Donation center for fire victims ready to go

By Kathy Helms-Hughes

   Sandra Clawson and her family, including three young sons, lost everything they owned Wednesday afternoon when fire swept their mobile home on Harrison Street Road.
   Clawson, 171 Bear Branch Road, Roan Mountain, told the officer she and her family were residing at a different residence at the time the fire occurred but that she was there on Tuesday, feeding the dog, and saw nothing unusual.
   Carter County Sheriff's Department Deputy Michael Carlock responded to the fire and noted that electrical service to the home had been disconnected. He also noted a faint odor of an accelerant. Roan Mountain, Hampton/Valley Forge, and Elk Park volunteer fire departments and Carter County Rescue Squad responded, however, the residence was a total loss.
   It's families like the Clawsons that have prompted Sheriff John Henson to start a donation center for fire victims.
   Henson said he first thought of the idea back during the winter when a series of fires just around Christmas burned out several families. The community response was overwhelming and each family received clothing, furniture, monetary donations, even a place to live.
   Rather than sitting back and waiting for the next family to lose their belongings, Henson came up with the idea of a central facility to store unwanted items so that needy families would be able to go in and pick through various size clothing, household items and furniture to help get them back on their feet.
   Henson said he had been looking for a place to put collected items "and now I've got the space."
   And just in time for spring cleaning.
   The sheriff's department will happily accept any unwanted items for storage and distribution.
   "If they contact us, we'll pick it up and store it until we get it to the victim," the sheriff said.
   Henson's wife, Kathy, who helped gather and distribute items this past winter, believes the storage facility is one way for the community to come together and help those in need. Mrs. Henson said, "I have to clean out my spare room. I'll have some things to donate, too."
   The Clawson family is now in need of shoes and clothing, according to Clawson's father, Sam Oliver, a carrier for the Elizabethton Star.
   "They're staying here with me. There are three kids and two adults," Oliver said.
   The three Clawson girls are ages 14, 12, and 8.
   The 14-year-old wears women's size large and extra-large shirts, size 11-12 pants and size 10 shoes. Clawson wears the same size clothing and size 7-1/2 shoes.
   The 12-year-old wears medium shirts, size 3-5 women's pants, and size 7-1/2 shoes.
   The 8-year-old wears a small shirt, size 7 in girl's pants, and size 1 shoes.
   Clawson's husband wears medium shirts, size 32-32 pants and size 9 shoes.
   For more information on donating items to the Clawsons or to help stock the donation center, call the sheriff at 542-1846.