The house fire that devastated a local family by taking not only their home but the life of their 17-year-old son, Prackserth (Patrick) Soeun, has been met with “overwhelming” support from the community, according to a family friend. However, more help is needed.
“The family doesn’t have a home to stay in,” said Chantha Banks, who is helping to coordinate a donation campaign. “The father is staying at the temple, and the mother and the daughters stay with an in-law in the living room.”
The father, Sean Phuong, was laid off from his job a couple years ago. The family is active with the Cambodian Buddhist temple, Wat Khemarak Pothiram.
“He [Phuong] plays in the band—one of the Cambodian traditional bands—so everyone seems to know who he is. He’s very down-to-earth, very kind-hearted,” said Banks. “He’s still in shock over the loss of his only son and it’s so difficult for him just to go out and do things.”
Since losing his job, Banks said, Phuong has volunteered extensively at the temple, “cleaning, fixing up stuff.”
The fire occurred on Feb. 1st. Jackie Schwendeman, a neighbor, was taking her puppy for a walk, when she noticed smoke billowing up from the family’s garage. She had her daughter call 911 and rushed in to help evacuate the family. Neither Schwendeman nor the firefighters could rescue Patrick Soeun before it was too late.
Outside the charred South Park house lies evidence of a caring community: bouquets of fresh flowers, a full and opened Rockstar energy drink, a full teriyaki carryout dinner, a hot dog from the local convenience store, and a message written on the street from friends of Patrick.
Beyond the signs of a grieving community, practical necessities have been donated from across the state.
“Right now I have so many donations from different counties: clothing and personal items, care packages—it’s overwhelming,” Banks said. However, the family doesn’t have a house to store things in, so the items are being held at the temple. Banks suggests that those who want to help may donate to a memorial fund set up in Patrick’s name at any Bank of America branch.
Clothing items are still needed, especially jackets, including men’s size medium; women’s wear for both the mother and a 21-year-old; and children’s clothing for a 1-year-old boy and a 2-year-old girl, and boys size 8-10. In addition, the family needs shoes: men’s size 8, women’s sizes 7 and 7 ½, and children’s size 4.
Items may be dropped off at the temple, which is in White Center, as well as Pean Meas Video, on Martin Luther King Way in South Seattle, the White Center Donut Shop and the Golden House Bakery & Deli.
Banks said she’s in close contact with many in the Cambodian community.
“They said whatever the family needs just shoot them a quick email and they can gather all the stuff … if they find a home to rent,” she said.
“It’s a small community, everyone seems to know everybody. I’ve seen so much people coming out and help support the family. It’s overwhelming.”
For more information, contact Many Uch at (206) 679-2084 or Chantha Banks at (206) 883-4636.