The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

December 31, 2012

The true spirit of Christmas

There is a Santa Claus

The Daily Southerner

TARBORO — One Tarboro family facing a difficult holiday season experienced the true spirit of Christmas this year.

On Christmas morning, the Owens family opened the door of their home to find dozens of presents on their front porch, thanks to family friend Paula Mazingo.

“It was exciting, just to see their faces and their smiles,” said Tammy Owens, matriarch of the family of 12. “I cried all day. I was thankful for Ms. Paula. I didn’t know there was people out there who really cared like she showed me. She showed me what the true meaning of Christmas really was.”

Owens had already sat her children down and told them not to expect anything for Christmas this year because the family’s “funds were depleted,” so the gifts came as a shock to them.

“I was excited,” said 16-year-old Suzanne Owens. “I didn’t think it was going to be anything [for Christmas.] I saw a lot of smiles.”

Suzanne received a neon green picture frame with white polka dots and a nightstand with “LOL” on it.

As the New Year approaches, gifts and donations from community members and businesses are still pouring in for the Owens Family. People from Edgecombe, Nash, Wayne and Wilson Counties have donated to the family. On Sunday, Mazingo delivered three beds and box springs to the Owens.

“I’ve still got an outpouring of love for this family right here,” Mazingo said. “Once the word got out, people were just taking money out of their pockets.”

Pattie Owens, 13, expressed her appreciation for the generosity the community showed her family.

“They did that so whenever they need help, we are there to help them,” said Pattie. A Wii game system was favorite Christmas present because “everybody can play it.”

“I bought a lot of things the whole family could enjoy,” Mazingo said. Other household gifts included a coffee maker, microwave, heater and flat-screen TV.

“My kitchen!” was 3-year-old Destiny Owens’ favorite Christmas present. Destiny received a pink-and-purple toy kitchen. Destiny has spina bifida and has to go to Duke four times per year, but despite her condition, Owens said her granddaughter always has a smile on her face.

For Owens’ stepson, 20-year-old Charlie Owens, a black, yellow and red bicycle is hands-down his favorite gift.

“He’s been sharing, letting his sisters ride,” Owens said. Charlie’s sisters joke that he looks like Batman, riding the bike with his jacket flapping in the wind like a cape.

Mazingo’s daughter, Emily, is in the same class at Tarboro High School with one of the Owens children, and that’s how she learned that the Owens children weren’t going to receive Christmas presents. She recalled a time years ago when she didn’t have the money to buy her daughter Emily gifts for Christmas and a community member – Bobby Murray – stepped in and gave Emily “a Barbie jeep and lots of other things” that she wouldn’t have received otherwise.

“It just warms my heart to do for people, because I’ve been in that situation in years past,” Mazingo said. “I felt like the Lord just placed it on my heart.”

Before Christmas, Owens said she had been to the Department of Social Services and several churches and “just couldn’t get the help that I needed.” She and her husband John both had lost their jobs and were forced to move out of their home. Her daughter Amanda Webb opened the doors of her home to the couple in November, bringing the number of household members up to 12, on a limited income. Helping the Owens Family in their time of need inspired Mazingo to continue to help families at Christmastime.

“I want to adopt a family each and every year.” Mazingo said. “I’m going to take applications and get the most needy family. I’m hoping to adopt more than one family next year depending on how much I raise,”