Foster mother of 4 and great grandma loses home to fire

- In just a few moments, Dorothy Langston lost nearly everything she owns: antiques and heirlooms handed down from her mother, irreplaceable family photos, a month's worth of food, furniture, clothing and the house she and her family of eight called home.

To help fire victim Dorothy Langston or for more information on Saturday's cleanup, email the Dream Center at donations@dctampa.org. You can also call 813-374-8999.

Charred remains are all that's left of the great-grandmother's house. Singed children's clothes litter the backyard. Flies buzz in through burned and busted-out windows and swarm around an upturned deep freezer. A soot-stained tricycle lays upturned in what was once the kids' room.

Langston's Kitchen Aid mixer, which helped yield countless cakes, pies and cookies over the decades, now sits blackened on the counter. Its bowl brims with water and foam used to battle Sunday's flames.

Langston, whose passion for cooking is only rivaled by her passion for raising children, said she had just finished preparing a Mother's Day feast when one of her four foster children, a 7-year-old, pulled her away from her kitchen stove to show her the fire growing rapidly in her living room.

"It was just so sad to see all that burning," said Langston.

The fire, which the 7-year-old started, quickly moved from a sofa at the back of the house and up through the 90-year-old home's wooden frame. Langston said firefighters fought the blaze for two hours. Now, her Ybor City home is a complete loss and she and her family have been forced apart as they seek temporary living situations.

Langston is foster mother to four sisters, ranging in age from 8-months to 7-years-old. When she first learned of the girls' plight, she said she couldn't bear the thought of the girls being separated from one another in the foster care system.

Langston, whose daughter and two teenage grand-daughters also live in her home, opened her door to all four girls.

"I love kids, so why not?" asked Langston, who fought back tears while looking through the rooms of her badly burned home.

"She [fostered] those four baby girls. Just to have the heart to [foster] four girls so they could stay together, and she had her own grand daughters living there, so because of her heart she had so many people living under one roof, but now all of them are out of a house," said Dream Center of Tampa executive director Chris Davis.

The Dream Center, a non-profit that provides youth and community outreach in east Tampa and Ybor City, first met the Langston a year ago when volunteers helped paint her home. This Saturday, the Dream Center is stepping in to help out the great grandmother and retired school bus driver who spent her life caring for others.

As part of their monthly Adopt a Block program, volunteers will gather at the Dream Center before heading to Langston's home to help clean up the gutted 90-year-old bungalow. Due to the extent of the damage, the task ahead of them is much bigger than their usual community clean-up projects, and the Dream Center is asking for extra volunteers who can pitch in Saturday, May 14 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The Dream Center is also accepting donations on Langston's behalf, and set up a registry to help replace the necessities she and her girls lost in the fire.

To help fire victim Dorothy Langston or for more information on Saturday's cleanup, email the Dream Center at donations@dctampa.org. You can also call 813-374-8999.

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