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Families recovering after apartment fires

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An early Christmas miracle took place Monday. It involved the families who lost all they own in a massive apartment fire last week.

An old school house at the Twin Lakes Fellowship Church is now a disaster distribution warehouse. At the location along Hwy 183 just south of Cedar Park, Christine Plante and Tammy Ince look at the warehouse as a place to start over.

The two are among the 68 families burned out by last week's fire at the International Residence in NW Austin. The flames consumed everything except hope. For Christine and Tammy, hope came in the form of a new couch and a loaded SUV.

"The outreach from the community has been renewing my faith in humanity even because they we've had so much given to us. It's been amazing," said Ince.

In each room piles of donated items are sorted by volunteers with the Austin Disaster Relief Network. Most of the families are in new apartments or at least have temporary living accommodations.

Darvis Marshall, and his family, was the last of the day to come in. For them, a big step in the healing process was made when 1-year-old Braden found a stuffed animal similar to the one he lost in the fire.

"I feel like it's a great start, he has something that he can see that's recognizable to him and my oldest with the boat, I feel like it's a great deal. To start over to have something to hold on to that they had before," said Marshall.

The warehouse will be closed Christmas, but reopens the following day. Basic household goods, like pots and pans, as well as cleaning supplies are still needed. They currently have enough clothing and toys.

As this relief effort got underway, and the shelter was shut down, new calls for help rang out.

Red Cross crisis trailers rolled out to four fires Saturday and two Sunday. Donations keep them restocked and ready to go. According to spokesperson Sara Kennedy, on average, every 18 hours, volunteers respond to a house fire.

"I don't know about catching our breath we are doing absolutely powering through, we are always calling out for more support. We'd love you to sign up today for the next disaster," Kennedy said.

For those not able to volunteer, donated goods continue to be accepted. To join in the recovery process and have a chance to give during this holiday season was what drove Tamera Pugh to the warehouse.

"Because a lot of times I hear about all these things happening that are far away, and you think what can I do besides pray and this time it's right here in my backyard, my neighborhood, and it just felt like an opportunity to do more than just pray and just hope for the best for them," said Pugh.

Forty one families have been adopted by church groups. This will provide some extra support into the New Year.

Starting Wednesday donations can be dropped off again at the Twin Lakes Fellowship Church on Hwy 183 that's just south of Cedar Park.

LINK: Austin Disaster Relief Network

LINK: Red Cross of Central Texas

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