Thankful for small blessings

Five days after a fire destroyed most of his family's belongings, Arthur Junior Henderson finally had something to smile about.

On Monday, Henderson received $350 in gift cards from the American Red Cross to help jump-start his life, which was stalled by a fire at Rancho Verde Apartments, 98 Martin Luther King Blvd., near the Spaghetti Bowl.

Red Cross caseworkers met with families displaced by two holiday fires for the first time Monday to see whether they needed more help, spokeswoman Kris Darnall said.

The families already had received $75 to $100 to see them through the first few days after the fires Wednesday.

On Monday, the average displaced family of four was getting about $620 in assistance after evaluation.

It's not enough, Darnall said, but it's a start.

"In the first stage of assistance, you give them the shoe that they don't have," she said. "The second stage is casework and finding out how much they need now."

Henderson's apartment wasn't damaged in the fire, which was sparked by electrical wiring in a utility wall at the apartment complex, but smoke and water destroyed most of his family's possessions.

"We're lucky we were able to get anything out at all," Henderson said.

Not all were as fortunate. At Rainwalk Apartments, 1001 Dumont Blvd., near Maryland Parkway and Desert Inn Road, 28 units were destroyed by fire, officials said, and hundreds of people were displaced. The cause of the fire is being investigated by the Clark County Fire Department, spokesman Scott Allison said.

The Red Cross is helping victims of both fires. Of the 31 families displaced, 20 had come in for help by late Monday afternoon, Darnall said. All of the families at both apartment complexes found housing, some within their complex and others with family or friends.

Henderson was one of those who moved into a new apartment at his complex, he said. His 3-year-old son, Arthur Jeremy, accompanied him to the Red Cross office at 1771 E. Flamingo Road.

The boy had lost most of his clothes to smoke damage, Henderson said. Even after several rounds of laundry, his son's clothes still smelled like smoke.

"He needs some new clothes, don't he?" Henderson said, placing Arthur Jeremy onto a chair.

After he and his wife buy groceries, Henderson said, the majority of the money from the Red Cross will go to pay for rent, utilities and car insurance. Henderson works as a special education teacher's assistant for the Clark County School District but won't get a paycheck until January.

"We are blessed," he said. "They (Red Cross) were tremendously generous."

The family was able to salvage some things from their old apartment, including a bed frame. Henderson bought a mattress so that the family won't have to sleep on the floor. Arthur Jeremy has nightmares about the fire, Henderson said.

"It was a pretty traumatic thing," he said. "None of us had ever been through something like that."

Henderson said the family spent Christmas together in the new apartment, trying to relax. On Sunday, they went to church.

He said he doesn't relish the next few weeks as the family tries to turn the apartment into a home, but he's not bitter. As long as he has his family and his faith, he said, he will be all right.

"I'm still a Christian man."

Contact reporter Mike Blasky at mblasky@ or 702-383-0283.