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Community steps up to help local after fire

The Picayune community has stepped up to show support for one family after their home caught fire the morning of Nov. 13, raising over $8,000 to help them recover.

Willene Bridges was already at work on Friday, Nov. 13 when she got a call from her neighbor at 4:45 that her home was on fire.

All she could think about was getting home and making sure her 16 and 17-year-old grandkids were safe.

“I saw the kids, I went to thanking God,” said Bridges.

The smoke alarm went off, and Bridges’ grandchildren were able to get out of the home before the furnace exploded. Bridges said her grandson was worried she and her husband Curtis might still be inside. She is grateful a neighbor convinced him not to go back in by assuring him that they had already left the house.

Since the fire, many people and organizations in the community have shown up to support the family, from Bridges’ own church Rose of Sharon Church of God in Christ, to NASA, and the All Occasion Truck Club. A GoFundMe page started by Layla Smith titled Bless Mrs. Willene has raised over $8,000 to help the family recover from the fire.

“It’s so amazing how the community has stepped up just for me and my family. I never knew I was so loved,” she said.

As the fundraising page points out, many people in Picayune know Bridges from her friendly smile at the Hardees drive thru.

“I know I‘ve left that drive thru with a smile because of her more times than I can remember,” wrote fundraiser organizer Layla Smith on the page’s description.

Bridges was already back at work the day after the fire.

“I just wanted to be here, because we’re short handed and I love my customers,” she said.

Bridges and her husband moved into their home shortly after Hurricane Katrina when their previous home was condemned. Bridges said she was so excited to be able to buy the home, and she thought they had all of the insurance they needed with insurance on the structure, but the contents of the home were not insured.

“Everyone in the community, I thank from the bottom of my heart, because God is good all the time,” she said. “Through everything that’s going on, my town has helped me and it’s a blessing.”