NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. — The Pasco County community is rallying around families this holiday season to help lift them up during tough times.
Friday, the West Pasco Pinellas Business Association, a local charity business group, hosted 'How the Grinch Saved Christmas.' Proceeds from the event, in its 9th year, help support community nominated families. This year, it included a surprise.
"It means everything, it's something we weren't expecting," said veteran Ryan Clarke.
His mother helps the organization, but had no idea they were planning to help her son and his family. So when Clarke and Kristi Agnew were called to the front, they were shocked to learn they now have a place to stay and a hand to help them get back on their feet.
"Now we have this opportunity, it's just like holy cow," said Clarke.
Clarke said they lost everything in a flood in 2016. They fell on hard times again when Agnew had a medical emergency and they dealt with a job loss. So they headed to Florida, forced to split their family, receiving help with Metropolitan Ministries.
"Was not expecting in any way, shape or form," said Agnew, at a loss for words.
WPPBA surprised them with a new place with a year's rent covered and utility deposits. Then the crowd started donating more money to help furnish the place. Clarke has a new job, Agnew is working and in school. But they say this donation means they and their kids can all be together again and helps get them back on their feet faster.
"He’s a veteran he deserves a second chance he had some bad breaks bad things happen to good people all the time," said the organization's chair, Barry Horvath.
The organization is helping several families have Christmas this season.
"I wasn’t going to be able to provide Christmas for my son so this means everything," said Teri Averill.
Averill, who said she's worked for non-profits, said they fell on hard times.
"We've been giving, helping as much as we can do, it feels good to get something back," said her son, Jay Cade.
Sarah Zamora said she's undergoing cancer treatment. She said she got the news her family was nominated at a biopsy appointment.
"We just couldn’t believe it it was like such amazing news and such a blessing," Zamora said.
Beyond the music, the gifts and the Christmas outfits at the fundraiser, was a spirit of giving hundreds hope catches on.
"There's always hope, even when you don't see it, even when you don't expect it," said Agnew.
If you are a veteran in the Tallahassee area that is in need of help, visit this website.