April Carroll stood in the middle of the living room of her new home in North Raleigh late Friday afternoon.
She had just finished working a full-time shift and still had on her KFC uniform, but she was glowing.
“I can’t get this smile off my face,” Carroll said. “I can’t keep it off.”
The married mother of four children, Carroll had reason to smile.
In early January, she and her family were all living in one room at the Raleigh Inn when one of the hotel guests discarded a cigarette in the mattress of a second-room floor, sparking a fire. It displaced nearly 60 people who had called the former Red Roof Inn home.
The section of rooms on the second floor still showed signs of damage Friday and was not available for occupancy.
April and her husband, Dwight, had been living with their children in the room a little over a month at the time of the fire. That room was spared, and they were still there until this week, when they moved to the home on North Spring Hope Road.
April Carroll said they applied for the home about two weeks ago. The couple had the money to move, but they kept getting turned down by apartment complexes because of a previous eviction. They had moved into the hotel as a last resort.
“They gave me a chance,” she said about her new landlord. “That’s all I needed.”
Space is no longer an issue. The red-brick, one-story home has four bedrooms, a kitchen already stocked with April Carroll’s spices, a dark-paneled dining room with a glass-top dinette set and a backyard with a big sweet gum tree. The living room has a brick fireplace. A dark brown burlap sign on the mantel reads, “BLESSED.”
“I can’t wait to bake a cake. I can’t wait to bake four cakes,” April Carroll said. “I can’t wait to vacuum the rug.”
Dwight Carroll was at work Friday, but volunteers from a Knightdale church helped with the move.
Polly Haze of Raleigh was at the home painting the bedroom that Christian Carroll, 13, had picked out.
“It was perfect,” Christian said about seeing his new home for the first time.
Haze is founder of Miracle Jump Start, a nonprofit that helps homeless families. She has been working with the Carrolls since the fire and started a Go Fund Me campaign to help them raise the security deposit for the new home.
“It’s an honor,” Haze said. “I don’t think I’m an activist. I just like homeless people. A lot of them are about as real as you can get. They are in the thicket of a life challenge, and we all have them.”
Lisa Richardson and her son, Blake, 8, helped bring items into the home Friday. Richardson said her women’s group at church got involved with helping the Carrolls. She used social media to help find items such as a dryer.
As the Richardsons waited for beds to arrive, two more Knightdale church volunteers – Emily Potter and her daughter Izzy – showed up carrying a 27-inch television.
“Just trying to help them out,” Emily Potter said.
The other three Carroll children arrived home early Friday evening and ran from room to room. Addison, 6, played with his new toys. Daughters Naomi, 3, and Neveah, 5, had a snack at the new kitchen table.
April Carroll paused, taking in her family’s new living reality.
“I can’t ask for no more,” she said. “I’ve been blessed.”