Six-year-old Seraiyah Sneed can’t talk about her old house without unconsciously rubbing her hands together. Her house burned down the morning of July 29.
“I was looking everywhere for the fire until my Granny told me it was in the bathroom,” she said. “… At first it was scary, and then I started to cry because I thought my Granny was still in the house.”
As Seraiyah recalled the details of that morning, her grandma, Diana Sneed, 67, laid her hands on those of the small girl to kindly get her to keep her hands still. Seraiyah did for a few seconds, then she started to rub her lap.
When Seraiyah’s older sister, Jalija, talks about the fire, she stares at the ground.
“I was asleep, and then my Granny woke me up,” the 9-year-old said. “She was screaming that the house was on fire, the house was on fire. … I came out of the house barefoot — that’s how scared I was.”
These are just a few of the countless ways losing their home has affected the Sneed girls and the rest of their family — invisible scars left by the fire.
The blaze sparked because of faulty wiring around 5 a.m. that summer day, and by noon, nearly everything Seraiyah, Jalija and their Granny owned was destroyed. Their homeowner’s insurance had lapsed six days before. At the time of the fire, the city had been in the process of helping make improvements to the house.
The Sneeds are one of 12 families featured in the Statesman Season for Caring program, which helps hundreds of other families through local nonprofit organizations. The Sneeds were nominated by Meals on Wheels Central Texas.
Since Season for Caring launched this year on Nov. 28, it has raised $207,173. The campaign is 41.4% of the way toward meeting the Sheth family match of $500,000.
Donations doubled:Sheth family matching $500,000 in Season for Caring donations
Many of this year’s Season for Caring families need help with housing or home repairs.
About a month after the fire, Sneed and her two granddaughters moved into the home of her oldest granddaughter, Caitlin Coker, who has three sons: 3-year-old King, 10-year-old Lamar and 13-year-old Deandre.
The Sneeds need help with an attorney to work through their recourses for rebuilding the house as well as donations to help with rent or rebuilding the house.
To find out more about the Sneed family or to fulfill an item on their wish list, contact Meals on Wheels Central Texas, 512-476-6325, mealsonwheelscentraltexas.org.
Ashley and Brian Rivera would like to convert their garage into a usable space for the kids to play as well as storage for son Caleb’s medical supplies. Ashley Rivera has breast cancer, and her children have neuromuscular disorders. They also would like a generator and a second refrigerator for medical supplies. (Wonders & Worries, 512-329-5757, wondersandworries.org)
Natalia Castillo, 26, has a 2-year-old daughter, Mariana, with a rare neuromuscular condition. Because her daughter will be in a wheelchair, she wants to replace the carpet in her home with tile flooring, expand the bathroom to make bathing her daughter easier, and install wheelchair ramps for the doors to the front and back of the house. (Any Baby Can, 512-454-3743, anybabycan.org)
Judy and Juan Silva are caring for her brother, Ramon, 67, who has Down syndrome and has lasting effects of a stroke 17 years ago. They need monetary donations for rent and utilities. They also dream of one day having a mobile home near where one of their children lives. (Austin Palliative Care, 512-342-4768, austinpalliativecare.org)
The Burnett family has been mostly living in a motel since moving to Austin two years ago. They need donations to help them move into an apartment as well as a small washer and dryer. (Boys & Girls Clubs of the Austin Area, 512-817-8910, bgcaustin.org)
Better housing on the way:‘Overwhelmed with the blessing.’ Austin church helps Family Eldercare senior get warm home for winter
Season for Caring already has made a difference in the life of Cheryl Selby, 70. Hillcrest Baptist Church donated $15,0000 to help her afford a better RV with heat and running water. She would like solar panels to reduce her electricity bill, a generator, and Home Depot and Lowe’s gift cards. (Family Eldercare, 512-450-0844, familyeldercare.org)
Musician BJ Lentz, who became legally blind after an accident, would like smart home electronic appliances and voice-recognition room and door lights to make using her home easier. (Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, 512-541-4226, myhaam.org)
Arelis López Guzman and her family, who are from Guatemala and seeking asylum, need help with rent and utilities as they prepare for a new baby and to pay for expensive immigration attorney fees. (Foundation Communities, 512-447-2026, foundcom.org)
Tre Gaston-Ellis, 26, and his siblings lost their mother to COVID-19 in August. They didn’t qualify to keep their mother’s lease and now live in three different apartments. They need help paying for rent and utilities. (Hospice Austin, 512-342-4726, hospiceaustin.org)
Shilda and Venard Fresch are fostering to adopt five siblings in addition to three biological children. They need a bigger home as well as a refrigerator and a washer and dryer. (Dress for Success Austin, 737-471-6377, dressforsuccessaustin.org)
Tahaguas Abraha, 20, who is a freshman at the University of Texas after living in a refugee camp in Ethiopia for six years, needs help with housing costs. (Interfaith Action of Central Texas, 512-386-9145, www.interfaithtexas.org)
Donate to Statesman Season for Caring
The Sheth family is matching up to $500,000 in donations.
Find out more about Season for Caring, read the stories of the featured families and make a donation at statesman.com/seasonforcaring. You also can find a coupon to mail in a donation on Page 2B.