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Local firefighter and Red Cross couple respond to fire at own home

Monday morning at 7:20 a.m., North Mississippi Red Cross volunteer, Lynn Elliott, received a text with a video of a burning home and the message read, “I got called off work for this.”

The text was sent to Lynn by fellow Red Crosser and local firefighter in Batesville, Jeremy Smith Reeves, who had been shadowing Lynn as a disaster responder. “Have the homeowner call 1-800-Red Cross,” Lynn replied. Lynn was unaware that this home belonged to Jeremy and his wife, Tammy. “I’ll give the duty officer a call to be on the lookout for the fire, then she can assign it to you and me, and we’ll respond – when you’re done firefighting, of course.” A stunned Jeremy replied, “It’s our house that’s on fire, Lynn.”

The Reeves joined the Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT) about three months earlier. They completed their training hours and had been shadowing team members, including Lynn Elliott. The couple was excited about becoming part of the Red Cross. “We wanted to help people in trouble,” Tammy enthusiastically proclaimed. Now, they found themselves on the receiving end and experiencing the compassion of the Red Cross. When Lynn finally realized what was happening, she knew that the Red Cross would be there for the Reeves Family. She instructed Jeremy to call 1-800-Red-Cross and assured him that she would be there soon to help.

When Lynn arrived on the scene, she found Tammy overcome with sadness, “I think I’m in shock. I feel numb all over, but I’m sure this will hit me hard later today.” Tammy added, “Luckily, nobody was home when the fire started, and no one was injured. Everything we owned is gone, even our new Red Cross backpacks and disaster action team supplies.” These are the supplies that volunteer often hand to people that have experienced home fires. They include blankets, snacks, water, informational packets, stuffed animals, toiletries and more.

One of the services that the American Red Cross provides to home fire survivors is emotional, spiritual and medical care to help individuals cope with the loss, stress and trauma of experiencing a home fire. These licensed, trained volunteers are there to listen and offer health coping mechanisms. In Jeremy and Tammy’s case, they needed help figuring out to break the news to their boys, Ta’Marrius and Za’Pylaan. “Spiritual care would be good. Yes, I think that might help,” Tammy said. Lannie Newman, disaster spiritual care volunteer, was heartbroken to hear about the Reeves’ situation, she wanted to help. “Lannie and I had a good long talk, and she has been a huge help. Especially in preparing us how to tell the children”. Tammy recalled, “She made me feel a little better, too. I can’t thank her enough.”

Recovery begins

Within days, the Reeves found a new home to rent. Although the refrigerator wasn’t working and they didn’t have any furniture, Tammy expressed, “We are just grateful to have a floor to sleep on and a roof over our heads last night.” Lynn reached out to local community partner, Beds for Kids, a non-profit organization founded by Pastor Stanley Huddleston. Bed for Kids builds beds for children who have lost their beds due to a disaster, natural or man-made.

The Reeves family stands outside of burned home

Beds for Kids delivers the beds to their client’s homes and sets them up with mattresses, box springs, bed linens, and pillows. Hearing the Reeves’ story, Pastor Huddleston moved quickly to have the beds built and delivered to the home within seven days. “You know we only do beds for kids, and I can’t make any promises, but I’m going to see if I can find a bed for the parents, too,” Huddleston told Lynn. “It is short notice, but these people are volunteers that give their time to help people in crisis. This couple is one of us, and we take care of our own.”

“We wanted to help people in trouble.”

As disaster responders, Jeremy and Tammy never imagined they would be on the receiving end of Red Cross services, “I never thought that it would be us that would need the help. We are so grateful to everyone at Red Cross. Y’all have really helped us out and the people who have reached out with their thoughts and prayers are amazing and deeply appreciated.”

Lynn responded, “It’s like the pastor said, we take care of our own.”

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