More than a dozen stuffed animals sat against a wooden fence on Gurnee Avenue today. Arranged in perfect order, the backdrop for those keepsakes – a charred mobile home – was anything but perfect.
Monday morning, a fire that engulfed a single-wide trailer, took the lives of 3-year-old fraternal twins Miah and Micah Shaver. According to authorities, the children were inside the mobile home at 10637 Wabayo St. in New Port Richey when the blaze began. The Pasco County Sheriff's Office received the first call for help at 8:54 a.m.
Attempts to reach the children were unsuccessful due to the heavy smoke and flames coming from every window. The twins' mother, Shannon Garza, 30, was taken to Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point for non-life-threatening injuries. Family members said she suffered burns to one of her arms trying to break a window to rescue her children. She was released about 2 a.m. Tuesday.
According to the sheriff's office, the bodies of the twins were found inside a back bedroom.
The Pasco branch of the American Red Cross has reached out to the family as has a victims advocate from the sheriff's office.
This afternoon, neighbor Teka Hawkins held a yellow, legal pad in her hand. The page detailed the clothing sizes for both Yolanda and Joseph.
Rebecca Fernald and Cheri Horner, both Moon Lake residents, were rounding up donations – anything from hygiene items to bed sheets – to give to the family.
They both volunteer for the Moon Lake chapter of The Volunteer Way.
"When they say two children were just killed in a fire, you actually don't have any words," Fernald said. "I think what happens is your brain has to process that horror."
Horner added: "I think the immediate reaction is, 'Oh my God, what do I do? How do I help?' "
River Ridge Middle School students also are helping. Principal Jason Joens said students were asking to help Monday as word of the fire spread on social media that afternoon.
A letter was sent home to parents informing them the school is collecting money, starting today, and concluding Thursday. The money will be placed on a Walmart gift card and presented to the family.
"It's an important part of being part of a community," Joens said. "I want the kids to understand that. They're part of the River Ridge Middle School community and they're also part of a bigger community.
"It's very important for children to see. It's a great character trait to be a good citizen, to be giving and to be caring for others because sometimes it will come back to you."
Joens said Yolanda, 13, and Joseph Garza, 12, were not in school today and he didn't expect them back until after the weeklong vacation, which begins Monday.
Mackey and his wife, Laurie, have also been working with Chase Bank to set up an account for donations.
Donations are being accepted at several locations in the area:
Yolanda and Joseph Garza were in school at the time of the fire. Garza's boyfriend, Lonnie Stafford, was not home at the time of the fire.
"She's been in and out of it," Gary Mackey, Lonnie Stafford's brother, said of Shannon. "Just constantly breaking down."
Shannon Garza and her two remaining children are staying with her parents in Spring Hill.
In the aftermath of the fire, family, friends and strangers have come together in an effort to help.
Standing at the wooden fence, partially hiding the burned shell of the mobile home, Justina Joa and her family placed fabric roses in the soil, and affixed two balloons – one from the children's movie "Cars" and another of Tinker Bell – to the fence, among other items.
"We can't imagine what they're going through," said Joa, who grew up with Stafford. "We wish them the best. Our hearts go out to them; they're very good people and they're in our prayers."