A terrible national disaster has brought out the best in some people. No one knows that more than one New Orleans couple who ended up at Camp Gruber.
We've all heard the stories of folks giving food, toiletries and of course their time to evacuees. One couple has been given the gift of a new start. News on 6 reporter Ashli Sims has their story.
Three weeks ago Melvin Latham and his wife Leslie, lost everything. Now he's hundreds of miles from home, standing in front of a new vehicle given to him by a total stranger. Melvin Latham: "The kind of blessing this is, it just boggles my mind when I think about it." Itâ€™s been a mind-boggling couple of weeks for the Latham family.
They heard the warnings about Katrina and they took them seriously, but they couldn't leave their home. Melvin Latham: "we decided to stay because all of our children hadn't been accounted for." The house shook and the couple prayed. When the storm passed with barely a window broken, they thought they were in the clear. â€œIt was only maybe a foot of water outside and we thought we could deal with that. We went to bed that night and the next morning the water was chest-high to me and I'm 6'2.â€
They waded through the murky waters to join their children at the convention center in New Orleans. Melvin: "the smells and the trash and the people there, it was bad."
After days of waiting and hours on a bus, they arrived at Camp Gruber. They tried to settle in, joining a church. Despite all they had been through Leslie Latham was determined to give an offering to their new church. Melvin and Leslie Latham: "she tried to force the envelopes in his hand I say you have to take this so our blessings can be released he said I can't take this ya'll going through so much and I say don't make us miss out on our blessings."
No sooner had their pastor taken the money. Someone was calling their name to give them the best news they'd had in weeks. And the Latham's blessings don't end. In addition to a van, their benefactor is going to buy them a 6-bedroom 4-bathroom house in Tulsa. Melvin: "Kevin Stuart came over to us and said hey do yaâ€™ll want a house and I said yeah that's what we're here for and he says no do you want a house, I have someone that wants to give you a house and I said are you serious?" He was serious.
A benefactor, who did not want to give us his name, wanted to give the Lathams not only a house, but also a credit card to help them furnish it. Melvin and Leslie Latham: "its awesome I'm just awe-struck. To think someone could have that kind of compassion that kind of generosity. He's God-sent, he is God-sent. And to be so loving about it, to talk to him on the phone is like talking to your brother."
Any doubt Melvin had was wiped away when this car showed up. â€œI say God, if I'm dreaming don't let me wake up. All this happy couple can do is give thanks, hold on to each other, and get read to start their new life.â€
Again, this very big gift came from a benefactor who does not want to be named. The Latham's say he's an Oklahoma native who doesn't live in the state anymore, but wanted to do something to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. They're supposed to move into their new house in about two weeks.