CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officer spent her free time to help a family of complete strangers after they lost everything - including a mother and two children - in a devastating fire.
Most often, officers like Tatiana Corrales have to walk away from the tragedies they face, at the end of their shift.
“We deal with so much that yeah, you have to come home and just kind of wash it off,” Corrales says. “But with this particular family, I think just seeing her children smile, that’s just something that sticks with you.”
Those smiles come after unspeakable pain.
In January, two families living in a home on Academy Street faced a fire that killed one of the moms and her young kids.
The fire, ruled accidental due to a candle, happened in January on Academy Street in northeast Charlotte. Ana Sanchez and her two children, 2-year-old Aranza Santa Mendez Sanchez and 9-year-old Leonel Alexander Villagrez Sanchez, died in the following days from their injuries.
According to CMPD, Officer Tatiana Corrales wasn’t there when the fire happened, but she heard about the family’s tragic situation. Not only had they lost their loved ones, but all their material possessions as well.
“Officer Corrales wanted to show this family they have support from CMPD officers,” the department said in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
“It’s just so much loss,” Corrales says. “And I can’t even imagine.”
So, when she heard of this, Corrales decided to collect donations. Her project grew far beyond her expectations.
“From foods to furniture, to different TV stands, to a TV, to a washing, dryer machine,” she says.
It took time to build trust with the family, but after months of visits, that trust came.
“I couldn’t walk away,” Corrales says. “And I still can’t, even though I delivered all these items, they’re not in a place that they call home yet.”
It has become more than helping a family in need. For her, it is also building a bridge in the community, showing herself to families like this, beyond the badge.
“I’m for sure going to continue that relationship with them,” Corrales says. “And they’re going to be a part of my life for, until this career lets me.”
The family is staying with friends right now, Corrales says. There is an eight-year-old boy and two little girls, ages two and five. Officer Corrales is still collecting things like food, clothing, and toiletries for them.
“Thank you, Officer Corrales, for stepping up to help those in need,” CMPD said. “Your compassion, leadership, and determination are what make you an asset to CMPD’s Eastway division.”
Officer Corrales is not only an an asset to her division, but to all of Charlotte.
Anyone who would like to donate these items can drop them off at CMPD’s Eastway Division at 3505 Central Avenue.