BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Her home was known as the place to go for help: for a hot meal, a place to stay. "The White House", as it was called, on West Brookstown was home to 23 people. The owner, Mary Parker, never turned anyone away. Saturday, a fire destroyed everything. But Ms. Mary says one thing the fire did not take is her spirit.
Despite the way the house looks right now, charred and blocked off by tape, Parker says her home was a true blessing.
"Every Tuesday and Thursday we have prayer service for kids, with the kids. They sing, they pray, they learn how to say prayers....this home means a lot," Parker said.
Friday night, Parker says she thought she smelled something burning. She sent someone outside to check, but nothing could be found. Early Saturday morning, an inferno ignited.
Parker says she was told probably due to bad wiring. "Something said wake up and I turned my head toward the kitchen. Couldn't see nothing but black smoke coming through. I jumped up said 'get up - get out - get the babies.'"
The fire left 23 people without a home and a crucial part of their lives.
"In the evening if you drove by you'd see 20 to 30 kids playing in the yard," Parker said. "I mean this was home to them. Keep them off the streets."
Parker, or Ms. Mary as she's known, says she was blessed with more than just a home. If anyone, especially a child, needed a place to stay they were always welcome. Over the years many came and stayed.
"If I could find a pillow to put my head on that's it. I'm going to give them somewhere to sleep. I'm going to give them something to eat because the Lord makes a way for me to do this," said Parker.
From his church down the street, Reverend Levi Wright saw the smoke. After making sure all were safe, he offered her a home to keep her extended family together.
"Talked to the members of the church and they all were in agreement to allow this family to stay here," said the pastor. His church owns a rental property. So now, the woman who is used to blessing others is the one being blessed.
Helping others is what the season is all about, the pastor says.
As for Ms. Mary, she may be sad about her home, but she's already thinking about who she can help next.
"I'm still blessed. Although my house is gone, I'm still blessed 'cause everybody got out alive."
Pastor Wright says the family will be able to stay in the rental property for at least six months. Parker says "The White House" will be back.
Wright's church, Greater Mount Canaan Baptist located at 5820 Evangeline Street is having a musical benefit for the family. It starts at 7 p.m. The church asks those who come to bring a non-perishable food item, clothing or a monetary donation to help the family.