Almost everything was destroyed. Only a few things were left that could be salvaged.
Even sadder, however, their burned residence was burglarized and even those salvaged items were taken — some clothes, electronics and so forth.
A neighbor saw someone with flashlights rummaging through the ruins. She thought the family was searching for items they could use, but not so. Someone was taking advantage of the situation to steal from those who had already lost so much.
Christy and Bernard Payne and their five children — Sarah, 15; Zack, 10; Jada, 12; Timothy, 9; and Leloni, 7 — like most families, were looking forward to Thanksgiving and getting ready for Christmas. Their plans made a U-turn as they were thrust into the distressing circumstance of not having a home.
Thankfully, the Red Cross was able to provide the Paynes a temporary place to stay until the family could move into a nearby mobile home. Although some furniture was provided, it was an empty place with no signs of Christmas and devoid of other “home” items such as window curtains.
The children had no Christmas tree to trim and no holiday decorations for their place. And Christy said that was so important to the children. It was something they had always looked forward to.
When the Cleveland Daily Banner employees were made aware of this, they decided to make sure the Paynes would have Christmas decorations and a request was sent around the office asking for their extras.
When Christy told the children they were getting a Christmas tree and Christmas decorations, their excitement had them asking, “When is the tree coming?” “When can we decorate?”
Pastor E. Roger Ammons of The Church of God, Southside, and his wife, Alice, coordinated the presentation of “Christmas” to the Paynes on Dec. 4. Mrs. Ammons regularly picks up the children for Sunday school, along with other children in the community.
The Payne children were not to be disappointed. Not only were Christmas decorations brought in for them, but sheets and pillowcases, curtains and other household items were included. Allen Mincey, a former Banner employee, brought over a pre-lit tree he had decided not to use this year and thought it would better serve the purpose at the Payne home.
Extra strings of lights were given to make sure the children could have a “bright” Christmas outside as well as inside.
It didn’t take long for the tree to go up. When the children got home from school, they were welcomed by their Christmas tree, twinkling with lights and ornaments. And their faces beamed.
Within minutes, a photo was sent to the Banner offices, thanking the employees for sharing their Christmas.