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Terra Perez of Princeton loaded up her four children Sunday afternoon and left home to run errands, accidentally leaving a pot of boiling water on the stove. By the time they realized it, and rushed back home, firefighters from three different departments were on the scene putting out flames that started in the kitchen and destroyed most of the house.
"We all started crying," Perez remembered. "The whole - everybody in the car started crying."
Along with most of their belongings being destroyed, the family pets - five kittens and a parrot - died in the fire.
"School supplies, school clothes, all the money we just put out, you know, to getting everything - and all of a sudden there's no clothes, no supplies," Perez explained.
When the story aired on ABC11 later Sunday night, Jesse Tooker, manager of the Walmart on Hwy 42 in Johnston County, felt compelled to help.
"When I heard it was a family from Johnston County, you know, that's my customer," he said. "I consider them my family like I do my associates."
With a call to ABC11, we were able to arrange for Perez to come to his store Thursday morning where Tooker presented her $300 in Walmart gift cards.
"It definitely is a surprise," Perez said with a smile on her face. "My kids are in good health. They're in good spirits, and that's what's keeping me going."
She said she's been overwhelmed by how the community, her kids' schools, their church, and even strangers have rallied around them.
"Even the smallest thing goes a long ways especially when you have nothing left," she said. "We're grateful."
Perez and her children are currently staying at a local motel with help from the Red Cross and private donors.
The family has also set up a GoFundMe account for anyone who would like to donate: http://www.gofundme.com/bd32twb8
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