by Krystal Smith, American Red Cross, Regional Digital Communications Specialist
Tuesday, July 18, 2017, started like any other day. Army veteran Arthur Shelton woke up, got dressed and headed to work. As a fleet driver, Arthur was bound for Haltom City to pick up a couple vehicles with his coworkers, but his carefree day was about to take a significant turn.
About 2:30 P.M., Arthur received a phone call from his daughter Alexis telling him a neighbor called to inform her that her father’s house was on fire.
Arthur quickly left work and went to his house to find upward of 10 fire trucks in his yard.
“It was gut-wrenching,” Arthur recalled.
While most of the fire had been contained, Arthur’s heartbreak continued as he watched his sentimental photos and possessions be tossed out of a window as firefighters continued to search for hot spots.
By 4:15 P.M., the firefighters were gone and Arthur was left staring at what was left of his home. As shock, fear and numbness began to take over, the American Red Cross arrived to help.
Working with Arthur, the Red Cross ensured he had the essentials like a place to stay, hygiene items, food, clothing, medications and financial assistance to get him through the the first few days until a caseworker could reach him.
“I was in a daze at this point,” Arthur said. “I had no idea what had just happened and where to go from there.”
After assessing the damage, Arthur determined he could likely do the repairs himself, but would need financial assistance to purchase the materials needed. His Red Cross caseworkers referred him to the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) division, which assists veterans in several areas including connecting veterans with additional resources through Critical Community Services.
SAF specialist Jennifer Cato took on the case. Understanding his need for materials, she reached out to the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and the Veteran Affairs (VA) hospital. The DAV immediately offered to help so long as they had a referral from the VA hospital. Little did anyone know this would be the start of a community effort to get Arthur back on his feet.
Jennifer and Casey, a VA hospital caseworker, made countless phone calls and, one-by-one, contractors committed to provide time, while other organizations committed resources … and Arthur’s hope of being able to live in his home again was getting closer to a reality.
“What Casey and Jennifer did,” Shelton paused shaking his head with gratitude, “and the end result of that. They got all of these volunteer construction companies with materials and the heart foundation and the donated money to the cause and they came and did a do-over on my house. To me, it is unbelievable!”
While repairs are still in progress, Arthur is nearby anticipating the day when he can return home again.
“I can’t wait to get back in it,” Arthur exclaimed as his smile filled the room. “It’s going to be so comfortable.”
“This is a prime example of how working across service lines and with community partners can make a difference in people’s lives,” Jennifer said.
“The fire was unexpected, but even more than that, all that is happening now was really unexpected. The people coming together and rallying around me like that, that’s just absolutely amazing,” Arthur said.
Arthur Shelton may never forget the feeling of learning his house was destroyed by a home fire, but today too will be a memory that lasts a lifetime! After several months of waiting and many setbacks along the way, Arthur can finally move into his brand new home.
After this incredible military veteran’s home fire in July, community organizations joined forces to help him rebuild. Today, Arthur and community partners reunited to see the finished project and welcome Arthur home. As familiar faces arrived, Arthur enthusiastically showed off his brand new house with its charming red door, and thanked everyone who had a part in making the rebuild happen.
Living with family across the street, Arthur had the opportunity to watch the rebuilding process. While an emotional time, he was thankful for a place to stay and grateful he could see the progress. Little glimmers of hope returned with each improvement made to his house. Now, with his new home complete, Arthur is ready to start the next chapter of his life.
After touring the home and enjoying a meal together, Arthur was sure express his heartfelt appreciation before everyone parted ways. Taking a deep breathe and placing his hand on his heart, his gratitude filled the air as he simply expressed, “Thank you! Thank each of you from the bottom of my heart.”
To get involved in helping prevent others from experiencing the tragedies of home fire, sign-up to volunteer, donate money and spread the word. Remember, you can Sound the Alarm. Save a Life. Learn more at soundthealarm.org/northtexas.
Special thanks to the incredible partners making Arthur’s home renovations possible; Taurus Commerical, Whole Environmental, JR Spray Insulation, Barber Specialities, FM Millworks, Designer Draperies & Floor, Qualtex, Salas Plumbing, Metro Mechanical, Kevco Electrical Construction, Veteran Affairs and the American Red Cross.