PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – In 1985, Lois Kane and her husband purchased a quiet home at the end of a cul de sac in Lyons. They raised their children there and for some of her grandchildren, it’s the only home they’ve ever known.
Never in her wildest dreams did Kane ever think that her home, and the decades of memories it contained, would go up in flames in a wildfire.
Even when the fires on Labor Day 2020 forced Kane and the four generations of family members she lived with to evacuate, she thought everything would be OK.
“The night of the fire, I just took my cat and the clothes on my back because I figured we’d be back in a couple of hours,” she said.
That wasn’t the case.
Not long after evacuating, the family learned their home was no longer standing.
“I cried for two or three days,” Kane said. “I mean I lost everything, pictures, everything.”
The house was not insured and Kane said she wasn’t approved for a loan to purchase a mobile home because of her age.
For almost two years, the six family members have been living in two bedrooms in the home of Kane’s daughter-in-law’s parents. It’s been cramped and chaotic, but the family’s managed to make it work.
They didn’t know what they were going to do about housing until, in July 2021, someone from Adair Homes contacted them to tell them they wanted to build them a home for free.
Kane was visiting her daughter in Utah when she heard the news.
“At first I didn’t believe it. You don’t just get a house given to you, but it’s starting to actually sink in that we are going to get a new home,” she said.
Charles Wines, a regional sales manager for Adair Homes, said it only took about a week after the Labor Day fires for the company’s CEO Byron Van Kley to decide he wanted to do something to give back to the families impacted by the Santiam Canyon fires, the Holiday Farm Fire east of Eugene and the wildfires in Southern Oregon.
Van Kley created what’s called the Legacy Program and announced the company would donate homes to three families who lost everything in these fires.
“It wasn’t just to build a house, it was to provide hope and opportunity for people that didn’t really have it at the time,” Wines said.
Adair Homes, which is a custom home building company, worked with non-profits and relief organizations to identify families. That’s how Wines met Kane.
“It really did seem like a desperate situation,” Wines said. “It seemed like there wasn’t a lot of alternatives. So, once we met Lois and we spoke with them about the situation, it was clear that they were going to be the family that we wanted to build a home for.”
Wines sat down with the Kane family to choose a home design that would work best for them. He said through every step of the process, he could see the weight being lifted off Kane’s shoulders.
The experience of working with the Kanes and the two other families selected by the Legacy Program brought back memories for wines, who experienced a home fire when he was 21 years old. He said losing your home in a fire is a deep trauma that leaves a lasting impact and it means a lot to give back to these people.
“If you’re able to offer someone hope in a moment where they don’t have much, they don’t see much of the light at the end of the tunnel, if you can spark a moment of hope in them, then that means everything,” Wines said.
And for Kane and her family, the act of generosity has meant everything.
“I still keep pinching myself and it hurts, so I guess it’s real. I’m not dreaming,” Kane said.
She and her family members chose a four-bedroom, single-story house design. It’s something that will be accessible for Kane and will give the large family more room to spread out.
The groundbreaking took place on Friday and Adair Homes told the Kanes their home would be done about five months after the foundation is set.
The Kanes hope they’ll be able to move into their home around Christmas. Kane and her daughter-in-law Monica Kane said the first thing they’ll do is cook a big family dinner.
The Kanes said they deeply appreciate the generosity of Adair Homes and all the other organizations that have helped them through the past two years.