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Family grateful for support

POSTED: February 16, 2012 7:00 p.m.
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Ariyah and Samantha Johnson are staying with relatives after a fire destroyed their home, killing their stepfather and badly burning their mother.

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Relatives of a family devastated by an early Saturday morning fire are expressing their gratitude to a community that has come to their aid.

The children in the home, Audrey Warner’s two daughters and a grandchild who was staying with them for the weekend, escaped the blaze and alerted neighbors. Samantha Johnson, 12, and Ariyah Johnson, 10, got out through a window and began screaming for help.

Samantha and Ariyah are staying with Gloria Brown, their mother’s sister, and donations for the family have been coming in, to help with everything from Audrey Warner’s mounting medical costs to items for the girls.

“The kids lost everything,” Brown said. “For the community to reach out and give from their hearts …. We’ve received so many clothing donations.
“I had no idea we would get so much support from people we don’t even know,” Brown said.

Not only are neighbors and strangers pitching in for the family, so too are the schools, providing school uniforms, book bags and school supplies, according to Brown.

“The schools have been wonderful,” she said. “The support has been outstanding, beyond my imagination.”

The fire at the Greene Drive home claimed the life of Vernon Warner, and Audrey Warner was burned badly in the blaze. After being pulled out of the house by neighbors, she was airlifted to the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta.

Audrey Warner was on a ventilator as of Tuesday night at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta, Brown said. But doctors had reduced her oxygen intake and were hopeful she could breathe on her own soon. Doctors also upgraded her condition from critical to serious.

She has had two surgeries, with another procedure scheduled. Brown said it will be months before her sister is released from the hospital. She was burned over 50 percent, with second- and third-degree burns to her stomach and face.

“She was pretty badly burned,” Brown said. “She faces a long recovery road ahead of her.”

Brown said they are trying to make things as comfortable as possible for the children, who lost a stepfather and have their mother in an Augusta hospital.

“We are trying to make things as normal as possible,” she said. “They are both honor roll students.”

Audrey Warner is a nurse and works for a doctor in Savannah.

“I hope she can go back to doing what she loves,” Brown said. “The patients there love Audrey; she’s a very good nurse. They miss her so much. She was pretty much (the doctor’s) right hand.”

The other night, Brown suffered a sudden and severe nosebleed. She reached for the phone to call her sister Audrey to ask what to do.

“I went to the phone to call her, and she can’t help,” Brown said.

Brown also was grateful for the help of the neighbors that night as they pulled Audrey to safety and vainly struggled to find Vernon in the house.

“We want to thank Cliff Helmey for his courageous action, for going in and trying to save the family,” she said. “We can’t thank him enough. We can’t thank the neighbors enough for what they have been doing, even the little things. They think it’s small, but it’s helped us a lot.”

Brown also offered her thanks for the calls of support and the prayers sent to the family, and also her appreciation for the Red Cross’ efforts. Her bosses at the Housing Authority of Savannah have given her the time to do what is needed with the family, as relatives travel back and forth to Augusta so someone is with Audrey at all times.

“There’s a lot of good people out there who will jump in and do whatever is needed to help,” she said. “It’s been awesome, the support that has been pouring in.”

For those wishing to help the family, accounts have been set up at the Coastal Bank and at Wells Fargo.

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