Editor's note: This story was originally published on Feb. 11. It was updated on Feb. 12 to include additional information about the GoFundMe.
The sister of an 83-year-old man left homeless after his motorhome went up in flames in West Vancouver earlier this week has been "overwhelmed" by a flood of donations to help him get his life back on track.
Patricia Maxwell set up a GoFundMe for her brother, Robert Maxwell, after he lost all his belongings when his RV, that he had called home for the past two years, caught fire while driving in Dundarave near Marine Drive and 24th Street on Tuesday night (Feb. 9).
In just one day, over $13,600 was raised for Robert and the fundraiser has since toppled over the $14,000 mark, with only $500 left to reach their goal of $15,000.
Patricia said she, her husband, and her brother were “definitely overwhelmed” by the community’s support.
"My brother can’t believe what is happening, but he wants to thank everyone for their kind generosity and consideration to a total stranger,” she said.
“Both my husband and I were just amazed. We've been following it, naturally, and we just couldn't believe it, the donations would just jump like crazy.”
She said the community had been more generous than she’d ever expected.
“It's not just the donations of money, but I've had many messages of donations to help him set up a place,” said Patricia. “I've had one fella that's offered him a place for a month or two, until he gets back on his feet.
“It's just incredible.”
'Robert lost everything in the fire'
Robert escaped injury, but watched his whole world go up in smoke on Tuesday.
Fire crews were called to the scene about 9 p.m. to find the RV engulfed in flames. Matt Furlot, assistant fire chief with West Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services, said luckily Robert was alerted that his motorhome was ablaze and was able to stop and get out, as “the RV was quickly fully involved.” West Vancouver police said the cause of the fire is a suspected mechanical issue and it was not considered suspicious.
“He's lucky he got out of it, number one, because he was driving down the road and didn't realize it was on fire and he was going to make a left hand turn, so he had to stop, and somebody came up and banged on the door and got him out,” said Patricia.
“He managed to get out with his cell phone, his wallet, and his jacket. That was it. Everything else is gone.”
Patricia, who lives in Sooke, B.C., was quick to act when she received the call from her brother of the bad news, setting up the fundraiser Wednesday (Feb.10) evening.
“The funds will be needed quickly as he is on a very low fixed income and will have great problems getting money together for a place to live,” she wrote on Gonfundme
Robert, who previously lived in West Vancouver, moved into the RV a couple of years ago.
“He's had some hard times and that was one of the reasons he was living in the motorhome and, you know, everything he owned was in there and he's lost it all,” Patricia said. “It's just tough.”
She said it was a great relief her brother wasn’t injured in the blaze and he “seemed to be coping OK” with the situation now.
“When it first happened, he sounded a little shook up, but he was OK,” said Patricia. "But he doesn't really know what he's going to do right now."
Robert is currently staying in a warming shelter on the North Shore, while plans for where he can live are finalized.
'Thank you for caring'
Patricia said the money raised on GoFundMe would go toward a place to rent, clothes, furniture, household and personal items, and medications.
“We're almost there and we can get him back on his feet, and it'll be great,” she said.
Almost in tears, Patricia thanked all the “complete strangers” for their help and was extremely grateful for everyone’s donations and messages.
“Thank you for caring about him,” she said. “It's just amazing. All these people that don't even know him, you know, are making the donations.
“Just, thank you.”
Go to Help Robert (Douglas) Get His Life Back After Fire to donate.