Middletown residents displaced by hurricane overwhelmed by Walmart, Salvation Army generosity

DeJesus family has participated in Pathway of Hope program since moving to city.

MIDDLETOWN — Christmas came early in surprise fashion for a Middletown family that moved to the city six years ago after they were displaced by Hurricane Maria. That hurricane killed 3,059 people, including 2,975 in Puerto Rico.

Jean and Katiria DeJesus and their three children, Amaya, 11, Anais, 9, and Dylan, 6, were left speechless Thursday afternoon when they received presents from Walmart and the Middletown Salvation Army.

The three children hurriedly opened numerous presents, including a camera, keyboard, toys, video games and bedding and each child received a $150 Walmart gift card.

The Salvation Army Angel Tree program helps provide Christmas gifts for hundreds of thousands of children around the country each year and provides opportunities for people to give back by taking an Angel Tree tag in store or online through Spark Good, Walmart’s suite of resources that help give back to local communities.

Shalon Price, regional coordinator for Pathway of Hope, a Salvation Army program that provides targeted services to families with a desire to take action to break the generational cycle of crisis and enable a path out of poverty, said the DeJesus family is an inspiration to others.

“They have shown what they been through and they made it, you can do it too,” Price said.

Some families, she said, lose hope and they need the right support system and encouragement to regain that feeling.

“They’re walking in darkness and they need to figure out of way to get out of the dark hole,” she said.

Maj. Jud Laidlaw, corps officer for the Middletown Salvation Army, said the DeJesus family has been on “a big faith journey” and never surrendered.

“It’s a beautiful thing to see a plan come together,” he said. “They have walked a very difficult journey.”

Once they settled in Middletown and moved into a mobile home, DeJesus said the family’s goal were for him and his wife to obtain full-time jobs with health benefits, increase their income, change their career paths, and buy their first home.

DeJesus was introduced to Pathway of Hope, founded in 2011 by the Salvation Army and started seven years later in Middletown. They met one-on-one with Salvation Army representatives who guided them through how to improve their credit rating that eventually led to home ownership.

They closed on the house on Aberdeen Drive in June.

With guidance from the right people and by making correct choices, the family has everything it “dreamed and hoped for,” DeJesus said.

Earlier in the week, nearly 350 local children received Christmas toys that were donated by families at the Salvation Army, Laidlaw said.

“People still care about people,” he said. “That gives me hope.”

More online

See video of the family receiving its gifts.


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