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One local family won’t let COVID spoil the holidays.
When COVID-19 hit Brooks, Georgia, the first thing Angel Girard noticed in her neighborhood Facebook group, “Life in the Brooks Bubble,” was concern over a canceled Easter. As it so happens, Angel had an Easter bunny costume from Amazon, and a laid-back husband, Stephen, who rarely says no to her.
She also lives up to her name. Once Angel posted that the Easter bunny would be cruising the neighborhood in a droptop Mustang and to listen for the music playing from the car speakers, people responded by asking if the Girards could come down their street. What was meant to be a quick, one-hour tour turned into a seven-hour parade.
But Angel maintains that the good deed did just as much for them as it did her neighbors. Stephen’s daughter passed away in a car accident a year earlier and they were still very much reeling from the loss. The holiday was going to be a hard one. But the messages and letters Stephen received telling him how much the Easter bunny brightened their holiday brightened his too. One girl even drew him a picture and wrote “I love you, Easter bunny.”
A native Pennsylvanian, Angel’s move to Georgia wasn’t quite what she expected—people mostly kept to themselves. Four years ago, she moved within the state, this time to Brooks. Brooks was much closer to what she expected from the south: people were just plain friendly, and there’s a local gas station where you can buy a really good steak.
Come Christmastime, the Girards were at it again, swapping Stephen’s Easter bunny costume for Santa and Mrs. Claus. While doing some Christmas shopping in character, the Girards met a down-on-their-luck family of five kids who wouldn’t be able to afford a Christmas. Angel posted in the Brooks Bubble, asking if anyone would like to donate presents. Once again, Brooks showed up and showed out—there was such an excess they had to find other kids to give gifts to.
The Fayette County suburb about an hour south of Atlanta only has a population of around 550. But they don’t let their size get in the way of their capacity to help. “If there’s a need, it just gets met,” says Angel. And that Brooks attitude isn’t relegated to the city limits, either. It’s boundless.
One young woman was finally able to get out of an unhealthy relationship and leave Brooks for South Carolina, where she and her two kids would make a new start. They had a small apartment and little furniture. They kept food and medication in a cooler that needed fresh ice daily because they didn’t yet have a refrigerator.
Angel had befriended the woman while she was touring as Mrs. Claus and asked the Brooks Bubble if there was anything anyone could spare to help furnish the apartment. She was floored by the outpouring of donations for a family most of them had never met. There were couches and beds and tables and gift cards and home goods. According to Angel, she’d tell people the full story when she arrived to pick up the furniture, and they’d go back in the house and root through cabinets and closets for anything else they could spare.
The Girards filled up two trailers with donations and made the long trip to South Carolina to deliver them. Upon arrival, the mother began crying. “The second we set up the table, the kids immediately sat down with a bowl of cereal and a smile,” says Angel.
Even hundreds of miles away from Brooks, the kindness of its people could still be felt. Per Angel: “We’re not very big, but we do a lot of little things in a big way.”
In April of 2020, we heard people in our town being sad that due to COVID, there would be no Easter. My husband was sad too as he had recently lost his daughter in a car crash. In an attempt to spread a little joy to neighbors during such a stressful time for the world, he put on an Easter bunny costume and rode around town blaring Easter music and waving to everyone. Most of the town came out eagerly waiting for a glimpse of the Easter bunny. The letters and messages that followed warned his heart beyond belief.
In September, a young single mom was finally able to get out of an abusive relationship and start anew. She and her two children had not much more than the clothes on their backs. They were sleeping on air mattresses and eating on the cement floor, using a small cooler in place of a fridge. I put out a little request asking if anyone had any furniture or household items they were willing to donate to this family, and the town came through—BIG time. They donated so much to this family they’d never met that we had to take two trailers to deliver it. Brooks people literally furnished their entire apartment. We had so many donations we had to donate some elsewhere. People even donated gas money and gift cards for the four-hour drive. The second we set up the table, the kids quickly sat down with a bowl of cereal and a smile. That night was the first night they ate dinner as a family at the table. It wouldn’t have been possible without the generosity of our little town. Around this same time, a resident of our town lost his home in a fire. The town came through yet again providing shelter, meals, clothes, toys for the kids, etc.
At Christmas time, we were asked to make an appearance as Santa and Mrs. Claus. While doing so, we met a family with five children that couldn’t afford Christmas. I put the word out to our town, and once again, they gave with their whole hearts! They dropped off presents, sent gifts via Amazon, and gave hundreds of dollars in grocery gift cards for the family. They also donated so many presents that we were able to bring Christmas to several other families that might not have had Christmas otherwise.
I’ve never lived in a place with so many caring people.