Nfld. & Labrador

N.L. teen helping woman rebuild vast vintage button collection lost in fire

Emily Harnum is lending a hand to a woman who lost her prized collection — consisting of 10,000 buttons — in a house fire last week.

Community pulls together 1,500 buttons over two days

Emily Harnum, left, embraces her friend Sheila Saunders, who lost her home in a fire last week, along with her prized button collection of more than 10,000 buttons. (Submitted by Emily Harnum)

A Conception Bay South teenager is helping a woman who lost her home in a fire rebuild a prized button collection that was destroyed in the blaze.

Emily Harnum is a friend of Sheila and Edgar Saunders, who lost their Bridgeport home following a fire on Thursday.

"Unfortunately for them, the house was extremely old. There was no insurance or anything on it," Harnum told The St. John's Morning Show on Tuesday.

"It only took a couple minutes before the house was completely on fire. And as soon as the water had hit it, The structure had completely collapsed."

Harnum said Sheila lost more than 10,000 buttons — some dating as far back as the 1600s.

"She had an absolutely insane amount of buttons," she said. "Everything from a button off a dress to a button that was once on a military suit."

Harnum said Saunders especially liked sorting through her collection, seeing it as a great way to relieve stress and maintain dexterity.

Harnum says she has received more than 1,500 buttons since putting a call on Facebook on Sunday. (The Button Project/Facebook)

After hearing about the importance of the lost collection, Harnum said she knew she wanted to help the Saunderses rebuild. She created a Facebook page called The Button Project to ask people to donate buttons to help restart the collection.

Two days after making her first post, she has collected more than 1,500 buttons from six different donors.

"I immediately knew that I wanted to do something to help them…. Rebuilding the button collection was something that was within my reach," she said.

"[Donors] were also kind of starting their own little button collections, [but] once they found out the impact that button collection had on this specific woman … they knew it would be more important to her than they were to them."

Harnum said she hopes to continue to build the collection in the coming days as the family continues to rebuild.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show

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