NORTH FORSYTH — A 71-year-old northwest Forsyth woman had extra reason to celebrate this Easter after Forsyth County Sheriff’s deputies surprised her by raising $380 to replace church camp money stolen from her vehicle.
“I just broke down. That’s all I can tell you is I just broke down and cried. I couldn’t believe it,” Grace Samples said. “My granddaughter and my great-granddaughter was there and one of them was hollering, ‘Thank you, God.’ And she said, ‘Nanny, are those happy tears or sad tears?’
“It was just so overwhelming, I couldn’t believe it. I just didn’t think of anybody ever doing anything like that.”
Sheriff’s Deputy Rodney Pirkle, who handled the case Saturday and organized the fundraising effort, said Samples’ plight struck a chord.
“She’d done something I haven’t seen in seven years. She was crying,” he said. “When I got there, she was so upset about the loss of this money and there was no way that I could not put something together and try to collect as much as we could.”
After taking her statement, Pirkle sent a text message to other members of his shift and the county’s dispatch center, asking for donations.
“The entire shift came together,” he said. “Everybody donated and we were able to return $380 to her so she could have the money she needs.”
The incident began Saturday morning after Samples discovered her purse, which was in her car, had been cleaned out overnight.
“They got every penny, every penny out of my pocket book,” she said. “They even dug down at the bottom and got the change I had dropped down at the bottom.
“My husband, he usually goes and feeds the dogs and goes to the mailbox ... and he goes out every night and gets [the purse] and locks the door.”
But her husband forgot Friday night and she didn’t think to remind him.
Samples said she usually doesn’t carry that much money in her purse, but the family had recently returned from church camp.
“We didn’t spend much at church camp and some of it was going to go to the vacation Bible school,” she said. “Some of that I had saved up and it was for gas money.”
Pirkle said it was a routine entering auto report, but he felt for Samples, who is living on a fixed income.
“This is not something that is commonly done at all,” he said. “I can’t tell you over seven years how many entering auto reports I’ve taken and investigations I’ve done. They’re numerous.
“But definitely, this is the first time something like this was done ... it was Easter and honestly she reminded me of my grandmother.”
Pirkle was hoping for a quick turnaround. In about three hours, he and the other night shift workers had exceeded their goal of $350.
And after a morning of tears, Samples said the crying just started all over again when Pirkle presented the money to her Saturday afternoon.
“I’ve never heard tell of anyone doing anything like that before. It just shocked me,” she said.