Yelm community raises over $1,000 for victims of house fire

Fundraiser included raffles and donations


Nathan Reninger was taking a final exam when his fiancée, Brianna Southworth, called his cell phone. He sent her to voicemail, which is typically a sign between the two that he is busy and will call her back.

She immediately called him back, signaling that something was wrong.

Reninger answered the phone, and Southworth told him that their Lacey home was engulfed in flames. Her 19-year-old daughter, Elayna Schultz, was the only one home on April 2 when she awoke from a nap to an explosion, and shortly after she discovered the house was on fire, she escaped just before a second explosion sucked the doors in and trapped their dog, Rowyn, who did not survive.

The house was a total loss, with very few items salvaged from the blaze, which is still under investigation. To make matters worse, the family’s insurance did not cover the loss of their contents, which amounted to about $300,000 worth of damage. Southworth and Reninger, who are each from Yelm, found their own place to stay, along with Schultz, before reuniting and staying in various hotels.

“It’s been very devastating. During the worst part of it, we were all separated, but now we’re together,” Southworth said. “We just emptied the contents of the house, so that was pretty devastating. I can’t say that we’re in a good place right now.”

Southworth’s daughter, Alyvia Jackson, immediately organized a GoFundMe to raise money for the family, and the page has raised $2,765 as of Monday, May 20. Michelle Wood, a high school classmate and longtime friend called right away to find out how she could help. She, along with mutual friend Tabatha Loveland, organized a fundraiser event at the Tahoma Valley Bar & Grill, which took place on Saturday, May 18, and raised $1,104 for the family. Numerous local businesses, including Deschutes River Apiary, 507 Taproom & Filling Station, Ma and Pa’s Family Diner, O Bee Credit Union, Worthy Coffee Co., Rainier Valley Construction and more pitched in raffle items and baskets for the event.

“I called them right away because I was devastated for them,” Wood said. “They lost everything, including their dog. I couldn’t even imagine being in a situation where you lose everything and you still have to wait a year or two to even live in a place because of their insurance. I wanted to help them get on their feet again.”

Southworth said she was grateful that she had kind people in her life who wanted to help her family in their time of need.

“In today’s world, not everybody is kind. Not everybody wants to reach out and help. Before this happened, I knew two of our neighbors, and now I know many of our neighbors,” she said. “We have friends that took the lead and said they were doing things for us to help us get by. There’s not enough words to show our gratitude. It’s absolutely the most amazing thing I’ve seen.”

While Southworth and Reninger no longer live in Yelm, it is a place that is close to their hearts. One of Yelm Community Schools elementary schools — Southworth Elementary — is named after the Southworth family. Reninger said he appreciated the community coming together for them.

“We’ve gotten so much support. I don’t even know how to put it into words. We haven’t been back to Yelm for quite some time but it’s good to see that the family aspect is still here,” he said.

The couple said that monetary donations, either cash or gift cards for restaurants, are the most useful as they have a small storage unit to keep their possessions but don’t have room for much else. They hope to restore their house as their insurance company covered the structure.

Reninger and Southworth said the biggest lesson from their devastating period has been to cherish time with family, even the simplest ones.

“Just cherish every moment. You don’t know if you’re gonna get another one,” Reninger said.

“We had to really face this head on because we had to go into the home and itemize things out. We go into the house and we see memories. You never know if that’s the last moment that you’re going to be in this room, sitting on your couch, having a conversation and your dog is running around like crazy,” Southworth added. “And the next it’s all gone.”

To donate to the family, visit, or scan the QR codes in the photo attached to this story.