Family repays community with holiday dinners (w/video)
HOW TO HELP
Jeremy Gonzales is done with donating Thanksgiving dinners, but because he's still receiving donations, he may make more runs to families in need. If you'd like to help, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeremy Gonzales knows what it's like to be in need - after all, his family's home burned down in September 2011.
Nobody was hurt in the fire, and the community came out to support his family, which Gonzales considered a blessing.
Now, he said it's his turn to return the favor to the community that had reached out to him.
"I want to teach my kids how to give back," the 35-year-old said. "It's not just Thanksgiving Day that people struggle with; it's every day."
The Gonzaleses, of Victoria, donated full Thanksgiving dinners Wednesday to nine families - an effort that was originally intended for one family in need, but through social media, gained a following.
Gonzales posted on Facebook that he was looking for a family in need, and he got one - plus more.
Gonzales' business, JG Painting & Remodeling, had a successful year, which is the reason giving back this year is a little easier.
Within a couple of days, comments, messages and more than 400 likes flooded his inbox, each detailing the story of a family needing even the simplest of Thanksgiving dinners.
There was the mother raising eight children. Then there was the grandmother who took in her extended family and was trying to do what she could to make ends meet.
Others reached out, Gonzales said, donating money and Thanksgiving items, so he can't take all the credit.
"It's amazing that people came together for this one thing," he said.
But of the nine stops Gonzales made Wednesday, one of the most touching was at Rebecca Koughn's South Laurent Street home.
Koughn, 51, a quiet woman, watched Gonzales approach her, carrying a large box filled with a turkey, sides, desserts, drinks, paper plates and utensils. Koughn is battling Stage 3 breast cancer and is inundated with medical bills and stresses.
"It's hard to explain how I feel," she said about the generosity. "I really appreciate it. They're all angels."
Koughn begins chemotherapy Monday and is already scheduling a double mastectomy.
The past several years have been rough, she said, adding that she has survived cervical cancer in 2005 and over the years has lost family members, including her aunt in August who died of cancer.
Accepting the help is difficult, Koughn said, though she knows she needs it.
"I usually try to do anything in the world to help others," she said. "I just can't do anything right now."
Gonzales can relate, he said, adding that everyone has their struggles at one point in their life - some more than others.
"We aren't rich or poor; we're just everyday people," he said. "But it's worth it."