Neighbors rally behind Gates Co. family that lost home, belongings in destructive fire

Posted at 3:58 PM, Jan 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-13 23:51:09-05

GATESVILLE, N.C. -- A fire destroyed a Gates County family's home as well their belongings on New Year's Day, causing them to lose everything. Now, their fellow neighbors are stepping up to help them.

Don Baker, a neighbor who lives nearby, took to Facebook to rally up support and encourage others to help the affected family, the Norfleets.

"They’re close; they're family," Baker told News 3. "They don’t know it, but they are."

Baker took to social media to reach out for help. He started a fundraiser on Facebook with a goal of $20,000, where money raised will go towards home-rebuilding efforts as well as items such as furniture and clothes, among other items.

Baker said people from nearby and as far as Virginia Beach and Richmond have inquired about donating items. He added specialists reached out in regards to providing services for the rebuilding.

“I’ve got a friend of mine I went to school with... he’s offered and he’s an architect," Baker said. "I’ve got a plumber that has offered his time and labor, free - so long as we pay for the material."

He said he experienced hardships in the past where the community rallied in support of him. He said, "If you help somebody - trust me when I tell you - I know from experience - it will come back to you, double and all."

Photographs Baker uploaded to Facebook showed the burned rubble. He said those in the house managed to escape and were not harmed. Two of them were the homeowner, Shelley Norfleet -- the homeowner who is retired and disabled-- and his son, Carl Arline.

“Total loss, and lucky that none of us got burned up in it," Norfleet said.

Norfleet said he remembered his television set going off. He went outside and to the back of the home to see what could caused his television to go out. As he was investigating, Arline told him there was a fire.

“When I opened the door, I saw down the hall had lit up," Norfleet said. "It was a blaze.”

His daughter, Diane, was at the grocery store at the time. Fire and emergency crews responded to the scene. The family said the fire was caused by a space heater in the sister's bedroom.

Related: Spirit of Christmas keeps Portsmouth family going after losing everything in apartment fire 

The fire destroyed everything in its path. One item that survived the fire was a bible.

“Over there in the corner right there," Arline pointed out where the living room used to be. "The Bible was in the corner right there.”

Diane Norfleet showed the Bible to News 3. It was somewhat damp, but still in tact and legible. The fire-surviving-Bible instilled hope in the family and Baker.

"God works in mysterious ways and I pray, and I know, in the end they’ll have a good life," Baker said. "A better life than before because of people's hearts."