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Strangers saved a News Neediest family’s Christmas, and the family paid it forward

In those horrible weeks before Christmas, when someone stole all of Del Summers’ tools and his boss fired him by text message, the worried father of three tried to make the best of things as one job lead after another fizzled.

Bills mounted. The family applied for food stamps. They checked pawn shops for the missing $11,000 worth of tools while hoping police would find the thief.

Then, as 2015 turned to 2016, strangers stepped in to give Summers and his family what turned out to be one of their best Christmases ever.

And things got even better when Summers started his new job at Mavis Discount Tire last week.

Even though his wife, Lora Davis, a stocker at Walmart, hasn’t had much of a chance to ask him how it’s going, she knows this:

“He likes it,” Davis said of her husband’s new job. “I work. He works. We pretty much don’t see each other very much.”

A story about their plight in the News Neediest series rallied helpers. People sent checks and bought grocery store gift cards. A retired mechanic offered his tools, games for the children and a chicken to roast for dinner. With news of each new donation, Davis cried a little.

“It made me open my eyes and see that there are still good people out here in the world,” said Davis, 29. “When you do everything on your own and you’ve been through hard times before, you don’t expect people to help you.”

Even the landlord called. Usually he wants to know when they’re going to pay the rent. This time he asked if the tools were still missing, offered $50 off the monthly bill and said, “Merry Christmas.”

“I was in big shock,” said Davis. “It made me really happy.”

When Christmas finally came, there was money for presents for everyone, including snow boots and socks. The boys were so interested in their new toys they all played instead of watching holiday movies like they usually do after opening gifts.

The oldest, 9-year-old Dominick, loves music and was thrilled with his radio. Five-year-old Collin set up his play tent in the living room. One-year-old Liam was happy in his new play pit filled with balls.

Davis got a nice black zip sweater and Summers had new jeans. They had so much of everything, she had to share their good fortune.

So they took their roast out of the oven and made up a plate of food for a friendly, homeless man they always drive by at the corner of Bailey and Broadway. They don’t usually have money to share, but whenever they have an unopened drink in the car, they hand it to him.

Once they ran into him at a store where he was using $5 they had given him to buy a sandwich. “A lot of people just give you a story to get what they want,” said Davis, who found that this man’s plight was genuine.

On Christmas, Summers drove to the man’s spot and hung the bag with his dinner on the fence with a note that the man found soon after:

“This is for you. Merry Christmas from the Summers family.”