Giving spirit helps fire-stricken family
It took less than half an hour on Saturday for the Wing Family of Meridian to lose everything but the clothes they were wearing.
Now their house is in ruins, everything in it destroyed — even the contents of a safe.
"It was horrible," said Leslie Wing, who was home with her husband, Donald, and daughters Claudia, 14, and Madison, 11, when a fire destroyed the house.
Everyone got out safely — but they don't know about their cats, who are missing.
"(The cats) were my daughters'," said Leslie. "They've already lost everything, even our animals."
But the Wings are not alone. In the aftermath of tragedy, a community has risen to help.
Even as firefighters battled the blaze, the Red Cross arrived in the form of a crisis counselor and volunteers bringing the essentials: blankets, clothes, toys for the younger children, overnight things.
The Red Cross arranged for the family to stay at a hotel for a couple of nights and provided enough money for them to buy clothes for work and school.
That was just the beginning.
Jason Cooper, fire chief of the Meridian Fire Department, led the fight against the fire, along with fire units from Colusa, Live Oak, Sutter and Oswald-Tudor.
Cooper's wife brought five bags of clothes for the family.
Family friend Julie Geyer has provided clothes for the children. The family will stay with another friend, Eric Lees, owner of Lees' Painting, until they can find a place to live.
3-D Electric, where Donald Wing works, and Louis Cairo's Restaurant, where Leslie Wing works, are doing everything they can, she said. Their families have mobilized, "bending over backwards," she said — her mother-in-law watched the children Monday so she could work her shift.
One effort in particular touched her deeply. Michael Hafferty, 14, a student at Sutter High School and friend of Claudia, posted images of his artwork on his Facebook page, asking people to buy them so he could donate the money to the family.
He sold one for $54 and gave the money to Leslie Wing.
"I told him, 'No, you keep this,'" Lesie Wing said. "He insisted. 'I raised it for you guys,' he said.
"A special thanks to him," she said. "The community is just really pulling together for us."
Reporter Griffin Rogers contributed to this report.