Oklahoma City_The kindness of strangers across the country saved Christmas for Beverly Smith's children after the deadly ice storm that cut off electricity for them and thousands of other people.
"That's the true gift of Christmas; the thought that we put aside ourselves and think about other people," Smith said Tuesday as she prepared a holiday dinner at home in rural Choctaw.
On Dec. 16, eight days after ice covered the state, Smith found little solace in assurances that utility crews were working feverishly to restore power to her and her neighbors at their mobile home park. Smith told The Associated Press then that she and her 15-year-old son stayed with a friend for a few days before moving on to a motel, until her money ran out.
Smith thought she wouldn't be able to give her teenage son and his three younger siblings a Christmas at all. But she was flooded with mail after her story made headlines.
"They got things they had wanted and the basic Christmas presents: socks, underwear, slippers, pants and shirts. It got my son an MP3 player. I would never have been able to buy him that, especially not after the disaster," said Smith, whose younger children, ages 12, 9 and 8, live in a nearby town.
Smith received a total of $940, including a check for $250 from a woman in California and cash inside Christmas cards from residents of Florida, North Carolina and Wisconsin. She donated $100 of the money to another needy family's Christmas fund.
More than 640,000 homes and businesses were without power - the worst storm ever faced by Oklahoma's utility companies because it struck the state's largest cities and surrounding communities.
Smith's power went off the morning of Dec. 10 and was restored Dec. 18.
There were still dozens of homes without power on Christmas Day, mainly those that suffered damage to outside electrical boxes that had to be repaired before power could be returned.
(This version CORRECTS in penultimate graf that power was restored Dec. 18, not on Christmas.)