11/20/2013 03:45 EST | Updated 05/15/2015 05:59 EDT

Facebook Fundraisers For Erica Macklin's Family Bring Strangers Together

Strangers on Facebook are coming together to raise money for Erica Macklin and her four children, after Paul Macklin (far left) died after a workplace accident.

Members of a private Facebook auction group in Richmond, B.C. were shocked to see a death announcement last week among the regular posts selling furniture, toys and clothes.

“One of our own members needs some help,” the post read. The husband of Erica Macklin, one of the organizers behind Richmond B.C. Bidding Wars, had suddenly passed away. Paul Macklin, 44, was in a workplace accident and died from complications from skin graft surgery, leaving his wife and four children.

Erica is not merely a Facebook group buyer and seller; it was quickly obvious that she had touched people who barely knew her through the site, and her own community efforts.

First, members signed up to cook meals for the grieving family.

“Erica has been such an inspiration to every single person who has come into her life. She has given of her time and resources on a multitude of occasions,” posted Jennifer Poskin-Wittenberg. “This is just a small and simple way for us to let her know that she is surrounded by people who love and support her during this time.”

Soon, all the Facebook auctions on the Richmond bidding page were dedicated to fundraising for Erica, her daughter and three sons. The eldest is 20 and the youngest is two years old.

A separate online fundraiser has raised more than $6,000 in a few days.

“It’s a snowball. We started with wanting to cover a couple of months rent and some groceries but now we’re just shooting for the stars,” said Charity Janzen, one of the fundraising organizers, on Wednesday.

Erica Macklin was active in helping raise money for an accessible playground in Richmond, and also for her sons’ hockey association. Many people only know her through brief interactions in buying and selling kids’ and household items on local Facebook groups.

“It started out as a way for people to get rid of their junk but I think people get used to each other,” explains Janzen. “They meet each other when they do drop-offs and pickups. They do each other small favours like adding in free items or dropping off when somebody has a bad day and can’t pick up when they’re supposed to.

“It becomes more of a community because over time, people do things for each other to help.”

Paul Murakami is auctioning off an autographed photo of Sir Laurence Olivier that he was going to sell privately. He’s giving all the proceeds to Macklin’s family, even though he only knows Erica from the Facebook group.

“I can't even imagine what it would be like to have her loss,” he told The Huffington Post B.C. “She has children that she needs to raise, and there's nothing in this world more important than that. I have more than enough to feed my child, and it's no sacrifice to give in the time of need. This is as much for the children, as it is for her.”

“Her grief won’t last one or two months. It will last much longer than that,” adds Janzen. “If we can help ease any of the burden we might as well. She deserves it.”

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