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Family loses furniture, clothes, Christmas presents in fire

By Staff
ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS Wesley House volunteer Mary Hopkins, left, helps NaKeycha Anderson, right, and her family with Christmas toys on Friday. Also pictured are Anderson's sister, Kizzy Gibson, who is holding her nephew, Deshawn. Choosing toys are Gibson's daughter, Kenquille, left, and Anderson's son, Leandre. The family lost everything in a recent fire. Steve Swogetinsky/The Meridian Star
By Steve Swogetinsky/The Meridian Star
Dec. 22, 2001
NaKeycha Anderson heard a noise in the back room of her house in Newton.
Her 1-year-old son, Deshawn, was sleeping in the bedroom. She and her other two other sons, Leandre and Gary, were in the front watching television.
Anderson checked out the noise, couldn't find anything and then sat back down. Minutes later, she smelled smoke.
She checked the back room again and this time her worst fear became reality: her house was on fire. An electric heater had started a blaze.
Family finds help
The fire happened Sunday.
Not only did Anderson's family lose all of their furniture and clothes, they also lost all of their Christmas gifts. Anderson's sister, Kizzy Gibson, had stored the gifts for her two children at Anderson's home and those were lost, too.
The American Red Cross helped the family through its house fire program. Then the Wesley House stepped in on Friday and replaced their Christmas presents and clothes.
At this time of the year, Wesley House is set up like a "North Pole Central."
Annually, Wesley House provides presents and gifts to those in need through its "Christmas Clearing House" program. A normal year sees about 5,000 children served, but it's has been more this year, according to Nell Grissom, executive director.
Organization spreads cheer
The Christmas Clearing House is one of 31 programs sponsored by the Wesley House, and the staff works all year to collect toys, gifts and food to make sure everyone has a Merry Christmas.
It's quite a task to prepare for 5,000 children, Grissom and others said. Each receives four new gifts and some stocking stuffers; each family receives a Christmas food box.
All of this doesn't come in on Christmas Eve by reindeer and Santa Claus. It is provided through financial gifts and the donations of toys and food goods. But it takes a lot to make it happen, Grissom said.
Most of the gifts and food have been distributed, but Wesley House stays open Christmas Eve in case there is a family emergency.
At this point, Grissom said, it appears the Clearing House program will run short on money. Anyone interested still has time make a donation; for more information, call 485-4736.
Steve Swogetinsky is regional editor of The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3217, or e-mail him at