One day after an early morning fire took the life of an 18-month-old Barrow County girl and critically injured her grandfather, two local bank branches and a Winder church have agreed to collect community donations to assist the family.
Barrow County Emergency Services has issued no official press releases in the aftermath of the Sept. 18 fire, but friends of the family have told the Barrow Journal that the tragedy was at the home of Russ and Angela Sauls, 210 Rockwell Church Road.
Friends said Russ and Angela, and their two daughters still residing at home, escaped the fire, but Russ Sauls suffered severe burns after returning inside the flaming structure multiple times to try to save the life of little Karma. The toddler’s 22-year-old mother, Brianna, reportedly is to be released from Grady Memorial Hospital today. Smith Funeral Home is handling her daughter’s arrangements.
Wynn Sauls, a 16-year-old student at Winder-Barrow High School, is still hospitalized with burns that reportedly are not life threatening but will require surgery. A family friend said she escaped the blaze by jumping from her second-floor bedroom window onto the flaming roof of the porch and then to the ground. Most of her burns were to her legs and arms.
As the victims recover, the community is rallying support. Anthony Murrell, the youth pastor at Winder Wesleyan Church, said his church is accepting clothing and other items to help the family recover.
“Right now, based on pictures I’ve seen, they seem to have lost everything; so I’m looking for anything and everything,” Murrell said. Their clothing sizes, as a start, are as follows:
•Russ: pants size 36x34, shirt XL, and shoes size 10.
•Angela: pants size 9, shirt MED, shoe size 5.
•Brianna: pants size 12, shirt LG, shoe size 10.
•Wynn: pants size 9, shirt MED, shoe size 9.5.
The church, which is at 64 E. Midland Ave., also will accept donations of gift cards but prefers not to receive cash, Murrell said. All donations of clothing, toiletries and household items may be dropped off from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and Sunday mornings.
Two banks with Winder branches are accepting monetary donations for the family. Bank representatives noted that the donations are not tax deductible.
Vicki Worley, head teller at Verity Bank, said checks may be made payable to “Russ Sauls Family Fund” and brought by her bank at 94 W. Athens St. from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Thursday, or 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday. Donations also may be placed in the night-drop slot, but donors should be sure to note that the money is for the Russ Sauls family, she said.
Sheila Twiddy, assistant banking officer for First American Bank & Trust, 65 E. May St., said a family member set up an account at her bank’s Winder branch.
The checks to that account should be made payable to “Buffy Smith FBO the Russ Sauls Family Fund.” Smith is a relative whose taxpayer ID was used to set up the account. Lynne Esco Varnum, a family friend who works at First American, said she would be happy to assist local residents who bring donations to her bank.
First American's hours are 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Friday; and 8:30-noon at the drive-through only on Saturday.