Guardian Angels: Local nonprofit helps families after house fires

The fire had swept everything away.

Brittany Painter often thinks about this fire. She was 13 years old and one of her close friends was the victim of a fire. They ended up losing everything. While there were resources that could have helped them, both immediately and in the long term, they didn’t know where to go for help.

Someone should be available to provide this advice after a traumatic fire, she thought.

From this passion for helping those affected by fires, Painter formed Fire Angels, Inc. The organization helps families who have lost their homes due to house fires, providing families with basic needs during the 24 to First 72 hours after a fire. The nonprofit also offers resources and comfort to help a family cope with what they’ve been through, Painter said.

For example, one problem that families may face overnight is obtaining essentials such as formula or food, as some gas stations may not have them. Fire Angels has formula and food on hold and can give them away for free to families in need, instead of paying extra or going without, she said.

Since the association’s launch in August, Fire Angels has helped several families, all with varying needs.

“God gave me the idea (of the Fire Angels). In Johnson County we have a lot of resources for fire victims, but no one knows about them, ”Painter said.

Before forming Fire Angels, Painter intended to help people as a firefighter. Last year, the mother of six started taking classes to become one.

However, when she realized that being a firefighter was about more than fighting fires, she decided she wasn’t ready for some of the other things firefighters face on a daily basis. . Discouraged by the loss of her dream, a few months passed before something happened that rekindled her passion.

In March, Painter heard about a family whose house burned down in New Whiteland. Like Painter, the family had six children, which struck a chord with her.

“I immediately reached out and asked what they needed,” Painter said. “They had nothing (left).”

The painter bought clothes, food and other necessities for the family, who were now staying in a hotel. A little later, an idea for Fire Angels came to Painter while she was driving.

If someone’s house burns down overnight, many stores aren’t open as late as they used to be. This leaves those affected with the only option of going to a gas station for snacks or basic necessities, which are often more expensive than going to a store, Painter said.

Fire Angels steps in to fill this void.

When she came up with the idea for Fire Angels one of the first things she did was go see the New Whiteland family whom she first helped and ask them if they wanted to join. to his business. Painter knew the family before the fire, but they weren’t close – a situation that changed as they worked closely on the project.

Painter also asked other friends to join them, and Fire Angels was born.

The seven angels

There are seven people who make up the Fire Angels board – Painter, Jenny Carrington, Jason Painter, Beck Davy, Micha Buskirk and Felisha and Zachary Morris – and everyone on the board is someone Painter knows. .

Care Coordinator Felisha Morris and Fire Department Liaison Zachary Morris are the ones who make the first contact with a family after suffering a house fire. They provide support and comfort to the affected family and have them fill out admission forms to initiate the process of assistance.

Painter and Jenny Carrington, vice president of Fire Angels, gather supplies, then Painter delivers them to the family and see if they need anything else, Painter said. They are assisted by Secretary / Treasurer Jason Painter, Resource Manager Davy and Buskirk Events Coordinator.

“(Then) we’re reaching out to them over the next few days to see if we can connect them to other resources,” Painter said. “We try to accommodate all families.

Every Johnson County fire department knows the Fire Angels and their work. Whenever departments work on house fires that could displace a family, the organization is contacted by county 911 dispatchers or a fire chief, Painter said.

As the care coordinator for Fire Angels, Felisha Morris shows up at fire scenes to help families in immediate needs after a fire. Often, 911 dispatchers will call her after a residential fire is marked “working” from a fire department, she said.

“Once there, I go over a list of things the family may need and offer support in any way I can,” Morris said. “I stay put with the family and wait for our other board members to bring these immediate necessities.”

While Felisha Morris usually only helps at the scene of a fire, she sometimes helps families with meals the next day, she said.

Carrington, whom Painter calls the backbone of the operation, has known Painter for years. Carrington and Painter’s sons played baseball together and after a while they became friends, Carrington said.

When Painter asked Carrington if she wanted to help with Fire Angels, Carrington’s response was immediate.

“When (Painter) came up with the idea for Fire Angels, I was like, ‘Yeah, how can I help,’ she said.

As Vice President, Carrington provides support to Painter whenever she needs it and helps facilitate and coordinate the operations of Fire Angels. In addition, she is one of the organizations’ on-site coordinators and goes to the scene of fires to offer assistance to affected families.

Currently, Carrington has also reserved a room in his Greenwood home for all of the Fire Angels supplies. The room is filled with several bins containing everything from food to fresh clothes to trash bags. Fire Angels distributes the garbage bags to families whose clothes may be damaged but recoverable after a fire.

If the clothes are salvageable, they take them to Carriage Cleaners, one of the nonprofit partners, to help them clean them, Carrington said.

When Fire Angels started, Painter was the one who paid for everything families received. Now, however, the association has been sponsored and received donations from local businesses, Painter said.

In addition to Carriage Cleaners, supporters include Primary Grounds, Energy Spot, Madison Avenue Family Dental, Cross Country Mortgage, and Emmanuel Church Franklin, as well as many other companies that have helped Fire Angels stock up, she said. .

The joy of giving

The favorite part of Fire Angels Painter is the joy she gets from giving and helping those in need during a difficult time. No member of the Fire Angels board is paid for what they provide, she said.

“We are all parents; we own our own businesses, ”Painter said. “We are extremely busy, but this is our number one priority.”

So far this year, Fire Angels have responded to several house fires. While it was devastating to see members of our communities go through such a traumatic event, the reaction thereafter is moving, Carrington said.

“Fire Angels, firefighters and communities have come together with those affected,” she said. “As horrible as it was, it’s impressive to see the response.”

For Felisha Morris, who lives in Whiteland, being able to help the residents of Johnson County is very important to her. Everyone on the Fire Angels board of directors has staked everything on the organization, she said.

“It is very close to our hearts because some of them have personally experienced a fire or worked in the fire service. We just want to help, ”Morris said. “We thrive on word of mouth and donations. “

Fire Angels only serve Johnson County, but going forward Painter is hopeful that they will be able to provide assistance to surrounding counties. In the future, the association also plans to organize events to help with donations and other forms of assistance. Next year they will be holding a 5K run at Whiteland High School. The fundraising race, dubbed “THE FIRE RUN,” will be held on May 21 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Carrington said.

The most important thing for the association is the services it provides, which are completely free for victims of house fires.

“Everything we do when we’re on stage is completely free for them,” Painter said. “Everything is free for families.

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