A teacher at Southeast Raleigh High School said that in the tragedy of losing his home in a fire, he has learned how much support he has from former students.
Calvin Mills; his wife, Sharon Wiggins-Mills, a teacher at Zebulon Middle; and their 12-year-old son have been staying with a relative near the site where fire destroyed their house near Middlesex in southern Nash County on Monday.
“It’s like getting blindsided,” Mills said. “You feel that you’ve been blessed and then everything is gone in an instant.”
Mills was teaching Monday when his phone started vibrating with messages that his house was on fire. He thought it was a bad joke at first, until the calls kept coming.
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He said he was glad the fire broke out during the day when he and his wife were at work and their son was at school. He got home in time to see the fire consume everything, including his 2009 Corvette and a motorcycle.
The fire died down for a bit, he said, but then the wind picked up and spread it.
“Everything is gone,” Mills said.
A Gofundme page started to raise $10,000 to help the family get a new start had reached nearly $2,500 in pledges as of Wednesday, May 4. The web address to help is https://www.gofundme.com/22au855x.
The support from students and fellow teachers has been overwhelming, Mills said.
“You don’t think you’ll ever need it,” he said, “but the community has been so supportive.”
Both Mills and Wiggins-Mills teach math, and they both showed up at their schools briefly after the fire, fellow Zebulon Middle teacher Letisa Vereen said, to make sure they had their lesson plans in place for their substitutes.
“They are both very dedicated professionals,” Vereen said.
Southeast is doing Advanced Placement testing this week, she said.
“It’s a very crucial time,” Vereen said. “We’ve worked so hard with (the students) and then we don’t want to miss the testing.”
Six volunteer fire crews responded to the fire Monday at 10577 Old Raleigh-Wilson Road, south of Middlesex, according to published reports. Two 911 callers reported a blaze in the house’s yard, according to reports, but investigators said Monday that they did not know the point of origin.
Mills said it was “gratifying” to see the messages from former students who have pledged to help on the Gofundme page: “Teachers really do have an impact on the kids. You may not see it at the time, but it’s been very eye opening.” Last week just happened to be Teacher Appreciation Week.
One donor left a message reading, “We love you and are praying for you guys. We’re one call or message away.”
Their son is back in school at Zebulon Middle already, although finding clothes for him was a challenge, Mills said. “We want to keep everything as close to normalcy as we can,” he said.
Matt Goad: 919-829-4826