Ann and Frank Stevens are accustomed to helping those in need. Whether it was a local family that had fallen on hard times or one of the nearly 200 foster children they have welcomed into their home, the Stevens family was there.

A long haul truck driver, Frank is used to hard work and long hours. Ann describes him as “a brute, a John Wayne type.”

Then the unthinkable happened. Frank’s spinal cord was crushed in an accident. With six people living in their home including their daughter and grandchildren, they found themselves suddenly without an income.

The generosity they had always provided to other people started to flow their way.

“We received a series of little blessings,” Ann recalls. “In a small town, people hear you’re having trouble.” Strangers gave cash gifts and friends brought meals by the house.

“My goal was to maintain normalcy for my family.”

Five months after the accident, Frank was finally learning to walk again with two visits to physical therapy per week.

In December, Athol Credit Union offered their community room to host The Salvation Army Christmas Castle. Families would be warmly welcomed to receive toys and warm clothing. Ann couldn’t stay away.

“Christmas has always been a really big deal in our house.” Stevens says. “I was happy to lend a hand, return some of the generosity we had received.”

Stevens did far more than lend a hand. According to Athol Corps Officer Lt. Michael Buzzard, “Ann spearheaded the whole effort. We couldn’t have done it without her.”

And just like that, Ann was back in her familiar place: helping others. Frank even made it to the Christmas Castle in his neck brace. “He would supervise the teens,” Ann laughs, “tell them where to put things. He would stay as long as he could.”

Even given their financial struggles, Stevens steadfastly refused to be served until every other family received toys and gifts.

“We had let our children know not to expect much. Thanks to The Salvation Army, we had one of the most amazing Christmas mornings ever.”

A year has passed since Frank was back to work, but he and Ann still made time to volunteer at the Christmas Castle. “I wouldn’t miss it.” Ann said.