When a Forsyth County resident took to Facebook to ask for recommendations for putting up Christmas lights, she said she had no idea how she and her husband, who has cancer, would be embraced by such an “open and trusting and loving” community.
Susan Williams, who has lived in the county since 2013, said she originally shared her story on the Focus on Forsyth County Facebook group just to get business recommendations.
“We weren’t asking for handouts,” she said. “I really just wanted someone to come fix the lights or take them down.”
Williams said her family’s problems began when their usual handyman who put Christmas lights on their house “was ghosting” them and other clients.
She then found another company on the cheaper side to do it as she was uncomfortable getting on the ladder herself to climb up two stories to string lights.
Williams’ husband has stage 4 bladder cancer, so she was equally as uncomfortable with him up on the roof.
“I really wanted [this year] to be festive and nice since we really don’t know what the future holds,” she said.
Williams said the company she hired came out to the house and put up part of her lights and returned another day to finish when Williams went out of town, unable to oversee the process.
“I didn’t know until when I got home what a fiasco they left,” she said.
She found that only one end of the house had an extension cord attached, and she couldn’t find a power source for the rest of the lights. Williams called the company and asked to have the lights fixed, but they were somewhat evasive, she said.
“So, after about two weeks, I was like OK I’m done. I want my lights to work,” she said.
After posting about her situation on Facebook, Williams said people and businesses began responding.
“I expected people to respond, but not the way they did. Totally overwhelming. Literally, there’s been multiple times where I’ve been in tears about the way this community rallied around us,” she said. “I was totally blown away.”
Christmas tree light businesses offered to do the job for free. Others said they would give their extension cords away and could stop by with a ladder to figure it out. Many offered prayers, encouragement and holiday wishes to the family.
Describing the community’s willingness to help, Williams said she got chills.
“At some point, I stopped declining and started saying thank you,” she said. “It’s really hard to ask for help, especially as independent as we’ve been for so long. But I just seriously am blown away.”
Alex Wilson with BAM Christmas Lighting was at the Williams’ house soon after seeing the post, and Wilson and his team got to work outside.
Williams said Wilson also had his team take down the light over their stairs so she could clean it, and they rehung it for her afterward.
“It was just unbelievable kindness. I just can’t get over it,” she said.
Dayle Smalls at The Carter Treatment Center, a drug and alcohol addiction rehab center, donated $500 to the Williams family after hearing Williams’ story, stating in a comment on Facebook, “You just deserve great things.”
Williams said the money will replace the family’s broken microwave, and the rest she will donate to her son’s friend Elijah, who was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia when he was 13.
Another woman, Stephanie Swofford Sheets, and her employer donated money for the family to have a Honey Baked Ham for Christmas. Mandy Collins-Wilson, who has a cleaning company, offered to clean the Williams’ house so it is “sparkling and shining for Christmas.”
“These are all people who don’t know me,” she said. “I mean, I could’ve been lying; I could have been scamming. But they didn’t ask questions or doubt. They just opened up their hearts and gave.”
Williams is still in shock at how generous the community is.
“I’m hoping that my husband will still be here next year, but if he’s not, we’ve certainly managed to make it a memorable and bright Christmas.”
Referencing one of her favorite movies, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Williams said she felt like George Bailey “when the whole town comes around and gives a dollar here or $20 there.”
“I’ve never quite lived in a community like this,” she said. “It just speaks volumes, and I don’t think I want to ever leave this county now because of it.”