ATLANTA - FOX 5 viewers and the community went above and beyond to help a mother of six who lost most of her belongings after a huge tree crushed a large section of the home during Tropical Storm Zeta.
After hearing her story, an Atlanta-area church held a clothing drive Saturday for Valerie Smith and her children.
FOX 5 introduced you to Smith on November 10, nearly two weeks after the tropical storm upended her entire life. She recalled the sound of her 11-year-old screaming as she tried to rescue the girl after an oak tree crashed through the roof around 4 a.m.
But it was Smith's resolve and expression of faith that seemed to move viewers in a meaningful way. Several people reached out to FOX 5 to help.
One, who gave the mother of six a donation for motel fees, told FOX 5's Portia Bruner Smith inspired her.
"To see that picture of her children sprawled out across two motel beds trying to do their school work really got to me. And for her to be able to stand there in front of that broken house knowing everything she lost and still be able to praise God, I knew had to do something to help," said the viewer who asked to remain anonymous.
Rev. Derrick Rice, the pastor of Sankofa United Church of Christ, said he was also moved by Smith's resilience and called on his congregation to help.
"It's all summed up in the 5th chapter of Galatians. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. This mother is clearly a strong woman, but she and her children need our help. The church and the village have a responsibility to respond and restore families. This is a Sankofa moment," said Rev. Rice.
Members of the congregation and FOX 5 viewers donated money to help the Smiths cover food and motel fees while Smith looks for a home to rent near Campbellton Road. She wants to ensure her children can remain in their current elementary and middle schools.
On Saturday, the church held a clothing drive, gathering boxes of food and bags of clothes to help the family rebuild. This week, the church also invited Smith to attend so she can rebuild wardrobes for two sons and four daughters who range from kindergarten to 8th grade.
Smith says she's amazed and thankful for the outpouring of support from the community.
"I'm really speechless right now, but I'm thankful for all that y'all done for me. People who I don't know are coming to help me and my kids," she said. "I really appreciate it."
To donate directly to the Smith family, click here.
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