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Giving comfort and joy to family struck by tragedy
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Turn on the radio and you’ll be reminded that this is supposed to be the “most wonderful time of the year.”  While this is true for many, it’s a time of grief for others.  During the first week of this month, in Dekalb County, two children were left orphaned after a murder-suicide.  

If that weren’t enough, while a memorial was still in front of the family home, vandals ransacked the house.

People shook their heads in disbelief.  It was still the topic of conversation when Vashti Brooks stepped into her hair salon.  A customer was talking about the impact that the tragedy had on the family, especially a friend of hers, the victim’s mother and the children’s grandmother. Covington resident Diane Strong suddenly found herself raising a 15-year-old girl and an 8-year-old boy. Vashti wanted to do something.

“(At) Home Depot, we’re always trying to be a part of the community. This is just family to us.” So Vashti continued the conversation about what could be done to help. “I reached out to Ramona (operations manager) and Chad (merchandising manager) at the Conyers’ Home Depot and a couple of other stores.”

Both managers were on board. “We asked our associates if they wanted to help make the children’s Christmas a little brighter,” said Ms. Brooks. 

That kindness expanded to four Home Depot stores: Duluth #105, Wesley Chapel #118, Conyers #128 and Covington #165.  Store employees generously donated money toward gift cards and gifts.  

Conyers’ retail stores Jim N’ Nicks, IHOP, Chili’s, Chuck E. Cheese and Office Depot added to Santa’s bag.

The Newton Fire Department heard about the effort and volunteered to help.

On Dec. 17, Newton Engine 15 and a caravan of Home Depot employees arrived at Diane Strong’s house. At first, she thought the engine had come to help a neighbor. But when Santa and his elves climbed out, she realized that the delivery was for her.

 “I am so overwhelmed!” she said. Before gifts could be opened, Diane asked the group to wait. The children were doing homework at their aunt’s house.

“You are not going to believe this!” said Diane as she asked if the children could come home right away.  

When the two arrived, they were greeted with Santa and his gifts. The 15-year-old and her brother opened their first gifts quietly. 

“Thank you,” both said as they looked over the pile of early Christmas presents.

Tears were flowing, as Diane said, “Everybody has been so good to me and my grandkids. Thank you all. I’ll never forget this, never, ever.”