On Thanksgiving, Americans give thanks for all the good things in their lives, from the food on their tables to the roofs over their heads. On that holiday in 2016, though, one family didn't have much to cherish. They didn’t even have a home to call their own. So, a local woman decided to step in and do something truly remarkable for them.
Hitting the road
At the end of 2016, things weren’t going at all to plan for Olivia and her husband, Eric. Originally from Florida, the couple and their three children had hit the road in the hope of finding work opportunities. They traveled around in what used to be a school bus; it had since been transformed on the inside in order to make it habitable for the five of them.
Looking for work
Olivia and Eric didn't have much luck finding employment, though. And after fruitlessly trying to get work in Missouri, they and their children ended up in Colorado around Thanksgiving, in late November. This was because the pair had been told that there were plenty of jobs in the state.
A series of setbacks
However, a series of events meant that Olivia and Eric were unable to take advantage of any work opportunities. Olivia was heavily pregnant, for one, while Eric had also had all of his personal identification stolen. As a result, money was extremely tight for the couple, meaning that they were no longer able to afford to park their bus at RV sites.
They had to sell their belongings
Consequently, Olivia and Eric began selling some of their belongings to improve their cashflow. Unfortunately, though, this didn’t provide the income the family sorely needed; they couldn’t even afford substantial food for themselves. And to make matters even worse, Olivia was breastfeeding her youngest child at the time.
A desperate situation
So on Thanksgiving, the family found themselves in a desperate situation. At a time when others were enjoying big get-togethers with plenty of delicious food, Olivia, Eric, and their children were sitting in their broken-down vehicle by a truck stop in Colorado.
Someone saw they needed help
The couple and their kids might have felt like they were all alone in the world, but they had no idea that somebody had noticed them struggling. And instead of ignoring the family, the stranger decided to do something to help. This kind member of the public was named Virginia Kinch.
They caught Virginia’s eye
Virginia was a local mom, who was busy spending her Thanksgiving helping others. She and her daughters had been delivering plates of food to people experiencing homelessness in the area when they spotted Olivia’s family living in the old school bus. They couldn't stop thinking about them; after all, a family living in a school bus is hard to forget!
She couldn't ignore them
At this time, the weather was bad, and Virginia was very worried about the family – especially the kids. Plenty of other people in the community would have ignored them and rushed back to their own Thanksgiving celebrations, but Virginia was different. She couldn’t just walk on by.
The spare house
So, after some discussion with her daughters, Virginia came up with a plan of action to help the family in need. Specifically, as Olivia, Eric, and the children didn’t have anywhere to live, the Good Samaritan decided to let them stay in a spare house she owned in Greeley.
A kind offer
That’s right: Virginia had a second house that she was planning on renting out or selling. But at that time, it was empty, and she couldn’t think of any better use for it than to house Olivia, Eric, and their brood. So, she drove down to find the family and make the kind offer.
"Those little babies in the cold"
Olivia couldn’t believe Virginia’s offer was real. In December 2017 the surprised mom told Colorado newspaper the Times-Call, “I thought it was a prank. That was my mindset, because nobody does that.” Offers like Virginia’s don't come around very often! But Virginia was deadly serious about her offer. She would later write on a GoFundMe page, “We just couldn’t leave them like that, those little babies in the cold.”
A home for the holidays
Of course, the generous offer was too good (and too necessary) for Olivia and Eric to pass up. The family accepted the amazing invitation from the total stranger, and they even went round to Virginia’s house for dinner. Then they officially moved into the empty house in Greeley. They had a home for the holidays!
More kind donations
But Virginia didn’t stop at merely offering up her property. She also asked around the neighborhood for donations that might help the family even further. And kind locals duly gave food, furniture, and clothes, setting Olivia, Eric, and their children up for the future — and a merry Christmas. But the Colorado community helped Olivia and Eric in other ways, too.
Slowly but surely
For one thing, a local church helped Eric replace his lost identification. Olivia, meanwhile, was finally able to find the kids some daycare; this in turn freed her up to apply for jobs and attend interviews. With every job application she sent in, Olivia felt more and more certain that her family would end up back on their own two feet.
Nothing but grateful
Finally, then, things started to look up for the family, who, just a matter of days before, had been facing real hardships. For the first time in months, the family saw a light at the end of the tunnel. And Olivia opened up to the Times-Call about just how grateful she was that Virginia had bothered to help them.
