Donations abound from community.
By Clellie Allen
YOUNGSVILLE — Early in the morning hours of Sunday, March 23, fire broke out in the rear of the Pen Oak Lane home of Sheldon and Cheryl Keith. For an unknown reason, the smoke alarms did not go off, but the family dog woke up Sheldon.
By the time he was able to rouse the rest of his family, fire had completely engulfed the back of their home.
Sheldon, Cheryl, and their two young sons, Matthew and Dallas, escaped in their pajamas, having no time to grab anything on their way out.
Their home, along with a lifetime of photos, beloved heirlooms and memories, was destroyed.
Friends and family immediately moved to help. Cheryl’s sister, Crystal Lane, set up a Facebook page, Caring for the Keiths, to organize clothing and gift card donations. Friends Amy Melton and Diana Parks Potwin have created a GoFundMe page, The Keith’s Home Destroyed in Fire Fund, to accept online donations for the family. They set a goal of $25,000 and just over a week later, they are nearly halfway there with $10,250.
“There has been so much help. It has been encouraging the way folks have helped in so many ways,” said Lane. “Strangers have come to my door with tears in their eyes. It’s been awesome.”
The Keiths have been living in a hotel since the fire. Cheryl severely twisted her ankle that morning while trying to retrieve additional clothing from a camper parked just outside the home. She is slowly recovering, but has to wear a boot.
Sheldon, an asthmatic, was hospitalized immediately after the fire for observation following smoke inhalation and was released the next day.
Dallas, 10, and Matthew, 15, appear to be coping well and are back in school, said Lane, although Dallas is having a harder time realizing that their home is gone.
But she did get to give her nephews a solid piece of good news — the family found a place to rent Tuesday.
“The smiles on their faces were priceless,” she said.
So much clothing has been donated to the family in the last week, Lane said that they really don’t need any more. What she is focusing on now is trying to help her sister and brother-in-law pull together household belongings. Everything from towels and sheets to a toaster, coffee pot and lamps are needed.
One item Cheryl won’t need to try and find is a guitar. She was learning how to play and lost a collection of guitars that had belonged to her and Crystal’s grandfather in the fire.
When country music singer Jason Michael Carroll heard of the loss, he brought Cheryl a guitar that had been given to him by a producer when he first started out in his singing career.
“We grew up with Jason and he’s a good friend,” Lane said. “He told her he wanted her to keep playing.”
As Lane and the rest of the Keith family have watched donations and well-wishes come flooding in, Lane said that it has not been the size of individual donations that has been overwhelming, but rather all the small ones.
“One little girl heard about the fire and organized her class to help out,” Lane said. “And we saw a donor on the GoFundMe who gave $6. I know that $6 was probably all they had to give. It’s humbling,” she said.
“Little is much when God is in it,” Lane said. “It’s not about the possessions or the things given, but the heart that makes it effective for God’s will.”
For those who’d like to help the Keith family get back on their feet, go to facebook.com/CaringfortheKeiths and scroll down to the gofundme.com link.
If anyone has new or gently used household goods they can donate, contact Lane directly at 919-495-3006.