JOHNSON COUNTY — It was the middle of a cold March night when Felisha Morris’ home burned to the ground.
“I was able to keep my composure until I looked down and realized that none of my kids had shoes on,” said Morris, as she recalled the night her family lost everything.
Now Morris uses her experience to help other families. She and her friends banded together to create and run Fire Angels, a nonprofit that supports families in Johnson County in the wake of house fires. The volunteers show up on the scene of a fire, often in time to console a family as they watch flames overtake their homes.
“This is such a passion project for me because it’s crushing,” said the group’s vice president, Jenny Carrington. “I help people realize the American dream, and to watch that get ripped away is so hurtful.”
On Tuesday, the group received a donation that will make this job faster and more efficient. Carrier Cleaners, a fire restoration business, donated a van to the volunteer group.
“Being able to help a family on the scene during this tragic time is huge,” said Katie Deak, Carriage Cleaners’ marketer and sales representative. “Since we’re not able to do this, being able to sponsor a nonprofit who does is our way of helping.”
The van will allow the Angels to provide families with a warm place to wait, as well as a selection of goods right on the scene. It will also be visible to both rescue crews and families in the confusion of a fire.
“It's a game-changer for us. We're able to show up faster and have all of our supplies on-hand that the families are going to need. Like clothes and blankets and hygiene products and waters and snacks,” said Fire Angels President Brittany Painter.
The van will be stored at the Whiteland Fire Department, which has donated space. Whiteland’s fire chief, Eric Funkhouser, has been in fire service for 22 years and said he’s never seen people step up to help their neighbors the way the Fire Angels have.
“Seeing a group of citizens come together, really wanting to be there to help people, it’s a fantastic group of people,” he said.
As Painter received the keys to the group’s new van, she immediately leaped inside. Her friends Carrington and Morris were right behind. The women started to plan how they could use it to help families at their lowest like Morris’ was that March night.
“It was chaos. Because you don't think about anything like that ever happening to you. So when it does, you think, "What do we do? Where do we go? Where do we start?" Which is why Fire Angels was established, to answer all of those questions,” said Morris.
For more information about Fire Angels, including how you can help, visit the group’s Facebook page.