Firefighters raise funds for elderly woman

Betty Campbell loses everything in fire. Photo courtesy of CNN.
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A Raleigh woman had a tough and tragic 2020 — only for it to end in disaster

RALEIGH, North Carolina (CNN) — Somewhere among the rubble and soot are the ashes of Betty Campbell’s son, who died from covid last April. She kept them in the corner of this shed she called home.

“I know I will never get his ashes back,” Campbell said. “It hurts, it really hurts, you know. especially to know my child is in there burned up again.”

Her child, Eric Dunlap, died a month after she could no longer afford the rent on her house. Seventy-six years old, working two jobs, she moved into this shed in her sister’s yard.

Campbell has trouble getting up and down the stairs in her sister’s house. But then, on New Year’s Eve, something sparked — an electrical fire consumed the shed.

“I thank god because I could have been there asleep,” Campbell said.

As it happens, she was inside the house with her sister, Mae Bryant.

Enter Raleigh Fire Captain Dena Ali  

Raleigh Station 11 came to knock down the flames. And into the next day, Captain Dena Ali couldn’t get Betty Campbell off her mind.

“When I got back to the station, I kind of just couldn’t get her off my mind,” Ali said. “Thinking of her circumstances.”

So, Ali went on Facebook.

“I’m just trying to collect a little bit of money to give her a gift card, and within minutes my phone started dinging,” Ali said.

She thought she could raise a few hundred dollars to buy her clothes.

“I got donations from all over the country. a friend who’s a firefighter in Idaho sent a very large donation,” Ali said.

Within 24 hours, $4,000 came in — all for Miss Campbell.

Victor Company, a non-profit made up of minority Raleigh firefighters, worked with a company called Ameriglide to install a stairlift in her sister’s house for free.

 “there is a God — that sits high and looks low. there are people who will come when you need them,” Mae Bryant said.

 “This story, this little situation, just showed me that we’re not as divided as we think,” Ali said. “I really think we truly share this common humanity that makes people want to look out for each other.”

Because somewhere among the ruins is that spark for those who have walked through the fire and been left in the cold. That spark of humanity can never be extinguished.