GREENVILLE - Organizers of a benefit Sunday at the American Legion Hall hope to raise money for the New Ipswich and Greenville family devastated by a fatal house fire that occurred two days before Christmas.
In the early morning hours of Dec. 23, firefighters responded to a house fire at the New Ipswich home of Richard and Beth Prince on Huse Road. The couple lived there with their five children.
The Prince's 23-month-old grandson, Gregory Prince Jr. of Greenville, who was visiting overnight, and 26-year-old Joshua Prince were killed in the fire.
The Prince's teenage sons Sean and Brandon and 10-year-old daughter, Julia, were hospitalized briefly with injuries. Richard and Beth Prince both remain hospitalized at UMass Medical Center in Worcester, Mass.
According to family member Missy Drouin of Greenville, both Joshua and Sean risked their lives to save family members. Sean rescued his parents from the fire, and Joshua went back inside to save his nephew, but he never came back out. Both are heroes, she said.
In the wake of the tragedy, the tight-knit communities of New Ipswich and Greenville have rallied around the family to raise money and other means of support.
"The community has wrapped their arms around this family and everyone has helped. Everyone has put their differences aside and everybody has helped," said Emily McCreery.
McCreery owns Marcus P's Diner in Greenville with her husband, Mark. She and her husband have known the Prince family for a long time.
"There are really two families affected here," she said. "My husband, Mark, has been friends with the Prince family since he was a child," she said. "There's Beth and Rich Prince and those are the grandparents (who) lost their house in the fire (and) they lost their son and grandson in the fire."
Then there is the Prince family in Greenville: Richard and Beth's son, Gregory Prince Sr., and his wife, Kaila Prince, lost their toddler Gregory Jr., also known by his nickname of "Buggie."
McCreery said she once babysat Kaila Prince, whose maiden name is Russell.
Donations have poured in from the community through several businesses that put out collection jars and cans, including Marcus P's, Nennie's Café and Catering in New Ipswich, and the New Ipswich Market. Those donations have helped buy Christmas presents for the Prince children, who are staying with an uncle in Greenville.
It is so hard for them while their parents are in the hospital, McCreery said, but their uncle said they received everything on their Christmas list that Christmas morning after the fire, which were bought with those community donations.
Everything that the kids wanted for Christmas they got, McCreery said. "It was amazing."
Donations are also going to help pay for Gregory Jr.'s funeral expenses, she said. Several businesses continue to collect money for the Prince families, she said. Marcus P's is collecting donations for the benefit dinner and is cooking the food at the restaurant, which is across the street from the American Legion, 13 River St.
Volunteers plan to help prepare and serve the food, and several Greenville and New Ipswich businesses have donated gift cards for raffles to be held at the dinner, including Auto-Medic, Nennie's Café, Village Haircutter, Westside Auto Clinic, New Ipswich Market and Gail's Short Stop.
Shaw's in Milford and Walmart in Amherst have helped with the cost of food, McCreery said.
The benefit dinner will take place in the American Legion hall Sunday from 5 to 8 p.m. Tickets are $12, which is to go directly to the Prince family, McCreery said.
Tickets are available at Marcus P's, the American Legion and at the door that night.
Diners will have a choice of turkey or ham dinners with potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce and dinner rolls.
"There'll be a box for monetary donations for those who just want to drop off money and not stay for the event," she said.
And if turnout exceeds the hall's capacity, Marcus P's will be opened to take the overflow.
"We will make sure there is room for everybody that wants to help out," she said.
McCreery said those who would like to donate a raffle item may call her at 370-0567 or drop off donations at Marcus P's Diner.