The plight of a homeless woman, her daughter and their five dogs has captured the attention of many locals and sparked an outpouring of support.
The two women, Chris and Jaime Hagewood, have been living out of their van at Veterans Memorial Park for about a month after moving down from the North.
The Hagewoods owned an old farmhouse in upstate New York where they had lived for about 15 years.
“I started getting really sick,” Chris Hagewood said.
She couldn’t breathe, her teeth were falling out. Eventually they discovered the house was rampant with black mold.
“It was a complete and total loss,” Chris Hagewood said.
They decided to sell what they could, pack up the rest, and head to Florida for a fresh start.
Life on the road was tough. Campgrounds were expensive, and many wouldn’t allow the dogs.
The pair made it to South Carolina where an allergic reaction to fire ants made them decide to head to the Outer Banks.
“We wanted to see the ocean,” Chris Hagewood said.
After a few days in the Walmart parking lot in the Outer Banks, Hurricane Joaquin threatened, and they left in the middle of the night, stopping at a campground a few hours away.
“We were both crying,” Chris Hagewood said. They didn’t know where to go.
“I don’t know why, but I thought, Mayberry. We’ll go to Mayberry,” Jaime Hagewood said.
Chris Hagewood said she was a fan of “The Andy Griffith Show,” and used to watch it when Jaime Hagewood was a young child.
“I always told her I was going to Mayberry to marry Andy,” Chris Hagewood said.
So to Mayberry they went, setting up camp by the fence on the greenway side of Veterans Park and looking for affordable — and dog-friendly — housing.
A local nurse who had seen them a few times made their acquaintance and shared their story with the folks at the Shepherd’s House.
The veterans moved them up near the livestock arena at the park so they could have more shelter and access to the bathrooms and showers.
“There was such an outpouring of love,” Chris Hagewood said. “We weren’t asking for handouts, we just wanted someone to give us a chance to reinvent ourselves.”
Though they’ve received many donations of food and clothing, and assistance with their housing search, it’s the kindness of strangers that has touched the Hagewood’s.
“It’s such a beautiful place and the people are just incredible, so compassionate to strangers,” Jaime Hagewood said.
“It’s renewed our faith in people,” Chris Hagewood said.
A renewed faith that has rippled throughout the community.
The ladies have given as much as they have received, said Mary Boyles, executive director for the Shepherd’s House.
“It’s been such an eye opener to us spiritually,” said Boyles.
“They are thankful for things that I would take things for granted every day,” Boyles said. “They have a roof over their head. It’s cold, but they are thankful.”
Boyles said the Hagewoods have inspired Shepherd’s House clients.
“We’re teaching them a lesson, that even though what your facing is traumatic, there are people who don’t have what you have.”
Boyles dubbed it “the story effect.”
The Hagewoods shared their story with the local nurse, who shared it with Boyles, who shared it on Facebook.
“I was so overwhelmed one night,” Boyles said. “Literally the messages and shares kept binging the computer constantly.”
The posts received more than 200 shares.
When people came in with donations for the Hagewoods and their dogs, those people would share their own stories about struggling with poverty or homelessness.
“Everyone has a story. Everyone has been through something traumatic,” Boyles said.
“If I could put it in a binder, I’d call it a ‘book of hope.’
“That’s been the blessing.”
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.