by: Greg Suskin Updated:CLOVER, S.C. —
There were no visible tears on Short Street in Clover Wednesday morning. Sam Thompson, 76, and his wife Annie lost their home in a huge fire, but they don't see it as a tragedy.
"It's not about me, it's about the calling I have from God," Sam Thompson said.
That calling has been a long-time ministry to the homeless that includes men like Stanley Bratton, who was homeless four years ago, until he met Sam Thompson.
"I didn't have anywhere to go or anything. Pastor Sam gave me a home," Bratton said. Now Bratton owns his own business. He came by the scene of the fire Wednesday to help out.
There is a men's shelter on one side of Thompson's home and a women's shelter on the other.
Lisa Franantuono has been staying in the women's shelter since April. She said she owes the Thompson's her life.
"They gave me everything I have. I didn't have clothes on my back. I didn't have any food. They didn't ask me any questions, they just took me right in," she said.
The fire started before 6 a.m., when Thompson said his great grandson might have been sleep walking, carrying a blanket wrapped around him, and accidentally had it too close to a gas heater.
The cries of the children woke Thompson up and he went around banging on everyone's door. He tried to put the fire out himself in the frigid cold.
"I couldn't use the hose. The water in the hose was frozen and I couldn't carry water fast enough," he said.
About 10 men and four women were staying in the two shelters when the fire broke out. The men's shelter had no damage.
The women's shelter had minor water damage, and the some of the siding melted off the building.
The Thompson's home is a total loss, but now the couple can stay with the people they've devoted their lives to helping. Those people wouldn't have it any other way.
Nate Whisnant has stayed at Lighthouse Ministries for nearly two years.
He's seen the couple feed 150 to 200 people a day out of their church.
He can't imagine still being out on the streets.
"They mean the world to me because without them, I wouldn't have had no place to stay. I would've still been staying under a fire escape in Gastonia," Whisnant said.
The fire has been ruled accidental.
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