Vidalia family feeling blessed after community outreach

Published 12:13 am Tuesday, January 13, 2015

VIDALIA A Vidalia family nearly was left speechless Monday after an outpouring of support from community members following the loss of their house to a fire.

Katie and Johnnie Donald’s Charles Street house, which they’ve owned and lived in for six years, was destroyed Sunday afternoon after a fire started inside the house.

The Donalds and their three children — Abigail, Jase and Ivy — had just left a morning service at First Baptist Church of Vidalia and were eating at La Fiesta restaurant in Natchez when they got a call from a neighbor saying their house was on fire.

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“I thought it might have been something small from some firewood outside our house, but when I heard her really screaming and crying I knew we had to go,” Katie said. “That’s when we got home and saw our house on fire.”

Katie said her mind immediately went to thinking about all the different scenarios that could have played out that day where she and her family might have been inside the house when the fire started.

“We could have easily not gone to church because our kids have been sick or just come straight home after church and not gone out to eat,” Katie said. “But we didn’t, and we are just so very thankful that we are all still together as a family.”

Vidalia Fire Department firefighters along with volunteers with Concordia Fire District No. 2 eventually worked to extinguish the fire Sunday afternoon, and told the Donald family Monday they still weren’t sure what started the fire.

“They just said all the paneling in the house didn’t make things any better, and that it was like pouring gasoline on there,” Katie said. “The insurance adjusters will be here (today), and maybe we’ll have some more answers then.”

As Katie and her family began facing the reality of the situation, members of the community began offering donations to help them along the way.

Clothes, toiletries and other items have been pouring in following the fire, Katie said.

A family member even started a fundraising account on the website,, which had received $5,515 as of Monday evening.

Katie said she checked the website early Monday morning and was amazed that nearly $200 had been raised.

“My cousin asked if I had checked it lately and I told her it was up to like $200, and I couldn’t believe that because I was just so grateful,” Katie said. “She just said, ‘You may want to check it again,’ and I just started crying.”

An anonymous donor made a single donation of $5,000 Monday afternoon that pushed the fundraising site past its goal of $5,000 in just a few hours.

Katie said she’s been taken aback by the outpouring of support from her husband’s hometown and others from the surrounding area.

“The support from everybody, especially our First Baptist Vidalia family, has really pulled us up and gotten us through this time,” Katie said. “I just can’t tell you how blessed we are.

“I don’t even know how to express in words how grateful we are to everyone.”

Katie said the family stayed at a neighbor’s house Sunday and will stay at a hotel for the following days before moving into a rental house while the insurance work is finalized.

Anyone in the community wishing to make donations can do so by dropping items off at 2061 Eleanor St. in Vidalia or at