CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - It was a devastating weekend for a non-profit serving the Gastonia community. With Friends helps local homeless and runaway teens and kids who need a safe place to stay, but early Sunday morning a fire broke out destroying part of the building where the kids sleep.
Thankfully, no one was injured in the fire and the four kids sleeping inside the building all managed to escape. Not only is the building destroyed, but the flames ruined nearly half of the beds they use to help kids and destroyed a lot of the non-profit’s supplies.
“I just looked at the building and it was heartbreaking," said the associate director of With Friends, Monica Lail. "I was down the road and I could see the flames up above the tree tops.
The fire started early Sunday morning, but it’s still unclear how the fire started. One of the workers who monitors the buildings overnight called 911 while getting the kids to safety. The kids that With Friends helps are usually runaways or homeless. This non-profit helps them find a safe place to live so they avoid life on the streets.
“When they come to us, they might come in with a garbage bag full of clothes," said Lail. She says a fire like this is even more devastating for a homeless or runaway child.
“Sometimes they only come in with the t shirts and pants they’re wearing," she said. “Whatever they bring in with them, they take with them wherever they go. Its meaningful them.”
But she says now those belongings might be gone forever. Lail said the firefighters went into the building after the fire to search for any personal belongings but were not able to find anything yet. The non-profit said it will continue to look.
“We had one young lady asking ‘Where is my teddy bear? Is my teddy bear ok?’ Another young man, all his memories are in his photo album," she said.
Already, the non-profit has seen a lot of support from the community but they say they need more help. Along with monetary donations to help them rebuild and get supplies, they say people can donate hygeine kits, food, and blankets for the kids they help.
The Gastonia Fire Marshall’s office and the Gastonia Police Department are working to figure out how this fire started. As of right now, no indication on what caused the fire.