Kindness of strangers comes to rescue of fire victim

August 09, 1991|By John Rivera

Dawn Renee Powell had a surprise waiting for her yesterday, and this time it was a pleasant one.

Ms. Powell, who was severely burned in a fire in May that killed her three children, did not have the $378 to pay for two sets of RTC pressure vests and gloves that doctors said would heal her burns and prevent scarring.

Yesterday, she learned that strangers who read about her plight this week had paid for the garments. She will receive them in 10 days.

Ms. Powell, 35, has been getting calls for the past several days from people offering help after they read that -- in a surprise of a different sort -- her Aid to Families with Dependent Children grant, medical insurance and food stamps had been revoked.

On the day she was released after a three-week stay at Francis ScottKey Medical Center, Ms. Powell went to a Baltimore Department of Social Services office to inform them of the deaths of her children, aged 6, 3 and 1. A caseworker handed her a form letter stating that "because there is no longer an eligible child in [the] family," her assistance was being canceled.

"It was done rather coldly, I think," said Don Sweet, a retired Social Security Administration employee from Glen Arm. When Mr. Sweetread about Ms. Powell's situation in The Sun, he called the company that manufactures the vests and gloves to pay for one set.

Mr. Sweet was not the only one to respond. Others have called offering money, and Ms. Powell was driven to the hospital yesterday by a woman who intended to pay for a vest and a pair of gloves.

But while Ms. Powell was being measured for the garments, she was told that they were already taken care of -- one set paid for by Mr. Sweet and another donated by their Toledo, Ohio, manufacturer.

The woman who drove Ms. Powell to the hospital, who said she was from Northwood but asked not to be named, said she will pay for the next suit.

Ms. Powell has to wear the vests and gloves 23 hours a day, alternating between the two sets because each must be washed daily. The suits must be replaced after three months.

not rich people," said the woman, who met Ms. Powell for the first time yesterday. "We're just sacrificing and doing it because that's what we're supposed to do."

Meanwhile, Ms. Powell has received the first payment of a General Public Assistance grant from the Department of Social Services, which will provide her with $204 a month and $105 in food stamps until she qualifies for Social Security disability payments. She is still waiting to sort out her medical insurance and has unpaid bills totaling over $1,300.

Ms. Powell, now living with her mother in Waverly, seemed a bit overwhelmed by all the attention.

You have really lovely people that are willing to help. Plus the prayers and everything," she said yesterday. "Everything is really coming together."

But there is still a long way to go. She said she has trouble thinking clearly since the fire at her home in the 200 block of North Collington Avenue and feels she needs the help of a psychiatrist to deal with her grief. "I want to go to the grave and see my kids," she said. She was still in the hospital when they were buried. But she also has asthma and a heart condition, and she said her family feels she is not yet strong enough to go to the cemetery.

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