NORWICH – Oprah Winfrey is known for giving her talk show audience members extravagant gifts, but as three Norwich natives found out, sometimes it is better to give than to receive.
Jenn Cooper, Jennifer Johnson-Lynch and Lori Youngs attended the taping of Winfrey’s recent challenge show, during which audience members were given $1,000 debit cards and a DVD camcorder. She challenged them to spread acts of kindness, recording the way in which they chose to do so. Each of the three Norwich-born women chose a different way to share the wealth.
Youngs, who still lives in Norwich, knew she wanted to help the family of a local pastor. She had no one in mind, until she ran into a former high school classmate Pastor Matt Frayer. Matt and his wife Rena had seen a lot of sadness over the course of the year, losing a baby only hours after her birth.
Youngs fulfilled the challenge and then some, using all of the money from the Oprah show as well as a little of her own. She bought clothes for the Frayer’s three daughters, Alexandria, Abigail and Ashlee, as well as backpacks, coats, and a play kitchen set. She got the parents a $200 Wal-Mart gift card, a digital camera, and dinner at Gus’ Steak House. To this she added memorable items, including an ornament with the name of the deceased baby engraved on it; Alea Grace, which Rena said stands for Always Leave Everyone Aware of God’s Grace. “The words aren’t there to express our thankfulness,” Rena said. “The kids have had so much negativity in their lives this year, especially with the death of the baby. They really needed the extra boost. It was a Godsend.”
In addition to using the funds she had at her disposal, Youngs approached stores in Binghamton, including Sears, JC Penney, Burlington Coat Factory and Things Remembered and told them about the challenge. She was able to receive discounts on most of the merchandise. “The real gift is inside,” Youngs said. “I think I got the better end of the deal.”..