Family “Overwhelmed” by Community Response to Devastating Fire

by Chris Wangler

June 14, 2022

A Lakeview family lost everything in a fire over the weekend, but the Waltham community quickly raised more than $30K online and local restaurants are also helping out.

“I’m so overwhelmed,” said Melissa LeBlanc, a mother of two. “My heart is so full. I am in tears.”

Melissa said the fire Sunday afternoon at 59 Marivista Avenue destroyed everything at the rental property the family lived in for the last 16 years. 


Waltham Fire said the blaze was caused by a grill. The fire extended to a deck and up the left side of the house into the attic, according to WFD Deputy Rich Grant.

Everyone got out, but Melissa’s 13-year-old son Michael watched “his life go up in flames.” 

His pet hamster Doug perished in the fire. “It was his best friend,” Melissa said.


Waltham firefighters managed to save a second pet, daughter Emaleigh’s bearded dragon, which suffered some burns but survived. “We are so thankful for all they do,” Melissa said.

Emaleigh, who just graduated from WHS and works at TJ Maxx, was not home at the time of the devastating blaze. To help, she started a Go Fund Me online fundraiser [see below for link].

“Unfortunately, we did not have renters’ insurance, meaning we don’t have a home anymore,” Emaleigh wrote.


As of Tuesday afternoon, the online effort raised more than $34,000 of its $50,000 goal in just over a day.

The Mele-LeBlanc family have temporarily moved in with family outside Worcester, but the situation is “like a bad dream,” according to Melissa.


The devastating fire happened while Melissa was still on crutches, having broken her leg a while back. But the Waltham community moved quickly to help out.

Rick Pizzi of Pizzi Farm sprang into action. Ten percent of all Pizzi proceeds on Thursday will go to the family. 

Melissa has worked at Pizzi Farm for more than three years, and her daughter Emaleigh fills in as required. “It’s our second home,” Melissa said of the beloved Waltham market and deli.

“Melissa LeBlanc and Emaleigh Mele are extremely sociable, polite and considerate,” Rick said.

“They take on every task as a challenge, never settling and always want to do the best at whatever they’re doing,” he added.

Tempo has also lent a hand, inviting residents to drop off any of the following items Tuesday to Saturday after 3:00 p.m. at 474 Moody Street:

  • Gift cards of any denomination for clothing, food, gas, Amazon 
  • Paper goods (plates, cups, napkins, paper towels, toilet paper)  
  • Toiletries (deodorant, razor blades, toothpaste, hairbrushes, shampoo, conditioner)
  • Socks  
  • Queen bed sheets and pillowcases  
  • Towels and face cloths  
  • Cases of water

Like Pizzi Farm, Tempo will also donate 10% of its Thursday earnings to the Mele-LeBlanc family, according to co-owner Erin Barnicle.

All the outreach is humbling for Melissa LeBlanc, who said she and her boyfriend shovel neighbors’ walks and taught their kids to give back without expecting anything.

“I’m not the type to put my name out there,” she said.

GoFundMe online fundraiser