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Pennies from Heaven delivers Christmas cheer

Snow fell Wednesday with Pennies from Heaven to create holiday cheer.

First cars filled the parking lot behind Fairlawn Mansion, then they fell in a caravan line for the trek a home a few blocks away.

Volunteers jumped out of their vehicles, and made a beeline for the Suburban laden with gifts for a deserving family. Nearly two dozen people, arms filled with gifts, filed into the living, crowding into every available space as Nina Penney explained their unexpected presence with presents.

Some ran back outside for more gifts.

The family was nominated by 8-year-old Kennedy's teacher, Kristi Matushak, for an extra bit of holiday cheer after Kennedy lost her dad earlier this earlier this year. Her mother, Hannah, lost her partner of 10 years and Kennedy's dad to a brain aneurysm, said Terri Collins, a member of the Pennies from Heaven, a local nonprofit formed this year from the Best Christmas Ever.

"I couldn't think of anyone more deserving than Kennedy," Matushak said.

After the family was selected, volunteers worked with Matushak and Hannah's brother, Eli Corbin, to determine what the family needed this holiday season.

"It was basics this time around," said Collins, who has been involved for four years.

Six trees spread out at businesses in the community offered suggestions that were fulfilled by donors. When they learned Hannah had a truck that wasn't running, Collins said her son-in-law, Shawn Penney, worked with Corbin to get the truck so he could fix it. The truck led the procession. Next, he'll be working on Hannah's car to make sure everything's running well, Collins said.

"I'm overwhelmed," Hannah said. "This is amazing."

And she wondered aloud how she would get the piles of gifts home.

"Your truck is out there," Nina Penney said. "My husband fixed it."

Tears welled in Hannah's eyes when she learned her truck was outside and running again. She shimmied in delight when she learned it had a full tank of gas.

Collins said the fundraising for the effort started last summer when her grandson, Brenden Penney, held a car show as part of Billings Park Days for his senior project. Proceeds from the event were the start as other Superior High School students held fundraising events as part of their senior projects too, and friends went on reconnaissance missions to find out what Logan, Hannah's 17-year-old son, needed.

Logan said he didn't have a clue friends were spying on him. His first clue something was up was when he saw a bunch of people standing at his uncle's door.

Corbin had gathered the family around the rouse of a birthday party for his own daughter.

Corbin said he'd learned the man he'd considered a brother-in-law, Kennedy's father and Hannah's partner, had passed away. He'd struggled and prayed to find the words because he just couldn't be the one to break the news to his young niece.

"You are the answer to a prayer," Corbin told the collection of students and volunteers from Pennies from Heaven gathered in his living room, before returning the favor of blessing them with a prayer for them.