Acts of kindness touch Warren Township family after fire

Brooks clan lost home in late August blaze

Photo by Janelle Patterson Hollis Sturgill, 12, of Warren Township, sells baked goods to brothers Ethan,11, center, and Jacob Berg, 12, right, to raise the final dollars in her $2,000 fundraising goal for the Brooks family while at her baseball game in Marietta.

MARIETTA — Rebuilding their lives after losing their home in a fire on Aug. 30 has been a struggle every day for the Brooks family.

“It’s been rough to say the least,” said Rhonda Brooks, 42, of Warren Township. “This whole year has been rough, my husband is facing surgery and health problems, our oldest is taking it hard and doesn’t want to see his home like that. I just hope my youngest forgets it in time.”

The fire, at 2150 Wynncrest Drive, is believed to been caused by batteries in a race car in the home’s basement.

Brooks’ family includes her husband Bryan, 43, and sons Jaden, 14, and Jensen, 4. They been living with her mother-in-law since the fire, figuring out how they’re going to rebuild without the aid of insurance.

“We’re literally starting from scratch,” she said. “People have been so good to us though. They’ve given clothes, shoe vouchers, the (Washington County) Sheriff’s Office gave us a gift card, Jaden’s school had a hat day to raise money and the (Washington County) Career Center where I’ve been taking night classes covered my books.”

But what will most impact the family and get them back on track is funding, and one Warren Middle School classmate of Jaden’s wanted to do her part.

“I just heard what happened over the loud speaker at school and that they lost their dog and everything they owned and knew I wanted to help,” said Hollis Sturgill, 12, of Warren Township.

Sturgill’s mother, Jennifer, said the pair were sitting in church the following Sunday and her daughter handed her a scribbled-on program — notes of how Hollis would raise money for the family.

“She hands me her ideas and says ‘this is what I want to do,'” Jennifer recalled.

“She said OK and we started baking,” said Hollis.

That conversation was two weeks ago, and since then Hollis has sold cookies in her mother’s Marietta shop, Green Acres, she made appeals on social media and has had donations from as far away as family and friends in California.

“I was thinking at first that $1,000 would be a reasonable goal but then realized if I could raise $500 as quickly as I did in those first couple of days that $2,000 would be better,” said Hollis. “I don’t think you’d find kinder people than those in the Marietta area. People started donating left and right, many paying for five cookies but only taking one.”

Jennifer said donors have even stopped by the store to add their aid while Hollis has been in school.

“She wanted to help as immediately as she could…I’m proud of her,” said Jennifer.

When Brooks found out Hollis’s goal, she choked back tears.

“That would get us started on the lumber to rebuild our home,” she said. “This girl, all I can say is thank you, she’s a little blessing and an angel.”

Brooks said blessings like Hollis are what have restored the family’s faith that things will work out.

“Just before Jaden’s birthday on the eighth I went to Wal-Mart to get a few groceries and toiletries and to get a replacement phone for him and of course I also had Jensen with me,” she began. “And all Jensen has talked about since the fire is how he had lost his bike, so I had him pick out a little $40 bike as well.”

Brooks said when she and Jensen got to the register she reminded him that the bike “had to go beep” first before he could take it home, a conversation that was overheard by the gentleman in front of them in line.

“He looked back, curious, and told Jensen it was a good looking bike,” Brooks explained. “And of course Jensen says straight in the face back to him, ‘yeah, mine burned up in a fire.'”

Brooks said the man confirmed the story with her before turning to the cashier to pick up the tab.

“He says ring up the bicycle… and then turns around and says ‘I hope it helps’ and hands me $100,” she described. “I don’t even know his name, he’s a perfect stranger. But him, people like (Hollis) they’re what’s getting us through. Their kindness is what gives us hope.”


If You Go

* What: Brooks Family Benefit Soup Dinner

* When: 1 to 5 p.m. Oct. 21

* Where: Warren Volunteer Fire Department

* A silent auction will also take place during the dinner