Proper etiquette and manners dictate that if someone gives you a gift or goes out of their way in kindness, you respond with a thank you.
The problem with this particular incident for Kris Jeffers, his daughter Ashley Jeffers, and Ashley’s six -year old son Kristian was how to thank a community of strangers who opened their wallets, hearts and businesses after the family lost all their belongings to a house fire on December 20, 2017.
On top of losing everything so close to Christmas, it happened to be Ashley’s birthday.
In true Cranston fashion, Kris found out about the fire from her friend Gina. Gina’s brother, who is an electrician for Cranston Fire Department, was listening to the scanner and recognized the address.
“Gina called me at work, and said your house is on fire,” Kris said. “By the time I got there, my daughter Ashley was already there. The fire had been put out, and they had gone back in to rescue our 14-year-old dog Rambo.”
All their personal belongings as well as Christmas gifts were destroyed. The apartment was completely totaled either by the fire or water damage.
“I cried,” Kris said. “It was devastating. But I wasn’t scared because my family was safe. Everything else is just stuff and can be replaced.
The Red Cross showed up first and provided immediate necessities such as toothbrushes, toothpastes, toiletries, and a credit card to be used for a hotel.
“We were fortunate to be able to stay in my Mom’s basement, and sleep on air mattresses,” Kris said.
Then the news traveled throughout Cranston that a family was in need just five days before Christmas. A GoFundMe account was established and local parent Kerri Kelleher picked up the ball to get tangible donations for the family to get through the holidays.
“There are so many people to thank,” Kris said. “I could never be able to start a list because the people of Cranston just gave and gave. It was overwhelming how kind and caring they were. It really renewed my faith in people. These people didn't know me, my daughter or grandson. They just gave because we needed.”
Kerri arranged for Eden XO Salon to give Ashley a special birthday makeover and a day of pampering.
“My huge thank yous go out to all the Cranston families who took time out of their busy schedules to think of my family and donate all they did,” said Ashley. “Some of those families are the Fung family, Aramark, Phillips Memorial Church, and Eden XO for my amazing transformation. A huge thanks to my gator families from Glen Hills, I love being apart of the gators community. The Cranston fire department for all of their donations. George J. Peters, the panthers was a huge help to Kristian and myself. Kristian says he has the best principal and teachers ever.”
Kerri Kelleher, President of BASICS (Benefiting All Students in Cranston Schools), also realized the importance of being part of a supportive community.
"I saw it on our [BASICS] Facebook page, I know she a cafeteria worker at Glen Hills and her son goes to Peters,” she said. “It seemed like an important thing to help with.”
Kelleher said people, including Mayor Allan Fung and his wife Barbara Ann Fenton, dropped off many gifts. The Michael Traficante Senior Enrichment Center also donated gift certificates and money, and the police came through with a bike and tons of toys. Everyone wanted to help.
"I called Jane at Eden XO to get Ashley a makeover and to arrange a surprise for her to drop everything off while she was getting her hair done," Kelleher said.
She even made sure Santa showed up to help pass out the donations.
Cranston Teachers Alliance also contributed money to help.
“There were honestly so many donations, that we didn’t know where to start,” Kris said. “People gave toys and clothes for Kristian. The police department gave him a bike. Ashley and I got gift cards, clothes and people even gave toys for the dog.”
A friend of Ashley’s had given them a tree to put all the presents under.
“Kristian said ‘Santa found me,” Kris said emotionally.
Kris said she still is processing exactly what happened and is constantly thinking of the “what ifs.”
“I am not sleeping well, I am emotionally and mentally exhausted,” she said. “It is a process. We will get back on our feet and move ahead.”
After receiving all the support and gifts from people, Kris said she not only has renewed faith in people, but also wants to get more involved with volunteering.
“I want to give back. I need to show my appreciation,” she said.