A Christmas season act of compassion by a Wallaceburg couple has spawned a wave of gratitude from the recipients and across the community.
In early December, Dave and Anita Hyatt offered to provide $1,000 to a family struggling to pay rent or their mortgage.
After the story appeared in the Dec. 14 edition of The Voice, anonymous donors added $3,000 to the fund.
On Christmas Eve, Melanie Lozon of Duchene Paint and Accent Alley drew the names of four individuals who will have payment-aided housing in January.
Dave said the couple received more than 100 nominations, often sent by friends or relatives of the nominees.
“When we started reading the emails, we realized there were so many deserving people that we couldn’t choose who would receive the money, so we asked Mel to draw random names,” Dave said.
Dave and Christina Moffat of Wallaceburg were selected and expressed thanks and gratitude.
“We’ve never asked for help for anything, and Dave was reluctant, but our circumstances have made this year difficult,” Christina said.
Christina has been dealing with Multiple Sclerosis since 2015 and Dave has been her caregiver, but those roles have been reversing since Dave was diagnosed with cancer in 2022.
“I had surgery in 2022 and we thought it was successful but we found out later that they didn’t get all of the tumor. The cancer has metastasized and is now in my liver, bones, and spleen. The pain is intensive and I’m now classified as in stage four and Christina has to take care of me,” he said.
“I’m his wife and there are some rough days, but I’m going to do all I can do to fight through this with Dave,” Christina said. “I feel so fortunate and happy that we don’t have to worry about rent next month.”
A local woman returning to school after 20 years said the money would mean a lot.
“I wanted to go back to school to make a better life for my family but it’s been challenging,” she said. “I’m working part-time but it has been a struggle. Every dollar counts so this will give me some breathing room.”
Bryer Keast and his partner were nominated by a friend who said the couple could take advantage of the paid-up housing to help defray costs associated with having two children under the age of four with significant medical conditions.
“Our first daughter was born with a serious heart condition so there were months at Sick Kids (Hospital) in Toronto. When we were dealing with that, we found out Mackenzie was pregnant, and our second daughter was born prematurely so we spent a lot of time at the London Children’s Hospital due to complications.”
Bryer said the constant worry and travel wore the couple down emotionally and financially.
“We could never catch a break; we just couldn’t get caught up. This money is such a blessing. I didn’t even know we had been nominated until a friend told us he did it.”
This August marked the first time in more than two years that the couple was able to be together with their children and celebrate a birthday.
“We’re very grateful,” Bryer said.
Sarah Strasse, who has had to turn to food banks to supplement her income, said she is terrified of losing what she has. Although things are tough right now, she plans on “paying it forward” as soon as possible.
Hyatt said the response from the community has been gratifying.
“I’d like to thank all who are involved. It only takes a spark to get a fire going. I pray to God that it was ignited. God bless all.”