Bath community heaps Christmas cheer upon family in need - Catholic Courier

Bath community heaps Christmas cheer upon family in need

For stirring examples of the Christmas spirit of giving, few can match this heartwarming story out of central Steuben County.

There, the Thompson family’s home was destroyed by fire on Dec. 10. Although nobody was injured, four young children — ranging in age from 7 months to 6 years old — and their parents were left without a home for Christmas celebrations or daily living. To make matters worse, the house was uninsured.

Enter Paula Gardner, an active volunteer with St. Mary Parish in Bath. Even though she did not know the Thompsons personally, Gardner spearheaded outreach efforts by describing the family’s plight to Sunday-Mass congregations and contacting the American Red Cross and local media.

The result was a gigantic wave of support. According to Deacon Raymond Defendorf, St. Mary’s pastoral administrator, concerned people stopped by the parish office with checks for the Thompsons. In addition, Bath-area individuals, businesses and church communities pitched in by donating clothes, toys, other Christmas gifts, household necessities, food, money and furniture.

On the night of Dec. 23, in a spectacular culmination of this generosity, "Santa" arrived on a Bath Volunteer Fire Department truck to deliver the many donated gifts to the Thompsons’ temporary residence. Deacon Defendorf noted that the fire engine, which was adorned with Christmas lights, couldn’t hold everything, and so trucks and vans were loaded up as well.

The stirring series of events became the basis of Deacon Defendorf’s Christmas homily, during which he described many parallels to the original Christmas story. In his homily he referred to Gardner as a Christmas angel, and described how "on a very cold winter’s night, love had descended on a family that had lost everything, but gained hundreds of friends."


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