Community steps up for Encinitas family who lost everything in devastating fire
James and Jody White also lost the home-based online women’s apparel business that was their sole income
Around 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 12, Jody White remembers waking up to the howl of the smoke alarms in her Encinitas home.
The married mother of three thought it was a false alarm, until she was halfway down the stairs and heard the roar of the flames in the garage and the shouts of a neighbor who had seen the flames from across the street. Within the next few frantic and confusing minutes, White was able to call 911 and gather her children — her husband, James, was out of town that night — and escape the home safely, but with nothing more than the pajamas they were wearing.
The Whites’ home of 12 years and all of their possessions were a total loss. So was the inventory, fabric and sewing equipment for Jody’s home-based online women’s clothing business, All That Apparel. That was the family’s sole source of income since James was recently laid off from his advertising and marketing job, which also left the family without medical insurance. Fortunately, the home itself was insured.
If there could be a silver lining to the White family’s story, it’s the outpouring of community support that has occurred in the past few days. On Tuesday, April 12, neighbors and friends launched a GoFundMe campaign for the family that raised $73,000 toward a $100,000 goal in just three days. Meanwhile, some friends who are out of town this month offered the Whites their home as temporary lodging. Friends have started a meal train to keep the family fed and a neighbor has been collecting gift cards and cash to help the family take care of other immediate needs.
Carrie Jones, one of the GoFundMe campaign’s fundraising team leaders, has been one of Jody’s close friends for 10 years. She said the Whites are well-liked in the Encinitas community. Their children are active in school sports and theater, and the family has a long history of giving back.
“Jody is one of the most humble people I know,” Jones said. “The week before the fire she took the children down to Mexico to build homes for people. She lives by showing up for others. Encinitas is a smaller community but the outpouring of love for the family stretches beyond the city’s borders.”
James and Jody White moved to Encinitas from James’ native England in 2010. Their 12-year-old twins, Grayson and Scarlett, were born in London and their youngest son, 9-year-old Kingsley, was born here. After the move, Jody became a passionate community activist who raised awareness for marginalized groups including the LGBTQ and BIPOC (Black, indigenous, people of color) communities. As co-founder and vice president of the community group Encinitas 4 Equality, she helped organize all of the protests that took place at the Cardiff Kook statue following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020.
“I’m an activist by nature,” she said. “I believe if you have the opportunity to raise your voice for others who are not heard, you should. For me that is an obligation.”
Looking for a creative way to tap her design skills while caring for her children from home, Jody started her sustainability-focused business three years ago. She began by making earrings out of scraps of leather and eventually expanded to a full line of women’s clothing and accessories. To find a sustainable use for deadstock fabric that fashion houses no longer want, she buys unsold rolls and then creates items based on the fabric designs.
At the time of the fire, she had around 100 rolls of fabric stored in the garage, as well as the pop-up tents, clothing racks and clothing inventory she was selling at local street fairs. The fire began for unknown reasons in the garage and spread to the second-floor room directly above, which was her sewing studio, before razing the entire home. The fire also destroyed her car.
“I was right in the middle of production for summer and now all of that’s gone,” she said. “I have to start over and I don’t know how yet. I can’t think about that. I’m living minute to minute right now. I’m just trying to show up for my kids and breathe.”
Jones said the team of friends who are helping the Whites are concentrating their initial efforts in getting Jody’s business back up and running to give the family some breathing room while James continues his search for a new job. They’re also working quickly to get the family clothing and school supplies for the children.
White said she prefers to be the one giving back to the community, so accepting all of the donations, meals and assistance from others has been overwhelming and challenging.
“It’s been really hard to just accept it,” she said. “But being an activist I’m drawn to the uncomfortable. I recognize that and I’m trying to walk into that and receive it. I’m so humbled and so grateful for all the support that has come in. The whole thing is unimaginable.”
Jones said Jody was initially so embarrassed by the fundraising campaign for her family that she insisted the GoFundMe account be closed, but friends talked her out of it.
“The response to Jody was, ‘No, we’re not turning it off. We’re going to say yes for you. Nobody is giving what they don’t want to give,’ ” Jones said. “We’re doing this for Jody because she is light. She is joy, and her family is joy. To see that coming back to them is really important.”
To learn more about fire recovery effort, visit gofundme.com/f/help-the-white-family-after-house-fire.
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