Lee’s Summit family in need after home destroyed by fire

tporter@lsjournal.comDecember 31, 2013 

A fire the day after Christmas heavily damaged a home in Lee’s Summit and friends and family members of the homeowners are reaching out to the public for help.

A social media page and two separate accounts have been set up in the days since to help longtime Lee’s Summit resident and special needs advocate Mary Guthrie, whose home in the 100 block of N.E. Forest was destroyed by fire at 2:15 a.m. Dec. 26.

The social media page on Facebook is “Help Mary Guthrie, A Special Needs Family Advocate,” and was set up to help the public stay informed on Guthrie’s struggles. Tax deductible contributions can be made to: Autism Outreach Fellowship 501(c)(3), with Mary Guthrie Fund written in the memo line and mailed to: Autism Outreach Fellowship, P.O. Box 2407, Lee’s Summit, Mo 64063.

Non-taxable donations can also be made to: Commerce Bank Account #1234571797 in the name of the Mary Guthrie Support Fund.

Guthrie is in critical but stable condition at Saint Luke’s Hospital after she suffered a stroke Dec. 19, Guthrie’s daughter, Mickey Tavenner said. Tavenner and her husband, Cloyde, arrived from Beijing, China Dec. 19 with their three children to help Guthrie put her things into storage after she became ill.

Four days after the fire, the Tavenners were on the scene clearing out what remained of Guthrie’s belongings including stageplays and other works of arts.

“My mother was a writer on ‘In Living Color’ and she wrote a couple of ‘Fire Marshall Bill’ skits featuring Jim Carey,” Mickey Tavenner said Dec. 30. “She is a comedy writer; so you have to understand the sense of humor we are dealing with and the hamster wheel that is going on back there. We couldn’t keep (news of the fire) from her with all of the well-wishers and phone calls.”

Ben Martin, director of Summit Theatre Group, said he and Guthrie worked together in community theater for several years and is helping spread the word of fundraising efforts for the family

“It was just a horrible disaster,” Martin said of the fire. “Of course she had health issues with the stroke and certainly the house catching fire after that was devastating.”

According to the Lee’s Summit Fire Department, after firefighter personnel responded to the residence, a resident advised that the second floor of the house was on fire.

Firefighters observed heavy smoke and fire coming from the second floor and roof of the large two-story, single family residence. The only occupant of the house was outside when emergency personnel arrived on the scene.

The occupant was Guthrie’s 38-year-old son, Al. Guthrie herself was hospitalized at the time of the fire.

“He was treated for minor smoke inhalation,” Tavenner said. “He’s OK, just very rattled. He’s high-functional but he is mentally handicapped. This was very traumatic to him.”

Guthrie launched and ran for 16 years the Giant Step Special Need program from the home. The program is a not-for-profit designed to care for special needs children from birth to age 21. In recent years Guthrie spent time consulting others in the special needs field.

“She was doing telephone consulting to families with a special need child,” Tavenner said. “She would just listen and be therapeutic for the family.”

The cause of the fire, which heavily damaged the second floor and collapsed the roof, is still under investigation.

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