Virginia was an "angel"
Olivia said, “It can be really difficult to get out of homelessness. People don’t understand that it’s so unstable, it’s so hard to get your footing and get out of it.” She even described Virginia as an “angel,” who may have played a part in really saving her life. What’s more, Olivia and her family were told that they were welcome to stay in the house until they were back on their feet.
Virginia’s impressive idea
And to that end, Virginia set up a GoFundMe page to help with the financial side of putting them up. But it turns out that the kind-hearted woman had an even bigger plan for the future. You see, Virginia had no trouble using the power of the world wide web to enact positive change. She had an impressive idea in mind.
A safe space
Virginia was determined to help another family in the same unfortunate situation as Olivia. Therefore, with the help of the fundraising page, she intended to raise enough cash to turn her second home into a “Baby Angel House” – a safe space for homeless children to stay in the future.
An admirable goal
And Virginia rallied people to the cause by saying on the GoFundMe page, “Let’s partner to help babies get out of the cold! We could be saving these babies’ lives!” To date, then, the page has raised a total of $5,953 – an amount that will surely help Virginia to support other families in need when the time comes. And as Virginia no doubt learned, it's not a matter of if the time comes, but when.
She fell on hard times
After all, there's always someone in your community who could use a helping hand, even if they seem like the "perfect" caretaker. Being a mother is no easy task as any parent can tell you, but a great-grandmother known as Ms. Ella from Las Vegas, Nevada, didn’t stop there. She went on to bring up her grandchildren and is raising six great-grandchildren, too! And when the kindly senior fell on hard times, the community noticed her good heart – and prepared the biggest surprise for her.
Throughout her tribulations, Ms. Ella always kept her faith, and raised her surrogate children to do the same. But that belief system was no doubt tested when the great-grandma encountered a run of bad luck at the worst possible time. And in winter things came to a head for her extended family, with devastating results.
To be more specific, bills mounted up, and Ms. Ella struggled to make ends meet. Indeed, things were so tough that she didn’t know whether the family would even manage to celebrate Christmas. But the kindhearted senior’s wishes were about to become true, thanks in part to a friend from another state.
Ms. Ella, who is a military widow, has dedicated her life to her loved ones. But everyone needs a helping hand occasionally – and this benevolent great-grandmother was long since overdue one after all the good she’s done for her family.
Ms. Ella has no local friends to rely on and does almost everything herself. All of her income goes on feeding her great-grandchildren and paying the bills. But when her house fell into disrepair, it left Ms. Ella with even more problems. Fortunately, there were people looking out for her from afar.
A best friend
You see, Ms. Ella has the emotional support of her Californian best friend, Alicestine “Ms. Alice” Miller. Unfortunately, the geographical distance limits contact, and they don’t get to meet up often. Nevertheless, the pair have remained firm friends. In fact, it was Miller that helped arrange her bestie’s incredible surprise.
Unable to do much to physically help Ms. Ella, Miller contacted someone who could: the Fox5 Surprise Squad. For its part, the network’s viewership can nominate people they think deserve a special act of kindness for their good work. Fox5 subsequently sends a surprise team to the chosen nominee and offers them a helping hand.
Meanwhile, the Fox5 Surprise Squad works with a number of different organizations to conduct its impressive work. United Nissan in Las Vegas, American Credit Union and Albertsons Vons all work together as a team with a common goal. According to the network, they want to “enhance luck and happiness” for the nominee who has given so much for others.
A letter to Fox5
And so Miller sent the Fox5 Surprise Squad a letter all about Ms. Ella’s selfless struggling friend. And in the subsequent video clip uploaded onto the channel’s official YouTube page in December 2018, it revealed what the correspondence said. Reporter Cassandra Jones reads out, “Dear Fox5 Surprise Squad. I need your help with helping a deserving friend of mine in dire need.”
So much with so little
“My friend Ms. Ella is a… great-grandmother raising six great-grandchildren by herself. They’re her life,” the letter continues. Ms. Alice can also be heard on the video saying, “She cooks, she cleans for the children, she’s truly just a good person.” However, she reveals Ms. Ella’s financial support is limited and inadequate.
