When Simple Needs GA asked Leilani Charrié Gurram what she wanted for her birthday, the 14-year-old had an unusual request. No jewelry, jeans or iTunes cards for her. Leilani wanted a metal detector.

And thanks to the generosity of SNGA’s amazing donors and volunteers, that’s precisely what she received (a Bounty Hunter TK4 Tracker IV, to be exact). Shout out to the anonymous volunteer who bought it for Leilani off of our SignUpGenius, and to Dalia, Mike, Jen and Fabrice for working with the family and bringing them the metal detector, furniture and other items, including books and school supplies for Leilani. “She could not contain her excitement,” said her grandmother, Pamela Charrié. “It was just absolutely everything she needed.”

It was a happy moment for a family that has endured a lot of hardship.

Up until last fall, Leilani’s family lived in the southeastern port town of Maunabo, Puerto Rico, where they were dedicated volunteers who spent hours helping others find jobs or cope with traumatic stress as part of a ministry operated by Rebecca and Ben Barringer of Marietta. The Charriés’ lives changed irrevocably, however, after Hurricane Maria made landfall in Maunabo. With winds of up to 175 miles per hour, the Category 5 hurricane killed at least 112 people and did nearly $100 billion in damage.

(l to r) Daniel Charrié, SNGA volunteer Jen Sypeck, Marianne Charrié, Rebecca Barringer (in back), Pamela Charrié, and Brenda Rhodes.

Having moved back to the mainland to care for Rebecca’s dying mother, Rebecca and Ben were deeply concerned about the Charriés (the family includes Daniel and Pamela, along with their daughter Marianne, who is Leilani’s mom). “The devastation and tragedy was, of course, immense,” Rebecca said. “One friend who used to help us in Puerto Rico died. When I finally talked to Pamela, I could just hear the overwhelm in her voice. She said ‘we’re in our 60s, and we have to start over.’ ”

Determined to help, Ben and Rebecca used social media and their network of friends and colleagues to relocate the family to Marietta this past January. The project required renovations and other steep expenses, Rebecca says, and as it neared completion the Charriés still had some pressing needs. After hearing about Simple Needs GA, Rebecca and Ben explained the family’s plight to Brenda. In addition to Leilani’s nifty metal detector, the family received household items like pots and pans, along with lamps, end tables, office chairs, clothing, books and more.

“We were so impressed by the love and concern we felt from Brenda and the other volunteers,” Pamela said. “They were so helpful and so nice. It has just been wonderful.”

Rebecca, too, was touched by the spirit of the volunteers at SNGA. “I don’t know how to describe it, but we felt so welcome,” she said. “It was like everyone there was full of joy and excitement to help.”

(l to r) SNGA volunteer Fabrice Bokanya with Marianne, Pamela and SNGA board member Mike Yalen.

As Brenda sees it, conveying that sense of caring is what Simple Needs GA is all about. “Thanks so much to all of those who make our work possible,” she said. “We love what we do!”

While the Charriés are relieved to be safe and sound in their new home, their focus is not primarily on themselves, Rebecca says. In fact, they are already hard at work helping Ben and Rebecca minister to people in need. Fluent in English and Spanish (not to mention French), the Charriés are using their language skills to help people in the Hispanic community deal with emotional trauma and other challenges. “Leilani wanted a metal detector so she could go treasure hunting to pay us back for all the ways we have helped them,” Rebecca said. “She is so sweet. The Charriés are truly special people.”

To find out more about Ben and Rebecca’s Renewoil Ministries, just email rebecca@renewoilministries.org. 

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