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Vidalia family receives blessings in house fire tragedy

VIDALIA — A tragedy turned into a blessing when locals showed an “outpour of love” for a Vidalia pastor’s family whose house was destroyed in a Monday fire, family members said.

“We’ve had such an outpour of love and people taking care of us, and that has been such a blessing,” said Calley Reed, the wife of the Rev. Danny Reed, pastor of Cornerstone Church in Vidalia.

“When I opened the laundry room door at about 8:50 a.m., there were flames from floor to ceiling,” she said. “We tried to use the fire extinguisher and couldn’t get it to work. I have a toddler and four of our other children who are home schooled that were all home with me. We all got out and called 911 and tried to figure out what to do.”

Reed said the house was a 130-year-old plantation home made entirely of wood and could not be saved. However, the Vidalia Fire Department was able to contain the fire long enough to help the family retrieve some furniture and priceless keepsakes, she said.

“They literally worked on the fire for about 12 hours,” Reed said. “The firefighters were holding back the fire and some other firefighters were grabbing our things.”

Reed said church members lined up at the edge of her porch while firefighters passed them her family’s personal belongings — a trunk of family photos, her wedding dress and a china cabinet that was a gift from her dad — and carried them into the yard out of harm’s way.

“We can’t say enough about the Vidalia Fire Department,” Reed said. “There were about 25 guys there and they ran up to us and said, ‘Can you think of anything else that you want us to grab? We’ve got to move fast.’”

Once the fire was done, Reed said church and community members and even several people she didn’t know helped her family of 11 find a temporary place to sleep, food, clothing and monetary support.

Reed said First Baptist Church in Ferriday happened to have an empty parsonage and offered it as a temporary place to stay.

Crews of volunteers continued to go back to the family’s house to pull salvageable items out of the ashes while others brought them household items and everything they needed, Reed said.

One person set up a GoFundMe page that has collected $5,665 as of Wednesday and another person shared Reed’s PayPal account on social media for people to send gift cards, she said.

“We live in a great community,” she said. “There have been so many people reaching out to us, even complete strangers that we don’t even know. I’ve been trying to organize a list of people who donated or sent food or even sent money to us so I can thank them.”

Reed said her family still needs prayers that God will direct their next steps.

“Danny grew up in this plantation and we’ve spent the last four years completely restoring it ourselves,” she said. “We’re still in the fog of not believing that we’ve lost everything that we’ve worked for in the past four years. On the other hand, God has been faithful, and we’re asking him for wisdom and what to do now. We’re such a large family, and it’s not easy to makeshift a house to fit all of us.”

The cause of the fire seems to be electrical but is still being investigated, Reed said.

The family does have insurance on the house but it won’t come close to buying a house like the one that was lost, she said.

“God has always taken care of us, and I know he isn’t going to stop now,” Reed said. “Our family is just overwhelmed with gratitude to our community that has come together on our behalf. We hope to thank each person individually but we want to express our gratitude and how thankful we are to be a part of a community that reaches out to the hurting in times like this.”