School rallies around Biloxi family after fire destroys home

School rallies around Biloxi family after fire destroys home

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - In October 2015, teacher's assistant Johnny Ray Brown moved into a historic home across the street from his job at Gorenflo Elementary.

The 91-year-old home on Lameuse St. was a first for Brown.

"He was so excited because this was his first time having his own home, so to speak," said Gorenflo Elementary Teacher Dr. Stephanie Newell.

But early Thursday morning, Brown and his daughter Lakietha Crawford were asleep in their one-story house when Brown smelled smoke sometime around 1 a.m. After immediately calling his daughter's name to wake her up, Brown escaped through the back door, while Crawford ran out the front door.

While the pair escaped without injuries, the fire was a total loss.

"It's hard, but the main thing is everybody made it out alive. So everything's all right. No sense crying about it," said Tiwan Belk, Brown's son.

Though Brown continues to wear a brave face, the tragedy has touched the hearts of people throughout the community, as they rally around the family who lost everything.

Gorenflo Elementary is raising money and collecting donations to help Brown and his daughter.

"We were doing so much to try to help him, so the district has already rallied together," said Gorenflo Elementary Teacher Dr. Stephanie Newell. "We all love him and we're here for him and we know he's devastated, but we're just so thankful that he and his daughter were safe."

The community support means a lot to the family, who continues to count their blessings despite the tragedy.

"I feel blessed.....we lost everything, but we got each other. That's the best thing for us," said Belk.

Biloxi fire investigators have not yet determined the cause of the blaze, but say the home did have a working smoke detector.

The house was built in 1925 and received its "Biloxi Landmark" designation in 2008. The designation is given to structures that are more than 50 years old, have kept their original character or have historical significance to Biloxi.

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