First Posted: 12/24/2008
Sometimes Christmas cheer is delivered in a sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer, and other times such as at a Mount Airy church on Wednesday it comes in three pickups loaded by several strong men.
Regardless of exactly how it arrived, an effort by caring people spanning two counties is making a big difference during the holiday for Crystal Pettry, 30, a single mother of four whose home recently was destroyed by fire.
The prospect of a Christmastime with no home of their own, much less presents, was averted by the unlikely teaming of Woodland Baptist Church in Mount Airy and the Stokes County Health Department.
On Nov. 21, a house that Pettry and her four young children Taylor, Blaise, Chase and Zeb were renting in the Westfield area burned, leaving the family homeless.
The mother and children lost clothing, household furnishings and all other possessions in the blaze.
When our preacher heard about them, she didnt even have a change of clothes, said Barbara Edmonds, who attends the Woodland Drive church, where Jimmy Slate is the pastor. Since the devastating blaze more than a month ago, shes been staying with family members on a temporary basis, Edmonds said of Pettry, whose own parents are deceased.
Edmonds pointed out that Pettry is a waitress who is working two jobs to support her family.
After Slate, who knew the family, was made aware of its struggle, it later escalated into the entire congregation getting involved to help. It kind of laid dormant until our Christmas play, Edmonds added of the assistance effort.
Sunday night, she came to the play at our church, and it just touched our hearts, she said.
That prompted a flurry of activity in the next couple of days that would rival that of Santa and his elves at the North Pole.
Along with the Mount Airy church, the desire to help also spread to the Stokes County Health Department, where Edmonds son, Rick Sawyers, is employed. Sawyers learned of the familys need also due to attending the play on Sunday.
He said he was especially touched by Pettrys oldest child, who was asked by the pastor after the program what she wanted for Christmas and replied, a bed to sleep in.
Other employees at the Health Department decided to assist as well, opting to aid the fire victims rather than buy gifts for each other.
From there, the effort expanded even more, due to Dale Smith of Walnut Cove, a heart-transplant recipient whose wife works for the Stokes health agency, deciding to donate a house full of furnishings to the cause. Furniture, kitchen utensils, mattresses and other household necessities had been left behind when Smiths father, also of Walnut Cove, passed away.
The effort was completed Wednesday afternoon with the delivery of three truckloads, and one trailer load, of those items to Woodland Baptist Church, including a bed wished for by Pettrys daughter.
Slate and several other men associated with the church donated their time on Christmas Eve to moving the furnishings, including some who suffer from back ailments.
Those items are in addition to an array of presents that the fire victims were to receive on Christmas Eve thanks to the concerned citizens.
Edmonds explained that the family has found a mobile home to move into, which will require some work until it can be made livable. In the meantime, the furnishings will be stored in the church fellowship hall until they are relocated to the new residence.
The local American Red Cross had provided some monetary assistance to the family, which will go toward paying the cost of utility hookups and related expenses at the mobile home.
Pettry was at a loss for words Wednesday when talking about the goodness displayed by the congregation of Woodland Baptist Church and persons associated with the Stokes Health Department.
I really dont know what to say everybody has been so nice, Pettry said. I think its great.
She added that the generosity of those involved has helped brighten the holiday for her and the children.
I think its sweet that two counties are working together, Edmonds said of the Surry-Stokes partnership that aided someone in need.
Sawyers said he was impressed by how so much was accomplished in a short time by regular people, with no involvement by a governmental agency or organized charity.
Its hard times and people coming together, Edmonds said of the dynamics that allowed the family to receive help.
Along the way, the experience has enabled the church and others involved, especially youths, to understand the true meaning of the holiday. Its a sweet Christmas story, said Edmonds, who made a point of downplaying the role of the church and others who participated.
The Lord gets all the credit, she said.
Contact Tom Joyce at [email protected], or at 719-1924.