I’ve just gotten the photos from our friend in Alabama who helped pull off this huge surprise for the Crawford and Lee ladies–the families who lost everything in the tornadoes that tore through Alabama in April. Once again, a huge, huge thank-you to everyone who sent physical donations. Such an abundance of sewing notions, fabrics, patterns, and gift cards came in! And thank you to all who donated to the fund-raiser to help rebuild the sewing rooms for these dear ladies. Thanks to BabyLock and Rita Farro of The Sewing Expo for the donation of the beautiful new sewing machines, and a huge debt of thanks is owed to Catherine and Shawn of The Sewing Machine Mart in Birmingham, who stored all the donations and coordinated the big unveiling. Thanks much to LAF writer Diane Shiffer, who organized and cataloged all the donations for the two families. This was definitely a group effort, and we are so thankful to everyone who took part.
Read on for the full details of this sweet day!
First, a word from Nan K. in Birmingham, who managed to get all the ladies in one place at one time (thank you, Nan!):
Just wanted to let you know the surprise day was a huge success! We had lunch at a little cafe that Catherine recommended (and it was delicious). We sat and talked for almost three hours, catching up and comparing notes on what we all remember from the storm days.
All the Lee girls were wearing lockets that held a picture of Tom in them – very sweet. When the manager realized who we were (the Lees and Crawfords), he said he had seen their stories on the news and insisted on sending us each home with a bag full of their wonderful cookies! We had such a wonderful time that the girls thought the lunch was the only surprise! Little did they know…
We arrived at the Sewing Machine Mart and Catherine pretended not to know why we were there. She showed us all around the store, then told them the story of receiving the call from Carol and how the surprise all came about. She gave them each several gift certificates and a wonderful iron and told them about the BabyLock machines. There was a man working at the store with her (in machine maintenance and repair) who had once worked with Tom Lee! He went into the back to get the sewing machines and came back with a cart filled to the top with huge boxes! All the girls were crying by now and Kelly told us that she had always dreamed of someday owning a BabyLock sewing machine! Sherry remembered the time Kelly had borrowed a BabyLock machine to make Christmas gifts. She fell in love with the machine and tried to interest the other ladies in the valley into going in together to purchase one to share! She was so thrilled at the thought of owning one at last!
Once again, we were all overwhelmed with the kindness and generosity of all the ladies who worked so hard to make this happen. The Lee girls told us that God has been so good to them. It’s like Christmas every day!
And here’s Catherine’s perspective on the day (emailed to Carol, who got the ball rolling on this idea in the first place–thank you, Carol!):
The day they came by, after I sort of played into the sweet scheme of the ladies taking the families to lunch, to a really nice small restaurant that I’d mentioned up the street from our shop, I began asking them all where they were from, as I always do with all our new visitors. The younger mom told me they’d lived in the Shoal Creek Valley, but lost their homes in the storm and were staying somewhere else for now. For the next several minutes we all just chatted.
When I saw all of them coming into the store, I buzzed my business partner Shawn in our service department – where he spends his days diligently working on machines – and quietly told him they were coming in so he could come up front. I asked if any of them had visited with us before, and one lady introduced herself, and said she’d called, and I said “Oh, yes, you called earlier today for directions.” And she played right along. The moms and the children walked around our shop, as so many of our sweet customers do, and looked at all the beautiful quilts and embroidered samples, and thread, and things in our store. When they finally made their way back up near our front counter, I just began talking with them again, and started telling them a story about how I’d received a telephone call several weeks before from a very sweet lady in Canada. And how that kind person began a movement that resulted in something that meant many very special gifts from other sewing people from all over the country, and beyond, who loved all of them and cared very much about them. At that point Shawn rolled out our very large, wide metal rolling cart with boxes piled high, and their new Baby Lock machines, and I gave them each their gift certificates, too.
We had so much on the cart we almost forgot their custom Baby Lock rolling luggage! One of our very sweet teachers, who I’d mentioned this to a week before it actually happened, gave me $100 and asked me if I would give that to the families also. So their were two $50 gift certificates more for our families.
All of them kept thanking me, and Shawn, and hugged us, and were so very appreciative of everything you had coordinated. I only wish you could have come that day, too. It was the same sort of feeling I had in my heart when I watched my mother hug my oldest brother, one of her 7 children, at Ft. Benning, GA the day he came in from a year away during Desert Shield and Desert Storm. God is very good to make the right people come together to make the very best things happen for those who need us most!
Lindsay pulled out her very big camera, and said she also wanted to take some photos outside as things were being loaded into their van and SUV. I asked her to make sure and get my business partner, Shawn, in that as he tends to be sort of quiet when it comes to that sort of thing. Afterwards she had us all stand in one big group in front of our store and took some photos.
Many thanks to all of you who were a part of this wonderful surprise. Thank you for your prayers for these families. Thank you for the cards and gifts and emails. Thank you to Lindsay for not only taking the pictures and helping coordinate the big day–but for doing so only four weeks out from her wedding!
It was such a blessing to see the Body of Christ coming together to help after the devastation of the terrible storms. Please keep praying for these LAF families and others who lost so much (including loved ones). Thank you!