The Kindness of Strangers
Last year around this time, Laura Troutman was on one of her favorite Web sites when she read the story of one family's loss after Hurricane Katrina. "It was so heart-wrenching to see what that hurricane had done to people's lives," she recalls. "When we found out that this evacuee family needed help last Christmas, we were devastated." She was particularly moved when she noticed that this one family had a child the same age as her own baby girl, so she decided to help complete strangers whose lives were turned upside-down.
"My husband and I talked a lot about what we could do for this family," says Laura. "They would be worried about buying clothing, diapers, food instead of presents. I lost sleep over it. That's eventually how we ended up sending them a Christmas hoping to make them smile ... We cut back on our own family's presents that year for Christmas, but we didn't mind. It almost seemed more rewarding going shopping for someone else. We never even met them, but we felt like we knew them. It was the best feeling ever to just go all out for someone."
Laura never even knew the name of the woman she had helped, and had no way of getting in contact to see if the family had ever received the gifts. To this day, she says, "I'm haunted by what this family still might be going through."
That family was Leslie Ferdinand's. "We lost everything," says Leslie, who grew up in New Orleans. "We lost the essence of who we were. Our city was gone, our traditions at Christmas were gone."
Leslie left New Orleans with her mother Shirley, her young daughter and 12-day-old baby girl the day before Katrina hit. They have since been living in Houston, Texas. "It's been pretty traumatic," she says of life as an evacuee, with her family totally dependant on the kindness of others and fearing that they would become homeless.
"Nothing will ever be what it once was," says Shirley. "Every time I think about it, it overwhelms me."
But there was one bright spot for Leslie's girls during an otherwise difficult holiday season. "We received presents from one lady. She gave up her Christmas for us and I thought that was the most touching thing that anyone could ever do. My girls, when they received their gifts on Christmas morning, were very very happy," says Leslie. "I wonder who gave the gifts to us. I wonder what type of woman would do that and give up her Christmas for strangers. She was our Christmas angel."
Rachael brings the two women together for the first time. Watch their emotional meeting.
Understanding the problems Leslie still faces every day, Capital One, a company that has already donated millions of dollars to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, is putting $40,000 into a high-yield account for her and her family.
Rachael also arranges for Careerbuilder.com to help Leslie with her resume and cover letters, to buy her a new business suit and set up interviews with five Fortune 500 companies.
She also surprises both women with a giant box of toys, clothes and games in addition to a $1,000 gift certificate from Kohl's.
Special thanks to Tonya Sury and Chelsea Prastaik of the Nuance Salon and Spa in Rosenberg, Texas.
- latest show clips
- celebrity friends
- cooking videos
- rachael between the scenes
- backstage pass
- tips and stories
- be on the show
- set tour
- audience tickets
- rachael's bio
- what's rach wearing
- rach on the radio
- follow us on twitter
- join us on facebook