Students reach out to girl who lost everything in house fire

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By Jesef Williams

They’re probably too young to understand the ins and outs of home insurance. And they may not be able to explain all the conditions that might cause a house fire.

But there’s one thing for sure – North Elementary School kindergartners realize how much help a person needs if they lose their home in a fire.

Saniiya Mingo, a kindergartner at the school, has received much support from fellow students and her teachers after her Chandler Place home burned a week ago.

Take kindergartner Julia Sowell, for instance.

Julia, whose sixth birthday was Saturday, didn’t wish for any gifts for herself. Instead, she wanted everyone who intended to buy her presents to give them to Saniiya, who’s in a different kindergarten class at North Elementary.

Julia told her parents about her plan last week.

“I’m helping since her house burned down,” Julia said Friday morning.

Scott-Dayzhon Ballard, Julia’s classmate, is helping Saniiya, too – he’s gone around his neighborhood collecting money to give to Saniiya.

He has a jar that his teacher, Robyn Blackmon, said is nearly full to the brim with coins and dollars. He doesn’t know how much is collected thus far, but says he would like to bring in $100,000 – an interesting goal, considering that the value of the burned house was estimated at $150,000.

Scott and Julia said they want Saniiya to be able to get more clothes and toys, especially Barbie dolls.

Blackmon said North Elementary students are just showing how much they care about a fellow student.

“They really took it to heart when they found out she (Saniiya) lost everything,” she said. “This was something they chose to do on their own.”

Down the hall in Joye Schwartz’s classroom, Saniiya was pleasantly surprised Friday when she saw items her classmates brought for her.

At one point, she was surrounded by a sea of bags and containers that held clothing, toys, books and other school items.

Saniiya couldn’t help but smile the entire time.

She recalls the fire, expressing her sadness about losing her dolls and a new coat.

“It was bad,” she said.

The house and the two vehicles parked in the garage were totalled in the blaze.

Although Saniiya and her godmother, Denise McMurray, lost all of their possessions, they were glad to escape without any harm.

Officials say the fire started in the garage. Its cause hasn’t been determined.

McMurray and Saniiya are now living in a motel, with hopes of getting an apartment soon.

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at jwilliams@thelancasternews.com or 283-1152