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Students latest to help Picou family start over

Special gifts of love for Valentine’s Day don’t just come in theform of candy, flowers and cards. That’s what the family of ChrisPicou discovered Wednesday at Brookhaven Academy.

The family was given a gift of more than $1,400, collected by afew hundred students at BA during the past week.

The outpouring of love came just when the Picous thought theywere at their weakest moment, watching helplessly on the morning ofJan. 24 as their house and all its contents burned to theground.

“The Bible says to ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ and I thinkour school has done a good job of following that this past week,”said BA teacher Pat Mullins during the check presentation at aschool-wide assembly Wednesday morning.

Members of the school’s service club came up with the idea tohelp the family in need only a few days after reading an article inThe DAILY LEADER about the tragedy.

“The students are so generous. They really gave from the heart,”said Mullins, who sponsors the service club with fellow teacherMyra Thurman.

Money was collected in jars placed in classrooms throughout theschool for the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department K-9 officer andhis family. The majority of the students do not even know thePicous personally.

Picou said he was “floored” by the generous donation that willhelp the family get back on their feet financially. He said he hasbeen amazed countless times in the last three weeks by the acts ofkindness from the community.

“This whole thing has been a pretty humbling experience,” hesaid. “One minute you have nothing, the next, people are bringingyou all kinds of things. This community is absolutely amazing.”

Picou said it still seems like a dream when he thinks of the weemorning hours when his wife, Laurie, woke him after she noticed theback yard aglow with fire and smoke quickly filling the threebedroom house they were renting.

Laurie told her husband to get their oldest son, T.J., 12, outwhile she ran to get Matthew, 8, and Christopher, 5, from theirbedrooms, where flames were already taking over.

“She’s a strong person. To me, what she did was amazing. Shenever panicked. My wife is one in a million,” said Picou.

After breaking a frozen window to get out, Picou helped T.J. outand tried to coax his long-time law enforcement partner, K-9 Rico,to jump from the window. However, the dog that had been broughtinside during the extremely cold winter night panicked and ran intothe main part of the house where the fire was roaring.

Picou tried to run after Rico, but smoke knocked him to thefloor. Picou was later hospitalized for two days for smokeinhalation.

Just minutes after the fire was detected, the entire family wasout safely, except for Rico and a new drug dog and three otherfamily pets.

Picou did not have insurance on the house they had rented forfour years, so the family was basically left in the cold with onlywhat they had gotten out with — their pajamas.

“We didn’t have anything, but before I left the scene, my entiretruck was full of clothes,” said Picou. “The one thing I didn’thave was a pair of shoes, and (Sheriff) Lynn Boyte took his shoesoff and gave them to me. Then he walked half a mile back to his carin 15 degree weather.”

Accounts were set up that day at State Bank and Bank ofBrookhaven. Churches, businesses and individuals have donatedeverything from household items, like dishes and towels, to moneyand food.

Many of the generous donations have come from completestrangers, such as a lady in New Jersey who wanted to help rememberRico. Picou now carries a special card in the front pocket of hisuniform.

The card, one of about 75 sent by the New Jersey resident,displays a picture of Picou and Rico at a national competition.

“I’ve worked eight dogs in my career, and he’s probably the oneI’ve been most attached to,” said Picou.

Another profound act of kindness came from Brookhaven residentJackie Williams, a friend of the family who has allowed them tostay in a once vacant house on New Sight Drive until they find ahouse to buy. Picou’s co-workers, their spouses and members of areavolunteer fire departments pitched in to get the family situated intheir temporary residence.

“They all got in there and cleaned it up where we could movein,” said Picou. “This community is outstanding. There’s notanother place like this in the world.”