It was tears and smiles all around as the Frank and Stacie Hill family was given gifts and donations from Tooele Transcript-Bulletin readers Christmas Eve.
“I’m shaking,” said Stacie. “I don’t even know what to say.”
The Hill family is the Transcript-Bulletin’s 2014 Benefit Fund family, and had been desperately in need of help after living in a camping trailer for more than a year while Frank looked for a job after being laid off twice.
More than three vehicle loads of gifts, nearly $3,000 and the first month rent and security deposit on their newly leased apartment will go a long way to help them get back on track.
And it’s all thanks to the generosity of Transcript-Bulletin readers.
“We’ve got a lot of hugs to give out, paying it forward,” said Frank. “There are no words for it. I can’t even thank all these people enough.”
There were stacks of toys and clothes for 11-year-old Maggie, 10-year-old Marcus, 4-year-old Maliah and 6-month old Marielle. Their presents buried the family’s three-foot Christmas tree that had been carefully decorated and placed in the corner of the bare front room.
Donated household items helped fill the space, too, along with a donated mattress and lots of blankets. The family had been on the apartment’s carpeted floor.
Minutes before the donations were delivered to the Grantsville family, a reader donated a new twin bed. There was also a crib for Marielle in the olio.
“That’s for you,” Stacie said to Marielle, pointing to the crib. “It will be your first one.”
The Hills moved into an apartment in Grantsville last week with assistance from the Tooele County Housing Authority. Before the move, they briefly lived in a motel after being evicted from their camping trailer two weeks ago.
A move in October 2012 from Connecticut necessitated donating almost everything the Hills owned. After getting to Grantsville, where Stacie is originally from, the family struggled and could not afford to get a traditional roof over their heads with all the ordinary things that usually go under it.
Frank now works part-time for Carefree Siding. Although he does not get quite enough hours at the weather-dependent job to provide for his family, Frank said the company is good and his boss has been willing to work with him and the family’s situation.
To help keep the family afloat during the cold-weather months, Transcript-Bulletin readers had donated $2,986 at the time of the delivery of the gifts. Additional monies were donated to pay for their first month’s rent and security deposit. Gift cards were also donated.
Some of the donors wrote letters with their donation. A donor who paid for the month’s rent requested anonymity because, as was written in the letter, “The gifts of being able and willing to give to others in need is all the reward one needs.”
Another letter was from an Erda boy who had asked his parents to give some of the money they would have spent on his Christmas presents to the family instead. He wrote encouragingly of better times to come and the strength that the family would develop as they overcame difficulties.
Frank said those types of messages, along with the tangible outpouring of generosity and support stacked in the family’s home, was a gift all in themselves.
“It’s good for the kids to experience a sense of community,” he said. “Seeing everybody gather together to help us with our Christmas, it helps them see people helping and gives them an idea that we can help someone, too.”
That power of community has made a difference already, Stacie said.
“It makes you happy to be from here,” she said. “I hope you all have a Merry Christmas. We will, now.”