12/25/05 — Christmas trees given to families

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Christmas trees given to families

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on December 25, 2005 2:06 AM

Three Wayne County families would not even have had Christmas trees this year if not for Target and the United Way.

Through its Adopt-A-Tree program, Target gave away three prelit fully decorated Christmas trees Friday to local needy families. United Way looked to its agencies to provide the names of the recipients.

The Wayne County Chapter of the American Red Cross chose the Williams family. Ricky and Jamie had a house fire two weeks ago and lost everything they had accumulated over the past 14 years.

They have four children -- Catliane, 2; Colby, 6; Courtney, 9; and Cody, 13.

The fire was caused by an electrical short in the girls' bedroom about 8 p.m., Williams said. "I smelled something that smelled like a wire burning and called my cousin who's an electrician to get him to check it.

"But in one hour's time, the house was gone -- gone. We tried to put it out, but couldn't. It's something I hope nobody has to endure."

Williams said he and his wife got the children out then Mrs. Williams started crying that the cat was still inside.

"So I had to go back in and get a 35-pound cat out," Williams said.

Mrs. Williams said they lost everything and knew there wasn't going to be a Christmas this year. "The tree, everything, was gone. There was nothing left of any of it. But the main thing is that we got out of the house with our children and our cat."

"You sit there and cry," added Williams. "The pain, the anguish. The sentimental stuff that you had is gone. And we had no insurance on any of it.

"But we're strong enough, and I've got some good backing, and we're going to come back from it. It still hurts to talk about it," Williams said with tears in his eyes.

They were thrilled to receive a white tree with silver and white decorations. There were even white birds with long white tails throughout the tree. They will put the tree in their temporary home -- a mobile home provided free of charge by Clark's Mobile Home Movers.

The recipient of a green tree with red decorations on it was Rachel Owens and her 2-year-old daughter, Tala, who live at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. Mrs. Owens' husband, Airman First Class Dorian Owens, has been deployed since the end of September and is not expected back until February.

"This is our first Christmas being married," said Mrs. Owens. "I'm really excited about getting a tree. I'm about to cry right now. It's beautiful, and I couldn't imagine ever receiving something like that."

Richard Lambert, Family Support Center, said the couple have been married less than a year and Mrs. Owens has been here only since June. They couldn't afford a tree or decorations, and Mrs. Owens has only two or three ornaments she brought with her from her family's home in Washington state. "She had a couple gifts in the corner, but not a tree," Lambert said.

"When Tala saw the tree in her home, her eyes lit up. It was a heartfelt moment when you see a child's unadulterated joy. We know that's one little girl who's going to have a Christmas tree this year."

Mrs. Owens said she's going to keep the tree up until her husband returns from deployment because Christmas is his favorite holiday.

A third tree was to go to single mom Retta White and her 11-year-old daughter, Cierra. Cierra has sickle cell anemia and has to make frequent trips to Greenville. Ms. White was chosen through the Wayne Opportunity Center.

Target has been doing its Adopt-A-Tree program here since the store opened in 1995, said Daphne Cain, store manager.

"Each year, we give away all the trees we decorate and that could be up to five," she said. "We give them to United Way and they find needy families in the local area."

She said everybody has been grateful for the trees, and they help a lot of families during the holidays.

"We do it to give back to our community," said Ms. Cain. "We are going to continue to do it. We like to support the people that support us."

The trees are valued at $450 each.