Terry Jeffries, of Cornelius, didn’t know why she woke up around 2 a.m. on April 8. In fact, she thought it was odd she had woken up at all; typically a heavy sleeper, noises and disturbances in the night usually have no effect on her. But the fact that she woke up right at that moment doubtlessly saved her and her family’s lives.
Looking out her bedroom window, she saw her neighbor’s house ablaze and woke her sleeping children, Haley and Jonathon, and left the house before the flames spread. She didn’t even have time to put shoes on before leaving her house, and the only possessions they took — with the exception of their dog — were the clothes they were wearing at the time. The fire claimed two houses by morning and destroyed two others; almost all their possessions were completely destroyed. In the wreckage, firefighters found a few objects — a briefcase, a jewelry box, a fraternity jacket, and an iPad. Haley reflected on this sudden change of circumstance, noting how only days earlier her family was eating dinner at the table with their plates and silverware. All of that is gone now.
Haley, a junior at SouthLake Christian Academy in Huntersville, planned to attend the prom at her high school that night, but suddenly found herself without a dress.
With the help of SouthLake history teacher Danielle Handlogten, Haley went to a number of stores, looking not only to replace her prom dress for that evening, but also to find clothes and necessities for her and her family. At Macie’s Encore Bridal in Mooresville, Haley found the perfect dress – “She loved the first one she saw!” Handlogten remembered – and was able to borrow it for the night. Belk, Brow Lounge and SouthLake’s uniform vendor, Sunshine Uniforms, donated clothing. And a sales lady at Belk also offered another type of support.
“It was amazing,” Handlogten said, “the Belk sales lady asked if we could pray together. She wanted us to know that tonight and this weekend they were going to have tons of prayer groups praying for Haley and her family.”
The Jeffries spent the night at the Red Cross Hotel and are now living in temporary housing through Davidson College, where Haley’s father, Ernest Jeffries, serves as the associate dean of students. In June, they’ll move into a temporary home, also provided through the college. Purchasing the belongings to furnish this house is now their focus, and luckily, donations for the family have been abundant.
“We’ve had such an outpouring of donations,” said Handlogten, who along with Lisa Hartman will be collecting gently used furniture to put in the Jeffries’ new temporary home. The Dudan family has provided space to store all furniture donations, and SouthLake classes are planning fundraisers to furnish specific rooms.