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Community saves Christmas for family whose home burned

A Pike County employee and his family lost their home and everything they owned after a house fire Dec. 23. Members of the Pike County community stepped up to help the family after the tragedy. They provided Christmas toys for two kids who didn’t think Santa would be able to visit them since they no longer had a home. ’Donations included money, gift cards, clothes, laundry supplies and other items,’ said Janis Cox who helped collect all the donations. ‘The sheriff’s office got in touch with Toys for Tots and we were able to wrap a bunch of toys for the children. Everybody just went over and beyond, it was just a beautiful thing.’ Jonathan Smith has worked for the county for nearly 10 years and was named Employee of the Quarter in 2013 after he found a bank bag stuffed with money while cutting grass and tracked down the owner to return it. He lived with his wife, two young children and father-in-law before the devastating fire. Pike employees worked together to help the family by asking for donations via Facebook. ’Several county employees put it on their Facebook page and asked if anyone wanted to give or donate and people just started giving,’ said Cox. ‘All the county employees just stepped up and it was wonderful the support the community gave him. He was very overwhelmed and his wife was too. The children had already decided Santa wasn’t going to come see them because they didn’t have a home. So when they got up Christmas morning, they were just so excited.’ The family had two hotel rooms since their father-in-law lived with them as well. They put all the presents in his room so the kids didn’t know they were there until Christmas morning. ’The fire department had collected some things and taken them down there,’ said Cox. ‘He said when they first got to the hotel room they went to Wal-Mart to get shoes for their kids since they didn’t have any. When they came back, someone from the hotel had put a Christmas tree and stockings in the room.’ The family lived in Upson County and the early morning fire gave them just minutes to escape their burning home. They were able to get out alive but didn’t even get basic items such as shoes for their children. ’When we arrived, the family was all smiles ‘“ grateful that everyone got out alive,’ said Walter Griffin, Red Cross disaster action team lead. ‘Thankfully, the family was alerted by smoke alarms, which gave them the time needed to get out of the house safely. When you see the destruction, you know how easily the story ending could have been different.’ Fire experts agree people may have as little as two minutes to escape a burning home before it’s too late to get out. Every single second counts, so the Red Cross urges everyone take action now to prevent home fire death or injury.

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