Family homeless following apartment fire

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Reginald Chauncey Askins and his wife, Erica, and their three children have no one to turn to, no relative to shelter them tonight.

And while they aren’t so concerned about themselves, they are worried because they don’t know where their children will sleep tonight.

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Last week, a kitchen fire forced the Askins family out of their Chuckatuck Square apartment where Askins – known simply as Mr. Reggie to the kids – worked as the maintenance supervisor. The Askins apartment – typically packed with kids hanging out playing with their children – is now cold and desolate.

The fire left the family just as stripped as the apartment is after the blaze gutted the kitchen last week, but the fact that they had no place to live slapped them twice in the face.

&uot;We thought everything would be all right because the manager of the apartments told us that we could move into another of the vacant apartments there,&uot; said Askins. &uot;But, after all the fire department people and rescue people left, we were then told that the owners of the apartments would not allow us to move back in.&uot;

The apartment complex is owned T.M. Management.

The fire happened around lunchtime Jan. 30 as Askins was preparing his lunch. He had just turned the kitchen range on when he received a phone call from the complex manager Mary Payne.

When he went to see what she needed, Askins said he forgot to turn the burner off under the pan he was using. The next thing he knew, a neighbor was yelling for him to look at the smoke coming out of one of the buildings.

&uot;I saw that it was my apartment and I hurried to it and opened the door and took the fire extinguisher to try to get the fire out,&uot; said Askins. &uot;It was too much and I threw the extinguisher down and began getting people out of the building.

&uot;A neighbor called 911 and tried to help me, but the fire was just too much.&uot;

Erica Askins was devastated when she learned that her home was destroyed and her family out in the streets.

&uot;We were told at first that we could stay when all the fire people were there asking if we had somewhere to go, and everyone in the complex helped us move what was left of our stuff into another apartment,&uot; said Reginald. &uot;But then we were told we couldn’t stay and we were out in the cold with three kids.&uot;

Erica said the Suffolk chapter of the American Red Cross came to the rescue, providing them with temporary shelter at the local Best Western. When their initial three-day stay was up, the Red Cross again assisted by extending the stay, an unusual move for the agency.

&uot;They were very helpful to us,&uot; said Erica Askins. &uot;I don’t know what we would have done without their providing us with a place to stay.

&uot;Our time is definitely up today, however, and I don’t know where we can lay our heads down tonight. I don’t care so much about it for me and Reggie, but our kids… I don’t know what to do.&uot;

Askins said his family needs help. They lost most of their furnishings due to smoke and water damage, escaping without much other than their clothing.

&uot;Me… I don’t need anything,&uot; said Askins. &uot;But, my wife and kids… I am not too proud to consider their needs.

&uot;They need clothes and we have to find a place to stay for tonight at least.&uot;

Reginald Askins said it is humbling to ask for help for his own family; this is the first time he’s ever been on the receiving end.

&uot;On a normal day at my house, every day, our house is open to all the kids in the neighborhood,&uot; said Askins. &uot;And, during Hurricane Isabel, I got the grill out and cooked for everyone out there at the complex. I did everything I could to help people and I guess now, I know why.

&uot;God was preparing me so that I wouldn’t feel too proud to ask for help for my family. I hate to do it, but their needs are more important than my feelings.&uot;

Anyone who would like to help the Askins family should call Reginald at 305-2879. Erica needs ladies clothing, medium-size tops and pants, size 10-12. She and one daughter, Jasmine, wears the same size and can share any clothing donations.

Another daughter, Shanice, wears sizes 14-16 and son, Hakeem, wears 8-10 in boys sizes.