbecue changed my life. What started out as a couple of tuna steaks on the grill ended up as a fire that destroyed my house, my attic, the crib I slept in, and every Christmas ornament I ever owned. Despite such a loss – I gained so much when I recognized the support system I had with me all along.

I wasn’t at home when the fire started; I was eating dinner at a restaurant with a friend. Out of seemingly nowhere, my Uncle interrupted our meal. He sat down in the booth quickly and urgently; I knew from just looking at his face that something was wrong.

“Your house is on fire,” he said.

He explained that there had been an accident and the propane tanks hooked up to the grill at home fueled a fire that engulfed most of my home. My first thought was, ‘Where’s my food?’ I wasn’t thinking straight: it was too bizarrely surreal to process.

We drove home and as we rounded the corner I caught my first glance of the fire trucks and many of my neighbors standing in awe – that’s when it hit me and I just cried and cried. I sat on a bench in my back yard watching firefighters go in and come out covered in black soot and I cried more and more.

I saw my Mom, my Dad, and my 9-year-old brother. Everyone was fine. My older brother drove home from college and we were whole again.

My best friend’s mother who had walked over from a few houses down sat with me on that bench while my parents and older brother surveyed the damage and spoke with the firefighters. She was sobbing too but I remember exactly what she said to me, “It’s stuff; it’s just stuff. Everyone is fine – stuff can be replaced. Its just stuff after all.”

The next morning my family reconvened at what was left of our home and only a few minutes later our next-door neighbor walked across his yard towards us. In his hand he held a big green bucket. He had walked up and down the street early that morning and collected more than a thousand dollars for us.

This is the type of support network that we work to cultivate and galvanize every day at Lotsa. The uncle that says ‘I’ll go pick up the kid’, the family friend who reminds you that stuff is just stuff, and the next door neighbor one-man fundraising team. A community like mine provided invaluable perspective, comfort, and care. I didn’t understand it all then, but I see it so clearly now. That’s why I am so proud to support our tens of thousands Private and Open Lotsa Communities that are designed to help when it’s
needed most.