A community devastated by the death of 5-year-old Brittany Alberson has opened up its heart to help the Alberson family who lost everything, including two vehicles, when their mobile home was destroyed in a blaze.
Close to 100 family and community members attended the memorial service for Brittany Jan. 11 at the Assembly of God in Horseshoe Bend. The church provided food for the family each night before the service. The funeral was held two days later in Jonesboro.
An auction benefit has been scheduled for Jan. 25 at 4 p.m. at the lower end of Diamond B Mall in Horseshoe Bend. The event is spearheaded by local firefighters Mike McCollum and Will Robson. Proceeds from the auction will be donated to the Alberson family.
Steve Montgomery of Market Street Pharmacy said his brother, Donald Montgomery of Montgomery and Nosari Auctions of Mountain Home, have donated auctioneer services for the event.
Those interested in donating items for the auction can contact McCollum at 870-670-5098. Fire Chief Mike Hilliker said his crew is doing everything they can to help the family with the fire tragedy.
At the time of the fire, Kelly Alberson, the father of Brittany, was able to rescue his parents, Jerry Sr. and Dolly, and his two nieces and nephew from the blaze Jan. 7. During rescue efforts Alberson's daughter ran back into the bedroom. He was unable to rescue his daughter because of the intense heat and smoke in the burning structure.
Local Realtors Bonnie and Bill Chapman provided a home for the family to move into on Peridot Street. Mrs. Chapman said the grandparents and three grandchildren moved into the home Jan. 8. She said the Horseshoe Bend Food Outreach Mission has given the family food and clothes, "There is a great outpouring of love and generosity," Chapman said. She added the public has done a wonderful job helping the family deal with their loss and grief.
The Alberson Family Fund account has been set up at Bancorp South Bank. Rhonda Moss, CSR, said Dimple Lewers and Retha Aveling opened up the account last week. Moss said there have been several deposits made.
Employees at the Horseshoe Bend Dollar General Store took up a collection among the employees and purchased clothes and supplies for family members. Also a drop box and donation box is at the front of the store. One employee who didn't want to be named said the Alberson family is very burdened so the community has been busy making phone calls to area organizations to help the family. It helps take the load off because they don't have the additional burden of placing calls. She said she wants to make sure the Alberson family is aware the public does care.
John Carson of Buddy's Place in Horseshoe Bend placed a sign by his business that read, "The Albersons lost a child and everything in a fire. Donations accepted here for them." Carson said he and his wife, Kathleen, donated a stove, refrigerator, dining table and a recliner to the family.
Carson said the public has donated end tables, lamps, dishes, toys and clothes. The items were delivered to the family Jan. 12. He said, "That's what God has led us to do, help people."
Mayor Bob Spear said some cash donations had been dropped off at City Hall and recorder/treasurer Sally Pohl deposited the cash into the Alberson account.
Kelly is staying with his brother Jerry and with friends. "He is doing as well as can be expected," said Lt. Sam Ray of the Horseshoe Bend Police Department.
Investigator Mark Hollingsworth determined the Jan. 7 fire was accidental. Hollingsworth said the fire started in the living room. Through a process of elimination he determined a smoldering cigarette close to an oxygen tank ignited something at floor level. He said, "It could be no other source of ignition." The oxygen tank helped fuel the fire.
Hilliker said this is the first time in the 34-year-history of the department there has been a fatality in a fire in Horseshoe Bend. The home was fully engulfed when firemen and first responders arrived at the scene.
Alderman Will Robson, whose ward includes the Alberson residence, contacted the Salvation Army, Department of Human Services and the American Red Cross.
Robson was also in contact with Roller Crouch Funeral Home located in Batesville and Melbourne which offered to handle the services at no charge to the family.
Roller Crouch manager Mark House said the company made the option available to the family but the Albersons declined the offer.