HOW TO HELP
Donations are being accepted at all Dade County Schools and at the central office. Call 706-657-4361 for more information. Dade County High School's choral program will donate proceeds from its annual Christmas show at 7 p.m. Monday at the school, 300 Tradition Lane in Trenton.
The Dade County school community is wrapping its arms around a local family who lost everything in a house fire early Thursday morning.
Sonya Middlebrooks said her family barely escaped the blaze, which destroyed their two-story home on Vice Circle and their vehicles. She is a nurse in the school system and her husband, Daniel, is a Hamilton County Schools teacher.
Dade County has set up collections at all its schools and the central office. And the high school's choral program will donate all proceeds from its annual Christmas performance Monday.
Dade County Schools Superintendent Shawn Tobin said the community is the most generous and caring one he's ever lived in.
"Here's the reality: I've never lived in a place before where people gather together like this," he said. "And I'm not just saying in this instance. It's like a huge family."
Middlebrooks said the family is overwhelmed by support. People have shown up to stick cash in her pockets, offer bags of clothes and give boxes of food. Daniel Middlebrooks' fifth-grade students at Spring Creek Elementary are collecting clothes for the family, and they've received too many calls to count.
"It's been about more than you can take," Sonya Middlebrooks said. "You don't know that you have this many friends until something like this happens."
The fire is still under investigation, with no official cause determined. The family is being put up in a Tiftonia hotel by their insurance company.
Middlebrooks said her family is mostly thankful to be alive, as the home's porch and carport collapsed just seconds after they escaped.
"That's the best Christmas blessing I've ever had," she said. "And that I'll ever have."
Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...