Smoke and flames have been replaced by random acts of kindness for a Gainesville-based Charlie Company soldier and his family.
Tragedy struck when Kim Walker and her husband, Army Spc. Michael Walker were returning March 31 from Fort Stewart near Savannah.
Their East Hall mobile home had burned and was deemed by fire officials as a total loss, with smoke and water damage throughout the structure.
“It was almost icing on the cake, so to speak,” said Michael Walker, who had just spent a year deployed to Afghanistan as part of Georgia Army National Guard’s 48th Infantry Brigade, 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry.
No one was hurt in the fire, but the Walker family was left homeless — that is, until the American Red Cross came calling.
Blackshear Place Baptist Church at 3428 Atlanta Highway in Oakwood had offered a two-bedroom home on its property — bought up as part of an expansion of the ever-growing church campus — as temporary housing for the family.
Joe Collier, the church’s director of facilities, had heard the Walkers’ story and “it really touched me.”
“Here’s a gentleman who had been serving his country, and the excitement of coming home to his family was obviously going to be diminished,” he said.
Collier contacted the Red Cross about the offer. The Walkers later contacted him saying they were interested in the house.
“We’re going to be able to provide them a short-term roof over their heads while they rebuild their lives, just give them a base of operations to work out of,” he said.
The Walkers, who have been provided a hotel room until May 14, said they were grateful.
“There have been so many people willing to help us. I’m just kind of in awe,” Michael Walker said.
Collier said the church is happy to oblige.
“We are in the ‘Year of Serve’ here at Blackshear Place,” he said. “... We have service projects taking place at all levels throughout the church.”
An adult Bible fellowship class has planned a time to visit the Walkers’ house and do “a thorough cleaning and tighten up whatever needs tightening — just kind of getting it ready to go for them,” Collier said.
“Also, there has been great interest in the church about providing them with some basics, as far as stocking the pantry,” he said.
Dave Channell, who is in charge of pastoral care and mature families at the church, said he plans to look after any spiritual needs the family might have.
“They’re living right in our back door. It’s a perfect opportunity,” he said.
He said the Walkers’ children were excited when church leaders mentioned the church’s children and youth ministries to them. “It’s just a good fit,” he said of the arrangement.
Glenna Maney of the Yard Sale Store on Atlanta Highway in Flowery Branch said her husband heard about the family’s plight through Collier. Her husband told Collier that “we’d be more than happy to provide them with anything they might need,” she said.
Her store sells household items donated by people often trying to get rid of items not sold at yard sales.
“We have everything from ... clothes to knickknacks to furniture,” she said. “We just told them they could come in and pick out whatever they wanted. ... They just need to start over, I guess.
“It’s a terrible thing for anyone to have their house burn, but for him to have been serving the United States overseas ... it’s just a heart-wrenching story,” Maney said.
The Walkers, who have four children, plan to rebuild on their old home site eventually.
Also, Michael is looking for work, although events of the past few weeks — trying to rebound from the fire — have mostly occupied his time.
He said he is thankful for the help his family has gotten.
“There’s been a big outreach. People I don’t even know are walking up to me and handing me money, asking me if I need anything,” he said.