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Charity erases tragedy

By Greg Gelpi

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Out of nothing, though, charity arose.

Wedding photos, furniture, clothes, baby formula, personal records and even a video of the birth of their child.

Everything was stolen, but misfortune soon turned around when the McCoy family arrived in Jonesboro.

Cramming all of the family's belongings into their 1996 Buick Sentry and a 15-foot U-Haul moving truck, Tyonna McCoy, 27, traveled from Cincinnati to meet her husband, Ronald McCoy, 32, at an extended-stay hotel in Decatur.

Weary from the road and having missed each other, the family, including 8-year-old Destiny and 4-month-old Ronald Jr., went to bed, so that they could wake up early and close on a house in Jonesboro.

Opening the blinds at 7 a.m., Ronald McCoy peered out and saw the moving truck and the car it towed had both been stolen.

"When I say nothing but the clothes on our back, I mean nothing," Ronald McCoy said, explaining that everything the family owned was either stolen or being put into closing on the new house.

Thieves must have spent hours unpacking the heavily loaded vehicles, leaving the McCoys to sleep on air mattresses in their new home, Tyonna McCoy said.

"You couldn't peep through the window and see any space," she said. "It was packed."

Once the burglars opened the car or the truck, they immediately should have seen the baby crib and other signs of a family, but they didn't care, she said.

"We don't care what we take from you," Tyonna McCoy said of the burglars. "It hurt. It really hurt. Looking at all that we lost, we've gained a lot of friendships. The people who took (our possessions) couldn't take that."

Almost as quickly as their dreams of a new life were dashed, hope was restored.

Clothes, furniture, food and even a rental car, most of the replaceable things, returned through the kindness of strangers.

"I've never seen God's face before, but I saw it reflected in the faces of the people who help us," Tyonna McCoy said.

Without hesitation or a second thought, people responded.

"They had already moved into action," Ronald McCoy said of Horizon Pointe Church.

Ritchie Miller, who sold the house to the McCoys, serves as the pastor of Horizon Pointe and rallied his congregation in support of the new members of the community, although the family had no connection to the church.

"Everyone in the church you feel like you've known them for 20 years," Ronald McCoy said.

Ritchie Miller said that he called on his congregation to pray for and help out the family, bringing the McCoys before the church to let them address the congregation.

"People just thought it would be a painful experience and wanted to help," Ritchie Miller said, his church collecting "thousands of dollars."

He said that it was no coincidence that of the millions of homes in metro Atlanta the McCoys bought his home.

The school community stepped up as well, the McCoys said. Although their daughter's birth certificate was among the records stolen, Arnold Elementary School officials made calls and helped her get registered for school.

"We didn't even get to finish telling the story before Principal (Faith) Duncan said she would take care of it," Tyonna McCoy said.

Third-grade teacher Courtney Miller said faculty members were nearly in tears and were "shocked" hearing the news.

Teachers, neighbors, members of the church and more streamed in with gifts and donations for the family.

"It's hard to say no to a family that needs so much," Courtney Miller said. "If you don't have something, you have time. If you don't have time, you have stuff. If you need something, this is the school to be at."

Duncan said she couldn't imagine losing such personal things.

"I was just heartbroken seeing this little girl," she said. "That's why we chose to go into education. We care about education, and we care about their needs."

The McCoys are still in need, they said. To donate, call the family at (770) 478-6331.

"Thank you is not good enough," Ronald McCoy said. "We don't know what to say. It's been tough. It's been emotional."