“The help she receives each month is just not enough to get by,” Jones quotes. Miller explains to Fox5 via telephone that she’s tried her best to help her friend whenever possible. For example, one problematic issue for Ms. Ella was her house’s leaking water system.
Hoping for the light
In the video, Miller explains, “[Ms. Ella] needs someone to help her with the water at the house. That bill is $900 and she pays $200 a month on it – and it’s not going down. Sometimes, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, you know?” Indeed, Ms. Alice hoped the Fox5 Surprise Squad would be that light.
Visiting Ms. Ella
Without intervention, Ms. Ella and her great-grandchildren wouldn’t be able to celebrate Christmas. But the great-grandmother’s plight and her close friendship with Ms. Alice touched the Fox5 team. As a result, they decided to visit Ms. Ella. Her friend only hoped she could witness the moment the surprise team arrived.
Seeing her reaction
“I just wish I could see her if you guys knocked on her door, oh my God,” Ms. Alice chuckles in the video. She continues, “I want her to know that someone cares.” And soon Ms. Ella discovers that someone is indeed looking out for her when Fox5 arrives at the house and Jones introduces herself.
"We’re like sisters"
The minute Ms. Ella sees who’s on her doorstep, she becomes incredibly emotional and breaks down in tears. And when Jones tells the great-grandma that they got a letter from someone, she instantly knows who. Ms. Ella says mouths the name “Alice” through her tears, continuing, “We’re like sisters, she checks on me all the time.”
A surprise guest
As Jones holds the crying Ms. Ella, she announces the Fox5 Surprise Squad’s first gift. Reporter Jones continues, “Guess what? [Miller] is here today.” At first, the sobbing senior doesn’t believe her ears, but then her friend appears from around the corner. She embraces both Jones and Ms. Ella before heading inside to talk.
Rescuing her great-grandkids
After settling down, Jones asks Ms. Ella about her great-grandchildren and how she feels about them. She replies, “Oh Lord, they mean so much to me. They’re my heart, I had to rescue them.” However, through her tears, Ms. Ella admits that she can’t face a conversation about their past.
“I don’t want to go all into it,” the emotional great-grandmother says through her tears. Meanwhile, explains how she felt helpless too, unable to do anything but watch Ms. Ella suffer. The former exclaims, “And God knows what she’s going through, because she’s hurting and I’m hurting because I can’t help her.”
Miller then reveals how desperate the situation was for Ms. Ella and how things were on a knife edge. She says, “By the time she’s paid for the house, the car, insurance and fed six kids, everything is gone.” Furthermore, denying her great-grandchildren Christmas was heart-breaking for Ms. Ella.
Bringing in help
In the video, Ms. Ella elaborates, “I hate to say [we aren’t celebrating Christmas this year]. I say, ‘grandma will see about it.’ I’ve got to pay the bills, you know, first.” But her friend Miller’s letter got through to the people who could help. The Fox5 Surprise Squad then bring some kindly folk with them who are instrumental in turning Ms. Ella’s situation around.
To be specific, Jones introduces Ms. Ella to representatives of two different companies. Bob Cleveland is from the charity Rebuilding Together, which works to renovate and repair buildings in the community. Between 1988 and 2018, the organization’s renovated over 210,000 structures and has over four million volunteers assisting it.
Plumbing problems gone
In addition, Beckie White of Aqua Plumbing accompanies the Surprise Squad. And together, they promise Ms. Ella they will help get her home into shape in their own special ways. For Cleveland’s part, his work will focus on repairing the damage to the great-grandma’s property. And he describes what he would do on the video.
Taking care of it all
“We’re going to take care of all the water issues in the yard,” Cleveland tells Ms. Ella. He continues, “We’re going to fix the leak in the yard [and] we’re going to replace the toilets.” Then White adds, “We’re going to pay the balance of the water bill for you, so you don’t have to worry about it anymore.”
Overcome with joy
Ms. Ella can’t believe what she’s hearing and her mouth drops open in surprise. Then she bursts into tears of joy as she shares hugs with both [Miller] and White. And touchingly, Ms. Ella’s face lights up with a smile of genuine happiness.
Surprise spa day
“I feel good,” Ms. Ella says, laughing heartily. But that’s just the beginning of the Surprise Squad’s gifts, as Jones subsequently reveals. In fact, they’ve also arranged a treat for both her and Ms. Alice. Indeed, Fox5 have arranged a spa day for both women while the team fixes up the senior’s house.
