While he and his wife were at work and their children at school, they received calls letting them know their home had caught on fire, making it unlivable and destroying many of their belongings.
What happened after the fire was what Divel called “almost as unbelievable.”
As the family began to pick up the pieces, they found the people of Cleveland were eager to step in to help.
Divel said he did not know for sure what happened but said the fire likely started in the house’s master bathroom.
“Pretty much everything” that was not burned was damaged by smoke and water, displacing the family from their home.
“They’re going to have to gut it completely,” Divel said Monday afternoon following a meeting with a contractor.
Though he said the contractor may not have to demolish the house down to its foundation, it will be at least six months before the necessary work can be completed.
Divel had been busy meeting with a local property owner while his wife, Jessica, was on the job as a teacher at Tennessee Christian Preparatory School. Three of the couple’s four children were also at the school, while their 2-year-old daughter was spending the day with her grandparents.
Their 8-year-old daughter, 6-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter were taken straight to Jessica’s parents’ home after school. That evening, the family had the unfortunate task of breaking the news to its youngest members.
Divel said they explained things as simply as they could, noting the kids had lost some toys and other items, and that they would be staying with their grandparents for a while. In the meantime, the children have not been to see their house in its current state.
While there were some tears shed, things have been “pretty good” considering, Divel said. Nobody was hurt, and they have been given the support they need to get back on track.
“The community’s been unbelievable,” Divel said. “It’s just amazing.”
Shortly after the house burned, area residents began to pitch in to help by gathering necessities like clothing to help them.
Both Corey and Jessica Divel are Lee University alumni, and that connection prompted Director of Alumni Relations Patti Cawood to email local alumni and ask for their help.
“First, let’s give thanks that they and their four young children are all safe and uninjured,” Cawood wrote. “Next, let’s do what we Lee alums do best — let’s rally support for this family.”
The email later explained that a fund had been set up for the Divel family at Regions Bank on 25th Street, and donations for the family could also be dropped off at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore on Grove Avenue.
Well-wishers also created a group on Facebook for the sole purpose of helping the family. The group simply called “The Divels” is full of posts discussing needs and showing the donations gathered so far. Nearly 300 people had joined the group as of Tuesday morning.
The family’s plight has also caught the attention of local government officials due to Divel’s occupation. Before he was the Cleveland city planner, he worked as the Bradley County director of planning.
During Monday’s meeting of the Bradley County Commission, Commissioner Bill Winters announced what had happened to the former county planner and said it reminded him of how easily a person — even a local official — can become homeless.
“Sometimes, there are people who are homeless not because of things they’ve done but what life has done to them,” Winters said.
Though he acknowledged the house fire could have had a more tragic ending or left them without a place to live, Divel said he was grateful his family was offered shelter by relatives and friends who offered to let the family use some vacant rental properties.
As work continues on their damaged home, Divel said he and his wife would continue to work and carry on with their lives as normally as possible. In the meantime, they’re grateful for the support their young family has been given.
“We’re pretty thankful,” Divel said. “We’re indebted.”