Mission woman who lost everything in fire inspires giving spirit
Ernestina Barraza still remembers waking up nearly trapped by flames inside her mobile home.
"I started hearing windows breaking and I got up went to see what was happening and saw the glow of fire in my bathroom," she recalled.
Ernestina escaped with her life, but everything inside was lost.
"I was still thankful for my life," she said. "I wasn't hurt. I wasn't burned."
Three weeks have since passed.
The process of getting back on her feet has been tough without insurance.
The Mission High School classroom where she's a teacher's aide for Special Ed students has been her only salvation.
More than 2 decades on the job, she calls it her real home.
Co-workers call her inspiring.
"We want to show that we love her," Elizabeth Borrego said. "Mission High School loves her. We all love her."
Elizabeth wants to Pay it 4Ward.
She travels through the school grounds to surprise Ernestina with the $400 Pay it 4Ward prize.
"I'm going to shake your hand," she said to Ernestina. "I know what you've been through Ms. Barraza and FNB Insurance is here with Channel 4 News and we want to Pay it 4Ward. We know that you need this money and it's going to come in handy for your bills. Here at Mission High School we all love you."
Ernestina flashes a big smile and puts out her hand as Elizabeth counts the money.
"Here's $100, 2, 3, 4," she said.
"Thank you very much," Ernestina said while clutching the cash. "I appreciate it!"
Just knowing how kind and generous people have been towards her makes her feel good.
"I try to be there for people when they need me and I never expect anything back," she said.
Bill Jones is a Pay it 4Ward partner with FNB Insurance Agency.
He says being able to watch people helping people is why the company proudly supports the weekly program.
"This is a noble effort and the name says it all, Pay it 4ward," Bill said as spokesperson for FNB Insurance. "We're recognizing good deeds for good people and it's bringing good news."
The school's principal, Joe Lopez, is glad to know one of his own is getting the much needed financial help.
"We truly appreciate everything Elizabeth Borrego did and it comes from people caring, an outstanding staff, and that's what we have here at Mission High School," he said.
Ernestina's home may be gone but her spirit stands strong.
"Pay it 4Ward," she said.
The $400 will be used to help on a down payment for a new mobile home.
She thanked the community for their prayers and well-wishes during this tough time.