After dozens of strangers helped her through a surprisingly difficult time, Maxine Sayers believes gratitude is best served with a slice of pie — and a hug from Al Roker.
The past two years have been a whirlwind for Sayers and her family, who now live in New Jersey. Sayers married Reverend Clifford Ackman in 2017 but, soon after the wedding, he was called to work for the Church of Scotland. So the couple quickly made arrangements to move across the pond with their soon-to-be adoptive teenage daughter, Nyah.
Not long after the move, Ackman was unexpectedly offered an opportunity back in the U.S. — so the family had to quickly relocate. The family was excited to be going home, but there was one problem: Sayers had donated all of their furniture and most of their belongings before they left the country.
"We then had to move back to the United States with nothing, absolutely nothing," Sayers told TODAY Food.
In an effort to make their new house a home, Sayers put an ad on a community website describing the situation and, within minutes, received dozens of replies. One by one, people she'd never met offered her everything from refrigerators and microwaves, to welcome mats, desks and even hand-knit blankets.
"The responses were overwhelming," Sayers said, while tearing up. "'We don't have much, but you can have a pillow.'"
To reciprocate the many good deeds she'd received, Sayers teamed up with TODAY and Ellen Gray at The Able Baker in Maplewood, New Jersey, in March 2018. After picking up an assortment of fruit and buttermilk-custard pies from Gray, who cooks 60 to 70 pies weekly and runs a baking blog called "No More Mr. Nice Pie," Al Roker and Sayers went from house to house to deliver the sweet surprise.
"Hugs and pie. That's a good combo," Al said as Sayers greeted one woman.
Today, Sayers and her family still have all of the furnishings and decor they received from strangers, many of whom are now friends. They expect to finalize Nyah's adoption very soon and plan to welcome more foster children into their lovingly furnished home, since Nyah leaves for college next year.
For Thanksgiving, Sayers told TODAY that she and her husband are planning to host 25 people and will celebrate the holiday by enjoying the personal touches each neighbor helped create.
"My in-laws all came to visit over the summer. They were well pleased with our home and sense of style," Sayers said. "You should have seen their faces when they found out that we didn’t blow our meager earnings on the fine and posh furnishings."
For Sayers, however, her call for help wasn't just about the physical things or saving money.
"I think my little ad brought out some of the human faith and human giving and human generosity and I'm most grateful to that," Sayers said. "I'm most grateful for the human touch."