Lauren and Jim Adams are living through what might be the worst time of their lives, yet their hearts have never been so filled with love and gratitude by the outpouring of kindness they have received.

Friends, family and complete strangers have come to the aid of the Galloway Township couple and their two young children since a house fire two weeks ago destroyed everything they had.

"I would like people to know that we are so grateful and appreciative to everyone for helping us," Lauren Adams, said in a recent interview. "We have a lot of paying forward to do."

Adams and her husband, both lifelong area residents and members of the 2003 graduating class of Absegami High School, said they are determined to rebuild their lives and their home.

The couple and their little girls, 2-year-old Toni and 4-year-old Gianna, are staying with Jim's family in Egg Harbor City while waiting to move into temporary housing until their home can be rebuilt.

They have a place lined up, but they need a security deposit of $3,700 to move in.

While their insurance will reimburse rent and rebuilding costs, the security deposit has to come from out of pocket.

At the urging of their friends, Lauren Adams turned to social media for help.

"I hate asking for money, but it's so important to get a roof over my girls' heads, a permanent living arrangement. They need a home. They need to be stable and be in one place. We can't keep having "slumber parties," she wrote on an online fundraising site.

Adams, who has a full-time job but also ran a photography business from her home, said she hasn't been back to work yet. Her husband is a union carpenter, and even when they were both working it was a struggle, she said.

"(It) wasn't perfect, but the life we made was everything I could have ever dreamed of, and more," Lauren said. "The pride we had, how our house was becoming a home. Our memories, our life. I just can't explain to you how this hurts me to my core," Adams wrote.

But from despair, comes hope. In just a little more than a week since fundraising began, about $2,500 has been raised to help the family, friend Alexis Cassady said.

"I think it's wonderful how so many people have reached out to help so soon after the holidays when most people are recovering financially from Christmas," Cassady said. "It restores faith in humanity."

Still shaken after having her world turned upside down, Adams said she is trying hard to hold it together for her children's sake. She was at work when she received a phone call Jan. 7 notifying her that her house was on fire.

"The firefighters did their absolute best, but we lost everything," Adams recalled. "My family was safe, but everything we had is gone. Our clothes, our belongings. Everything was black. Everything was ruined."

Her children's pet rabbit, which was in a cage in the kitchen area, perished in the fire, she said, adding to the blow of their losses.

"We have no idea why this happened to us. We just got married in September. Thank you notes from our wedding, our Christmas cards that we had printed, the girls' Christmas presents, everything gone," Adams said.

Emotional and financial support has lifted their spirits, she said.

"There have been some fundraisers already, and we are so grateful," Adams said, who added that she and her husband make it a point to attend with their daughters and thank people.

"It's good to see our kids actually smile and have fun for a while," Adams said.

Contact Lucia C. Drake:

609-272-7295

How to help

The South Jersey Children's Museum, Hamilton Mall, Mays Landing, will host a fundraiser from 9 a.m. to noon, Jan. 26. Cost: $10. Includes admission, continental breakfast, visit with Favorite Fairy Tale princesses and princes, and live remote with Heather DeLuca of SOJO 104.9.

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Beef and Beer, 3 to 6 p.m. Feb. 9, Watering Hole Cafe, 6494 Weymouth Road, Mays Landing. Cost: $20 adults, $15 kids. Includes food, drinks, music, 50/50 raffle and Chinese auction. For tickets, call 609-418-1695.

For information, see facebook.com/#!/events/646311978758495/

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Hello Gorgeous Photography, Cape May, offers 10 mini sessions the first weekend in May with all proceeds going to the Adams family. Each mini session is 20-25 minutes in length and includes 10 final, fully retouched images with a release for printing. Cost: $250, payment due immediately to reserve a spot.