'Stuff' Offers Glimpse Of Generosity

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Pastor Steve Cook just calls it "stuff."

To the victims of the Rodeo-Chediski fire, it's likely to be seen as manna from heaven.

And to everyone else, the tons of clothing, merchandise, food and tools that have been donated to the Payson Christian Ministerial Fellowship's disaster-relief effort is absolute proof if anyone still needs it of the spirit of generosity which overtook Payson and the rest of the state over the past two-and-a-half weeks.

"We've got a warehouse filled with anything you could possibly think of from food to toiletry items, fake fingernails, fingernail polish, hoses, rakes, shovels, water, clothes, toys, pillows, towels, you name it," said Cook.

"APS donated two-thirds of a semi-truck full of stuff. The Arizona Jaycees came up from the Valley last week with a trailer full of stuff from all over the state. Someone donated three pallets of brand-new books. Wal-Mart gave us quite a few cases of bottled water.

"And all of it will be going to Heber-Overgaard," he vowed.

Cook is the president of the Payson Christian Ministerial Fellowship, a multi-denominational organization composed of members from 35 churches. It was Cook whom Town of Payson officials approached to develop and administer the Payson Disaster Relief Fund which has since collected between $30,000 and $40,000 in individual, group and business donations to help those hit by the fire.

"In the process of doing this," Cook said, "people started contacting us and saying, 'Hey, we've got boxes and crates full of stuff. Can you use it?' We said, 'Absolutely.'"

As it turned out, there were too many boxes and crates to house at the Rim Country Middle School evacuation center. "So we took over the old Payson Feed Store (at 1104 S. Beeline Highway) and turned it into a used-clothing outlet where the evacuees could come in, pick out what they want, and walk out," Cook said.

"But we had more stuff than we could get into the store, even. So Bob McQueen of Coldwell-Banker found someone who agreed to loan us a warehouse for 60 days. We've filled that, too."

When the evacuees were still in Payson, Cook and company handed out "stuff" by the package.

"But now that they've have packed up and moved out, we're kind of stepping back and refocusing our efforts. We're going to Heber-Overgaard tomorrow (Thursday) to see what's needed, and hopefully take a semi-truck donated by Swift Trucking loaded with whatever it is they need on Friday (today). One of the promises we made was that we're not going to quit until the residents of Heber-Overgaard don't need us anymore."

The opportunity to help neighbors in need has not been the only blessing of Rodeo-Chediski, the pastor added.

"I love living in Payson and I love its people. But no way did I ever imagine that everyone could come together like they have. It was unbelievable."

To donate to the Payson Relief Fund, call Cook at 474-3138, or go to the Payson branch of Bank One and make a deposit into the Payson Relief Fund account.

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