What remains from the now-demolished Wicker home at Faithway Drive in Seffner is a piece of blue-colored wood with the numerals 2-4-0 cemented on it for eternity, or for as long as the family holds on to this piece of treasured homestead remembrance.
Also in their possession is the flag that adorned that house and the contents recovered from within, the most honored of which are those that have deep family meaning, such as the family Bible and old family photos.
As the family rebuilds, and seeks out more permanent shelter over the long term, a second family, the Bush family, prepares for a community memorial for Jeffrey Bush, the 36-year-old man who lost his life n the sinkhole Feb. 28.
That memorial, planned for March 19 at the Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, has been organized by the Greater Brandon Community Foundation, more commonly known as the Brandon Foundation, and its Angel program. The foundation also has spearheaded one of several drives under way to help the Wicker famiy rebuild.
The group also has reached out to the Jaudon family, which took residence next door to the Wicker family, and also has been dislodged because of the catastrophic sinkhole that has been described as “unprecedented.”
According to Rich Strehl, executive director of the Brandon Foundation, the outpouring of support for the families has been swift and steady.
“There’s no way to have a bad after seeing what they’re going through,” he said. “Obviously, we were blown away by it. We went into overdrive mode within a few hours after it happened to answer the call for help.”
From the Wicker family alone, three families have been displaced, Strehl said. The home was owned by Leland Buddy Wicker, who now resides in North Carolina, but who let his children and grandchildren and family friends use the home for lodging and weekly family gatherings.
Jeffrey Bush was living in the home temporarily. His brother, Jeremy, along with Rachel Wicker and their 2-year-old daughter, Hannah, were in the home when the sinkhole burst open.
“We have no clue what we expect to raise overall,” Strehl said in an interview earlier this week. He noted, however, that the community has been generous and that donations have been coming in steadily.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to the Sinkhole Family Relief Fund. Checks made payable to the Brandon Foundation can be dropped off or mailed to the foundation at P.O. Box 3197, Brandon, Fla., 33509. (Note “Sinkhole Family Relief” in the memo line.)
Donations to help the families affected by the sinkhole also are being accepted online, at www.firefighter-relief.com, a site run by Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.