Winston-Salem elementary school collecting items for student burned out of her home days before Christmas

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Faculty and staff at Julian Gibson Elementary School have started a fundraiser for a second-grade student and her family.

They lost their home in a weekend fire at their apartment complex on Wabash Boulevard in Winston-Salem on Saturday.

“It was scary,” said Whitney Newkirk, who lives at the complex. “It was very scary. It was just that quick. I was literally gone maybe two minutes. I'm coming back down the street and it was just that fast that the flames were just jumping out of the windows, jumping out of the doors.”

Firefighters say food left unattended on a stove started the fire at the complex. Smoke could be seen billowing out of windows. On Christmas Eve, we found items damaged in the fire piled up outside of the complex.

“My prayers to the family, I hope they are okay. I know its rough right now, but just keep our head up, things will get better,” Newkirk said.

The staff at Julian Gibson Elementary wants to make sure things do get better for their student. On Monday, they opened the school’s library to collect donations for her and her family.

“Around the holiday seasons when many of us are enjoying our holidays with our families and friends, we have a child, a second-grade scholar in our building, that may not have that same experience, so we want to do anything we can to provide support for this family,” said Principal Glenn Starnes II.

For a few hours, they collected money and food items.

“We’re all a family here at Gibson. Even though they are going through a tough time, they can ask for assistance and hope that people can come together,” said first year special needs teacher, Mary Heaton.

Right now, the donations are only coming from teachers and staff, but early next year the school plans to expand the fundraiser and accept donations from students’ families and the community.

“I already have other family and friends on board asking for clothing sizes and meals and whatever they can do to help,” Heaton said.

The moto at Gibson is “One Gibson.”

“When your child is enrolled here at Gibson, we love you. We are here to provide support for you in your time of need, and if you’re impacted, we’re impacted. So, it’s important that we show that love, not just in academics but in any way possible,” says Principal Starnes.

Once the school gets a better idea of what the family needs, it will post where and when you can donate those items on the Julian Gibson Elementary School website.

The Red Cross has helped the family with temporary housing.

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