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FRANKLIN, Idaho — It was iconically Americana: a small, red-roofed house sitting at the top of a hill in a tiny Idaho border town, a group of people lounging on the grass in front of it.
The story of what had led to this gathering was unique, although their shared values were not. The group of strangers had united, as strangers often do, to help a woman in need. The divorced mother of six, Lisa Muniz, had posted a plea on the Cache Valley Classifieds Facebook page asking for help: was there anything Cache Valley residents were planning on sending to Deseret Industries that she could have instead?
She had a mattress on the floor of her home for her six children, ranging in age from 2 to 16, to share. She had a couch and a few kitchen items, but that was about it, according to Shelli Weaver Rivera, who posted on the Facebook page June 13 after taking the Muniz family a toddler bed and some toys.
"Her 2-year-old was more excited about (the bed) than the toys we took," Rivera wrote. "I was in tears after leaving last night. I promised myself I would do all I could to help her."
And the community responded. Hundreds of comments on the post within two days found people willing to donate clothing, toys and furniture to the family.
"I have been down in the dumps as a single mother, and when some amazing people helped me out a little it gave me hope," Wendy Sanders wrote. "If I have the opportunity to possibly give someone that same hope, I will do it."
We didn't expect this at all.
Sanders' home in Nibley and Rivera's home in Lewiston became two of a few donation drop-off points scattered throughout Cache Valley. Just three days later, the two, along with a few neighbors, took three van-loads of donated items to Franklin to give to Muniz.
"We really appreciate this," Muniz said. "We didn't expect this at all."
Her youngest son, 2, sat on a tricycle, his legs too short to reach the pedals. And as one daughter sat on the ground, lacing up a pair of hot-pink and black Sketchers, Muniz's 16-year-old, Gabby, was excited by something else.
"In one of these bags is the complete Twilight saga," Sanders said.
"Oh my gosh," Gabby replied. "Are you serious?"
More treasures were unearthed as the vans were unloaded: clothes, books, a small table for the kids, since Muniz's was broken. And friendships were formed.
"None of us knew each other before last night," Sanders said. "And now … it's like we're best friends."
As the women who had come to help loaded their children back into their cars, they called out further messages of hope to Muniz and her family.
None of us knew each other before last night. And now ... it's like we're best friends.
"I have another load coming tomorrow," one said. "And I might have a bike."
It was a bigger than anyone thought it would be, thanks to a group of strangers who did not hesitate when they saw a mother in need. They didn't know her story — they hadn't asked. They didn't need to know. For many, it was enough to be told "this woman needs help."
"I've been there. I've done that," Sanders said. "I've raised a few kids on my own, and it's hard. It took one person to help me out, and to turn me around. And it just takes one person to make a difference."
Sanders said she was grateful for the people who had helped, and who had not discriminated against a single mother.
"It takes an amazing mom to make stuff like this happen," Sanders said. "And for her to reach out like that, to say, ‘Hey, I can't do it on my own' … that's an amazing parent."