Monica Fortune lost everything except what was most precious — her three young children — in the Oct. 14 fire at the Queens Manor Apartments in Mayflower.
Thirteen families were displaced in the blaze, the property manager said, and a resident of the building has been charged with arson in Faulkner County Circuit Court.
Relief efforts are continuing through several outreach organizations, said Rennie Tarpley of Conway, executive director of His Place His Way Outreach in Springhill and a board member of Inter-faith Partners Disaster Alliance in Mayflower. He is organizing relief efforts from several community organizations, including the alliance.
First Baptist Church of Mayflower immediately jumped on board and was a distribution center for donations, and Catholic Charities of Arkansas is working on case management for the individuals, Tarpley said.
“Many of the other nonprofits are working with us as well,” he said.
The fire started shortly after 6 p.m. on Oct. 14, and no one was injured.
Fortune was at work at Dollar General in Mayflower when she saw firetrucks race by the store.
“I didn’t think anything about my apartment being on fire,” she said.
Then the father of her children called and told Fortune she needed to come home, or to “what’s left of your home,” she said. He was keeping their children, ages 1, 2 and 3, while she worked.
“The first thing I thought was, ‘Did you get my kids out?’ I didn’t even clock out; I just flew out of there,’” she said. “I almost got in two wrecks coming home.”
She frantically looked for her children because she said the children’s father wasn’t answering his phone.
Her children were fine, but not the family’s belongings.
“I lost everything,” she said.
Since then, Fortune has received a queen-size bed, in which she and all three children sleep, a love seat, dishes and a few clothes for the children.
“I’m very thankful,” Fortune said. “I don’t like asking for help, but I was in a time where I needed the help.”
The American Red Cross gave Fortune and other residents gift cards with money for food, clothes and a motel, but she ended up staying with a friend in Conway. She has been relocated to Grassy Lakes Apartments, which is behind Queens Manor, as have several other residents. Bobby Briggs of Conway owns both apartment complexes.
Fortune walked the short distance from her apartment to the burned apartment complex, carrying her daughter as the boys walked beside her wearing new donated clothes and socks, but no shoes. The boys played in the parking lot in front of their former home as she talked and peered into the blackened unit with the charred remains of her furniture.
Fortune said she has since lost her job at the discount store, but she’s applied for a position at the Conway Human
Development Center and has some Red Cross money that she plans to use for her November rent payment.
When asked if she still has needs, Fortune hesitated. She said more clothes for her children would be nice. The two boys wear sizes 2T and 3T, and her daughter wears size 12 months.
“I could always use diapers,” she said.
Tarpley said an Adopt a Fire Family has been started for the displaced residents, and volunteers, families, churches or organizations are needed.
“We need families or civic groups or churches to adopt them, love them, encourage them and help them get the things they need and just be able to be there for them, help them at Thanksgiving and Christmas, pray with them and show them the community is there for them,” Tarpley said.
Queens Manor resident Rosanna Bishop said her children were outside playing when another resident alerted them to the fire. She and her boyfriend put her two dogs in their truck and moved it away from the fire.
“We lost clothes … couches, beds. By the time they let us in there, it was all too molded to use,” she said. “It’s been extremely tough.”
Bishop said she has also received some assistance from the outreach organizations.
“We’ve gotten most of what we needed. Somebody’s bringing me a dresser, and somebody else is bringing me a bed tomorrow for the kids. That’s all we needed,” she said.
Tarpley said he has crews who can pick up donated furniture, but an appointment will need to be made by calling Tarpley at (501) 514-1426. He asked that the items be in good condition.
“We say if it is good, it is all together, and if you would put it in your home, we would give it to one of our families,” he said. Also needed are personal-hygiene items, paper goods, laundry detergent, “good beds, clean beds; we need all sizes. We need lots of chests of drawers.”
His Place His Way will store donations to be used through January 2018 for displaced families.
Monetary donations or gift cards may be mailed to the Inter-faith and Partners Recovery Alliance, P.O. Box 983, Mayflower, AR 72106. He also said donations can be made to organizations such as the United Way of Central Arkansas and designated for the displaced families.
The most important thing, Tarpley said, is that residents know “they are not alone; there is a community that wants to rally around them.
“The families got out with their lives, and that’s what counts.”
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.