News: Burning disaster is a blessing in disguise
Story by Sgt. Richard Wrigley
FORT STEWART, Ga. - At first glance the Washington family’s story may seem a terrible one.
A young family, with nowhere to live after a fire made their home uninhabitable at the beginning of a four day weekend.
A young wife Danecia Washington, of Detroit, due to have her second child any day, lost with nowhere to go and no clothes to wear.
A young husband and soldier, Spc. Jefferson Washington, a native of Baton Rouge, La., and an information security specialist for Troop E, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, at a loss, not knowing where to turn or where to take his expecting wife after so abruptly being forced out of their home.
“After the fire we were in a panic, all I could think was, ‘Oh my goodness…what are we going to do now,” Danecia said.
Their fears were real and warranted, until the community stepped in that is.
First to help the Washington’s through their time of need were the firemen, one of which suggested that Spc. Washington contact the American Red Cross, Spc. Washington said.
“If it wasn’t for the fireman suggesting it, I never would have thought of the Red Cross,” Spc. Washington said.
The next group to step in was the Red Cross volunteers themselves. After an immediate assessment of the situation, the Red Cross assisted the Washingtons by providing them with funding for lodging and groceries for the next three days, as well as funding for cloths and seasonal garments, allowing them to purchase the necessary items they would need to survive for the weekend, said Sharyn Baggett, emergency services program manager for the Southeast Georgia Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Indeed the help the Red Cross provided was greatly critical during the Washingtons’ time of need.
“We got a roof over our heads, food in our stomach, clothes on our back, and we were safe and out of harms way,” Spc. Washington said.
“If it wasn’t for the Red Cross, I don’t think we would have made it through the weekend,” he added.
The Washingtons still didn’t have a permanent solution to their dilemma. The funds were only for the weekend. When Tuesday came around, they were in a very precarious position.
Spc. Washington, had no one else to turn to, so he reached out to his unit, and they did not disappoint.
On post housing can be very difficult to get, and may take quite some time, said Sgt. 1st Class Clyde Blocker, the operations sergeant major for the home detachment, 3-7 CAV.
However, after contacting the more than understanding staff at Balfour Beatty, the issues were resolved right then.
“When [the staff] heard the soldier’s situation they found him a house instantly,” Sgt. 1st Class Blocker said. “It really speaks volumes of April Morgan and the rest of the staff members over there at Balfour Beatty that they reacted so quickly.”
Despite all this hard work on the Washingtons’ behalf, there was still yet one more hurdle to overcome for the Washingtons to have a home. They had to pay the prorated rent for the housing, and they did not have that amount of money available.
That is when Red Cross stepped in yet again. Unfortunately, Red Cross proper could not fund this, fortunately, a separate fund, the Landings Military Family Relief Fund, a fund set up by a local community in Savannah, Ga was able to cover this expense. The Landings Fund was designed to operate under the local Red Cross, and to provide assistance in such situations, said Baggett.
Just like that, the Washingtons were not only safe and sound, but they were in a much larger and nicer house than they had ever dreamed of previously.
“This place has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a walk in pantry, great kitchen, and a big back yard for my dog…this place is everything we need,” said Spc. Washington.
While not the only one who was thinking it, Sgt. 1st Class Blocker may have said it best when he noted, “When you first hear about what happened to [the Washingtons] it seems pretty bad, but really, they actually turned out better for it in the end I think. Call it what you want, I think [the fire] was a blessing.”