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Nachelle and George Whitmoyer reflect on losing their Washington Township home, which was destroyed in a fire last Thanksgiving. They celebrate the holiday this year with family, and work on making their new house into a home. (Lindsay VanAsdalan) The York Dispatch

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When Nachelle Whitmoyer got word that her house was on fire last Thanksgiving eve, she and her husband, George, her mother and their two dogs were about an hour and a half into their trip to Virginia Beach to visit her daughter for the holidays.

Whitmoyer called her friend, Junior Crone, who lived nearby, to drive over and look at the damage while they headed back to their Washington Township home.

"He called me back soon after, " she said, "and told me to slow down, take our time, 'cause the house was a total loss."

A year later, Whitmoyer and her family look back on that day in a new home.

Toy cars are set out on the living room table, and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is on TV.  Whitmoyer places pineapple slices and brown sugar on a holiday ham as her mom, Diane Zumbrum, prepares stuffing.

Whitmoyer's daughter, Shelbi Link, her husband, David, and 1-year-old son, Asher, along with their two dogs, are visiting for the holiday.

Nachelle, who works at York Newspaper Co., and George, currently on disability, moved in August into a  house built on the same property as their original Bentz Mill Road home.

They live there with their son, Joe Whitmoyer, 25, and dog Marie (their other dog has since died). Grandson Leland, who will turn 2 in December, visits on weekends.

The new place is a two-story modular home — built in five pieces — that they bought sight-unseen. They are working to make it feel like home, putting up pictures and buying secondhand furniture, including a grandfather clock.

"It's one thing to have a house, but a whole different thing to have a home," George Whitmoyer said. "I never knew that until after the fire."

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Road to recovery: Their first temporary home after the fire was their camper.

They parked it at the home of longtime neighborhood friends Bev and Junior Crone, living there until they could trade it for a bigger camper, provided by insurance.

"Those friends were the best friends," Nachelle Whitmoyer said. The Crones allowed them to hook up to their electricity, and they also set up a GoFundMe that brought in more than $3,000 for the family.

"It helped immensely," she said, because insurance only covered about five months of living expenses, which went toward rent for the camper.

One year later: "Right now, I'd say we're fine, " Nachelle Whitmoyer said of her family's financial situation.

Homeowners insurance protected them from the loss of their home, and they were able to replace most of their furniture, which was also insured. 

The family also received tons of toy and clothing donations from friends. 

"The amount of people that helped us was just unbelievable, " George Whitmoyer said. "We never knew we had that many friends."

A purple1969 Plymouth Barracuda that was damaged in the fire sits in the garage, a gift from George Whitmoyer to his daughter. They were very glad to have it restored. They might not be able to salvage the orange '73 Barracuda, which was burned so badly in the fire that the roof and taillights melted. 

Not so easily replaced were the Whitmoyers' wedding album, kids' baby photos and a picture and word book from the York Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit from the premature birth of their son. Also lost in the fire were George Whitmoyer's room full of model cars and a grandfather clock made by Nachelle Whitmoyer's grandfather, who passed away.  

The family had put a lot of work into remodeling their original home during the 17 years they lived there. It had been built in the late 1800s, and their last big project was a brand new kitchen, finished months before the fire.

"I definitely learned a lot of things from the fire, " George Whitmoyer said. "The biggest thing is, it's just material things."

He said as long as he has his family, that's what's really important.

The family still don't know what caused the fire, but Nachelle Whitmoyer said she tries not to dwell on it. 

People have told her she has a very positive outlook, and she said, "I refuse to let it get me down," because she doesn't really know what else she can do.

"As time goes by, it gets better," George Whitmoyer said. 

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