The tiny Texas town of Possum Trot has no stoplights, no street names -- and one huge heart.
Over the last 16 years, 25 families in the working-class community have adopted 76 children in need, opening their homes in a town that is struggling financially to the point where the local food bank is empty and has been closed for months.
Sixteen years ago, W.C. Martin, the pastor of the local Bennett Chapel Baptist church, helped organize his congregation to help foster children in need, believing they should have regular homes after so much hardship.
“It’s not a whole lot that we have to offer children right here in Possum Trot,’’ Martin told NBC News’ Craig Melvin. “But love, peace and joy and happiness – we can offer them that.’’
Martin and his wife, Donna, have adopted four children themselves.
“The challenge with the kids is (them not) really, really trusting the love that you have to give them unconditionally,’’ Donna Martin told Melvin. “Some of them were beaten, molested by family members, just the most horrible things.’’
The foster families have gone to great lengths to care for their children despite often facing their own difficult financial circumstances.
“Our financial struggles, they’re devastating,’’ Donna Martin said. “But you can’t bring these kids into your home and not prepare them for their future.’’
After giving so much over the years, the families received a surprise Christmas gift of their own this year, courtesy of Walmart. The company donated enough food to reopen the food bank and donation center, providing each of the 25 families who have adopted children with a cart of fresh groceries and a $500 gift certificate, and bought Christmas presents for each of the children.
W.C. Martin was also given a $15,000 gift card to Walmart after all his efforts to help children in need. “This is like a prayer being answered,’’ he said. “That we have prayed so hard for God, for someone, to do something. We didn’t know when, we didn’t know where, but we knew he was going to do something.’’
“There is a saying that the Lord might not always come when you want him, but he always comes on time,’’ Donna Martin said. “We are humble. We will continue to stand, and thank you, Walmart. We will never look at you all the same.’’
The gifts will benefit couples like Ricky and Dorothy Cartwright, who have taken in five children. Ricky has taken two extra jobs so that his wife can stay home with the children.
Many of the children still struggle to come to grips with the hardship of the past, as well as the present challenge of being teased at school about it.
“They said my other mom hated me, that’s why she gave us away,’’ Cartwright’s daughter Malaysia said tearfully. “Every day I think about why did she give me away? Why did she hate me?’’
Theresa Lathan and her husband Glen have taken in 11 children over the years, but Theresa has been sick with lupus for the past two years. Now her children have returned the love and are caring for her.
“There’s no telling where we would be if it wasn’t for her,’’ Lathan’s son Andre told NBC News.
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