It’s been almost two and a half years since the Thomas family lost their home, car and family pet to an electrical fire. With the help of neighbors Tom and Pia Goff and many, many more giving souls from the community, Sharon Thomas and her daughter Shanicke are finally back in their own home.
On the evening of Tuesday, May 1, 2018 Thomas said she heard a “pop” while she was home; soon her house and vehicle were engulfed in flames.
“It was an electrical fire,” Thomas explained. “The house was built in the 1950s and the wiring had never been updated. It started in the carport and took over fast.
“Thank God we weren’t sleeping,” Thomas said. “My neighbor saw the fire and was calling for us to come out and I was already headed out because I like to sit in the carport in the evenings.”
Unfortunately, she had paid her mortgage off just a few months prior to the fire, and the house was not insured.
Thomas didn’t know what to do next – but her neighbors did.
“If it weren’t for Pia and Tom Goff, I wouldn’t have a house right now,” Thomas said. “Pia was the one that organized for me to get donations and I appreciate her very much.”
While the Goffs lead the effort, community groups like the Gulfport Neighbors, the MY Foundation, the Gulfport Historical Society, as well as the Gulfport Police Department, the City of Gulfport and local businesses also mobilized to help the family with monetary donations and supplies, storage, legal services and even a loaner vehicle for the family.
“If it weren’t for the people of Gulfport, I wouldn’t have a house to come back to. I’d still be staring at four walls. I appreciate everyone very much,” said Thomas. “I didn’t know how good the people in Gulfport were until this happened.”
On Friday, November 20, Thomas sat in the carport of her freshly rebuilt home, surrounded by soot-covered belongings that have been in a storage pod in her front yard for more than two years.
“Right now I am tired, but I am happy to be back in my house,” said Thomas. “There’s nothing better than being back in your own place.”
For the past two years, Thomas lived with her sister, initially wearing her sister’s clothing because everything the family owned was damaged by smoke and unusable.
Thomas now has the task of washing and drying every item of clothing and cleaning the soot from everything else. It’s a hefty task, but one she says she’s happy to take on.
But first, Thomas said, “I’m going to cook a big dinner. It’ll be a big dinner of island food.”
For now, she’s grateful to be back in her own home.
“When I get myself organized, I’ll start thinking about getting furniture, but there’s no need to rush that. I’ll be happy and content with what I got,” Thomas said. “I thank God that I’m alive, that I got out of the fire alive. Me and my kids got out alive – everything is good.”