Orvette Smith, of 925 Terrace St., in New Sarpy, a long-time custodian for St. Charles Parish Public Schools, stood in shock when he discovered his family’s home had been destroyed by a fire.
“My daddy built this house for our family himself,” he said. “The home is 50 years old.”
That 50-year-old house had been the home to four families. They’ve lost everything they owned in the fire and need help to recover. And though Smith says the 9-bedroom house may be replaced somehow, the memories and history that his family had in the home won’t.
“This is a wonderful family and they are always willing to take someone in” Mayor Mackey, a New Sarpy resident and family friend said. “They took me in and the history in that house was amazing. The home was always kept so immaculate.”
After the fire and flames had been doused by water hoses nothing remained. The Smith family was unable to salvage any of their belongings.
“I had just purchased the children’s Christmas gifts,” Smith said. “Everything was in the house,” he said. “The American Red Cross paid for the families hotel stay for a night, but at 11 a..m., it was check out time and now we have to find some place else to stay.”
Smith says the home survived the worst of Hurricanes Betsy and Katrina, but didn’t outlast the wrath of fire.
“We didn’t even leave our home for Katrina,” he said. “This house was built strong and has withstood the storms of time, including Hurricane Betsy.”
For now, the family can only depend on agencies like the United Way of St. Charles, the American Red Cross in Luling, and help from the community to pull them through a challenging time.
“We’ve contacted all of the agencies to help the family,” Katherine Cochran, a volunteer with East St. Charles’ fire department, said. “We’ll just have to wait and see what can be done.”
Smith works at J.B. Martin Middle School and Principal Erin Raiford says she will start plans for school fund raisers to help the family get back on their feet.
“Mr. Orvette has been a custodian with J.B. Martin and Destrehan High School for 15 years and is a loyal, dedicated, valued employee,” she said. “This past school year he was named Support Staff Person-of-the-year for St. Charles Parish Public Schools.”
Martin says she will do whatever she can to help him and his family get back on their feet.
Smith’s 70-year-old mother, Cornelia, was in the house at the time the fire started and managed to get all 7 people out of the home safely.
“I was sitting on the porch and I saw smoke coming from the living room area, and I went and got everyone out of the house,” she said. “I’m just thankful that no one was hurt.”
Volunteer Firemen from Norco, St. Rose, and East St. Charles were on hand to put out the blaze.
“It brought back a lot bad of memories for me,” Mike Fogarty, volunteer fireman said. “My house was destroyed by fire while my family and I were inside sleeping; putting this fire out today reminds me of what we went through. I’m grateful no one was hurt and I hope the family gets the help they need to recover.”
The family is asking for donations, since they had gone Christmas shopping and some of the children’s gifts were destroyed in the fire.
The children are: Dewayneka Smith,14, Mariah Payne,10, Dontonio Smith, 8, Autumn Smith, 13 , Lloyd Howard,11, Isaiah Howard, 9, Jeremiah Howard , 2, Aliah Walker, 12, Keyshawn Walker, 11, and Zatatshia Smith, 16.
For more information contact Orvette Smith at 985-210-9214. First National Bank USA, in Boutte, will be taking monetary donations for the family. The name of the account is the Orvette Smith Benefit Fund.