Riding in style
“We want you guys to be able to enjoy each other, reconnect, catch up, spend some time together,” Jones says. And when the reporter leads Ms. Alice and Ms. Ella outside, they discover they’ll be travelling in style. Indeed, a limousine is waiting for the women, driven by a chauffeur holding a beautiful bunch of flowers.
Getting to work
As the limousine takes the ladies away, work begins on Ms. Ella’s property in earnest. Jones says, “Our whole squad is here, even station management. Everybody’s getting their hands dirty, pitching in to give those kids the best Christmas possible.”
Above and beyond
Furthermore, Artie White of Aqua Plumbing says Ms. Ella’s future water bills should be much lower. He adds, “She doesn’t need to be spending all her money on her water bill [and it] should go down somewhere between $35 and $40.” Additionally, the Surprise Squad have even replaced Ms. Ella’s weathered furniture.
All new furnishings
Meanwhile, RC Willey Home Furnishings swings by to supply Ms. Ella with some lovely new home décor. And by the time they’re finished, the great-grandmother’s house looks like an entirely new property. Then the only thing left is to wait for the lady of the hour to come home and witness the Surprise Squad’s incredible work.
After a day in the spa, a refreshed Ms. Ella arrives back to a fanfare of applause from the crowd assembled in her front yard. Fox5 Surprise Squad newcomer Faven Kay meets the great-grandmother, who states she enjoyed her spa day and even got her hair dyed. Kay then informs Ms. Ella, “We fixed the water leak concerns for you, so you don’t have to worry about that.”
“And we really wanted to spread a little extra Christmas cheer, because you so deserve it,” Kay continues. And with that, the team leads Ms. Ella inside to see what changes they’ve made. But when she walks through the door, the great-grandma is so overcome with emotion she has to sit down and falls into the nearest chair.
“It’s so beautiful,” an emotional Ms. Ella says through her tears of joy. However, the changes go far beyond the living room, as Kay explains to the stunned great-grandmother. And as Ms. Ella catches her breath, Kay tells her, “As you can see, you have some new furniture and a new TV.”
Christmas for everyone
“Ms. Ella, as you can see, there are also some Christmas presents for all your great-grandkids,” Kay continues. “Along with $500 gift cards for each and every one of them, so you can take them Christmas shopping.” And the reporter highlights a gift on the tree for Ms. Ella herself, too.
Showered with gifts
Kay adds, “And we know you like to cook, right? There’s a $500 Albertson's gift card there for you to make that happen for them.” Yet even being showered with all these gifts, Ms. Ella’s mind is still on her great-grandchildren. She marvels, “Oh, they are going to have a fit.”
So different and so happy
Fox5’s Kay has one question for Ms. Ella: how will this Christmas be different from the previous one? And the latter responds, “The [children] can get what they want and then we’ve got pretty furniture. It was a lot. It will be so different and so happy.” And then comes the Surprise Squad’s final treat.
A final gift
Kay introduces a friend of the network who’s very keen to meet Ms. Ella: Don Forman, co-owner of United Nissan. He asks for a hug from the big-hearted great-grandmother as soon as he sees her and then explains his presence. He’s there to present her with something concealed in the red gift box he carries.
Inside the box
“So, from our family at United Nissan, we’ve got a little gift for you,” Forman says. “We thought this would be fantastic for the holidays.” He subsequently draws Ms. Ella’s attention to the package he placed on the table. He then gestures her to open it and explains its contents as she does.
“So, we’re going to pay for your house for the next year,” Forman then announces. And Miller looks just as surprised as Ms. Ella, who can’t believe what’s happening. She hides her face in her hands before reaching out to the man for another hug. Ms. Ella then adds, “Thank you,” followed by Miller, who says, “That is so wonderful!”
It's about the love
Then when Ms. Ella’s great-grandchildren return home, they can’t believe what’s happened. They look around the house open-mouthed at all the new furniture, then head straight to their great-grandma for a hug. Then, one of the children says of Christmas, “It’s not about the presents, it’s about the love in your family.”
And as for the Surprise Squad, they just feel blessed to have been able to help Ms. Ella. Forman adds, “She has love pouring out of her, she lights you up inside. And every word she was saying, I was tearing up because she’s just real, she’s loving and she’s fantastic.”