Losing two transmissions, making two round-trips to Columbia each work day, getting surgery and paying for regular costs of supporting a family of four could not stop Christmas cheer from being delivered this week.
The second-annual City of …
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The second-annual City of Sumter Christmas Wish Giveaway brought joy and relief to the Keith family Thursday night at the Walmart Supercenter on Broad Street, where husband Anthony, wife, Chari, and children Alonna and Zoey were given a $500 shopping spree thanks to a woman who nominated them for the contest.
"It started with a conversation a couple years ago with Sumter Tourism and Downtown Sumter on how we could give back to the community and spread some Christmas cheer," said Shelley Kile, spokeswoman for the city.
The city asked for nominations of a person or a family who lives in Sumter and deserves the $500 spending limit on anything in Sumter. Forms were available at the Sumter Opera House and Swan Lake Visitors Center.
The Keiths chose Walmart because it afforded them the chance to get both toys and presents for their daughters and daily necessities such as food and cleaning supplies.
"To be able to get everything on our list and cross it off is a great relief for me being the husband and provider for our family. And to be able to provide a good Christmas for my kids," Anthony Keith said.
This was a rough year for the Keith family.
They had transmissions in two cars die within 45 days of each other. Keith has a good job at Amazon, but it is in Columbia. His wife, Chari, has been driving him to work and picking him up every day, making four trips each work day on top of caring for two children.
Then Keith tore his meniscus and had to get surgery.
"Life happens to everybody. Everybody has difficult times," he said. "Everybody needs a helping hand at some time in their life."
That helping hand came in the form of Melanie Dees.
The associate pastor at Grace Cathedral Ministries on Oswego Road has known the family for about three years now, she said, and thought of them and their hardships when she read about the giveaway in The Sumter Item.
"I knew their situation wasn't what they wanted it to be, and if I knew that and I had the opportunity to do something about it, even if it wasn't my own money, why not do it?" she said.
Dees said she grew up in a large family learning to share, a trait that has followed her into adulthood.
"We've forgotten common courtesies. That it doesn't take a lot for me to just be kind. Everybody is angry," she said. "These are children that are being exposed to something good and have the opportunity to grow into great adults, as well."
She said she tries to pay it forward whenever she can, usually staying in the background. Because this giveaway is a promotion, though, she felt OK with talking about her part so others could nominate deserving Sumterites next year.
"We put so much pressure on people to be great, so to speak, this time of the year," she said. "But, if you're nice all year long, this time of the year is just second nature. You just automatically do it."
Anthony Keith, his wife and daughters by his side, was all smiles Thursday night, carts and hearts full.
"The only gifts under the tree now are the ones the school gave them," he said. "Now, we got to fill up the pantry and fill up the Christmas tree."
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