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Emily Welker, Published July 31 2013

Family of Hawley teen killed in fire receives outpouring of community support

HAWLEY, Minn. – The fire that ripped through the home of a single mother of six has also torn a hole in the hearts of friends and neighbors in the tight-knit community here, as they prepare for a funeral service Friday for the eldest child killed in the blaze.

It has also prompted a proposal to use one of the flood buyout homes in Moorhead to house the now homeless family.

Rylie Efterfield, 15, was killed in the fire Sunday at the home of her mother, Kristin Bonham. Investigators said the fire was caused by a faulty electrical outlet.

Grief over the girl’s death has spurred many Hawley citizens into action, including one of the children’s wrestling coaches, Jeff Fuchs.

Fuchs has helped arrange a fundraiser in September to sell clothes, furniture and any other donated goods the family can’t use – though for right now, they’re using them all, he said.

“That family lost everything,” he said.

Bonham lives in Hawley along with her other two daughters and three sons. Efterfield also had two siblings who lived with her father in Fargo.

“She’s holding it together as best she can,” Fuchs said of Bonham.

Fuchs is coaching all of Bonham’s other children in wrestling, including the two younger daughters.

“Rylie never missed a match,” he said. “Especially for her brothers and sisters, she was always there for them.”

More help

It’s not the only effort to provide some help for the family.

A benefit fund has been established at the State Bank of Hawley, and the Rev. Jeff Teeples of Hawley Lutheran Church, where some members had taken the lead in organizing a donation drive for the family, said there was an “amazing” outpouring of support in the community.

Teeples said enough clothing and toiletries had been collected to meet the family’s immediate needs, but the push will change as needed as they get back on their feet: school supplies when the children return to classes and furnishings when they have a new home, for instance.

One Hawley resident has even suggested to Moorhead officials that the city could give the family a flood buyout home.

Peter Doll, the city’s business and development services manager, said that while the city still has about 30 homes on its list from which the family could choose, the Bonhams would have to come up with moving costs themselves.

“It takes a lot to move a house,” Doll said.

The moving alone could cost $20,000 to $60,000, not including the expense of a new foundation and water and sewer lines, he said.

“It’s a wonderful idea, but the idea by itself doesn’t get the house there,” Doll said.

Though it will likely be buying other houses on its list, the only buyout house the city owns right now is set for demolition bids on Aug. 8, he said.

Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland reached out to Hawley’s mayor Tuesday to determine if the Bonhams are interested in a buyout home, Doll said.

“I don’t think you’ll see the leaders of the city of Moorhead standing in the way of being a white knight,” he said.

How to help

To give to the Bonham Benefit Fund, send a donation to:

State Bank of Hawley

416 6th Street

P.O. Box 648

Hawley, Minn., 56549

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Emily Welker at (701) 241-5541