By Melissa Boyd (Whetstone staff writer)

Volleyball player Ashley Pierce was having a normal day Jan. 28 – until she received a phone call from her mother, crying and telling her that their house was on fire.

“I was waiting for a town meeting to start on campus,” she said. “I commute to and from school so I still live at home with my family.”

The fire was caused by a heat lamp, which burst and caught the back porch, house, and yard on fire, she said.

“Luckily, my teenage sister and 10-year-old brother were home from school that day because of icy roads,” she said. “They were able to get out of the house and call 911.”

house-provided-by-Ashely-Pierce-2_800w_600hAshley Pierce

The severe damage caused the family to move into Pierce’s aunt’s house, where they live in her living room with two full-sized beds and totes for closets.

“We lost a majority of our material objects and some personal things,” she said. “But it’s still upsetting. We lost a lot of memories that cannot be regained from the fire.”

The heat lamp was being used to warm a litter of puppies that her family was going to sell – except for two, which they wanted to keep.

“The fire killed all five of the puppies,” she said. “The puppies meant a lot to my family.”

Senior Shanna Bryant said she felt empathy toward Pierce and her family.

“I wanted to reach out to her because a similar situation happened to me last February,” she said. “But there was no contact for her. Everything went through the team and I wanted to be a person to her.”

house-as-provided-by-Ashley-Pierce_800w_600hAshley Pierce

Pierce said that the house wasn’t insured. The house was completely paid off, as of last summer, and the family had planned to build a new house on the same land.

“We did not think this would ever happen to us, but it did,” she said. “We are hanging on by threads due to insufficient funds that my family has. Both of my parents work basic-paying jobs, and so do I. That’s all the income we have to start our future over.”

The volleyball team and the campus ministries office is raising money; gift cards and gas cards are being accepted for the family in College Center and the Student Affairs Office.

Dr. William Johnston, president of the college, said he lent out his support too.

“We just want the best for her and we encourage everyone else to do the same,” he said.

Johnston said he was pleased that groups on campus are raising money for the family.

“I think it’s wonderful to have our college community reach out to the family and care for Ashley in this manner.”

Pierce said they’d continue to raise money because the expenses to cover the damages are expensive.

“My family and I need all the help we can get,” she said. “It’s going to take a lot of help, money, and prayers to rebuild my family’s lives. The college has helped me more than ever this past week, including my volleyball team. Everything is appreciated.”