The first person to stop in the office to visit me after my Christmas-New Year's vacation was "Mary."
Mary, is the young woman I wrote about Dec. 17. She was interviewed for the series about poverty The Mining Journal ran in December, but decided she didn't want her name or her face to appear in newspaper because she was worried about how people would react.
To protect her identity in that column, I dubbed her Mary, which isn't her real name. Her real story is a tough one. She grew up being shuffled between her parents, never really having a permanent home.
That led to her not being able to get past the eighth grade in her education as well as fostering a feeling of distrust when it comes to relationships.
At present, she lives miles from town and doesn't have transportation, so battling her way out of poverty is no simple task.
But she's making strides, guided by her determination to create a better life for herself as well as her daughters. She is mom to a 3-year-old and an 18-month-old and has a baby on the way.
After Mary's story appeared in my column, several people contacted me to ask if they could bring in some Christmas gifts for Mary and her children. They wanted to remain anonymous, but were touched by Mary's story and her efforts to change her world.
Through a mutual friend, arrangements were made for those presents to be brought here, then picked up and delivered to Mary.
Which is why she came in to see me.
"I wanted to be able to say thank you to the people who thought of me like that," Mary told me. "I don't know how to thank them. When I got the stuff, it was a shock. But I am real thankful for everything.
"My girls were really excited," she said. "I couldn't believe it when I saw what people had did."
The gifts were a welcome, wonderful surprise for this young mom. She's working on literacy classes, then hopes to get a high school diploma equivalency, then go on to earn a college degree.
Knowing that people she never met were wishing her well was almost overwhelming to the young mom, who's in her mid-20s.
"It meant a lot," she said.
Mary is just a few weeks away from delivering another daughter and while's she's struggling to arrange things, she is determined about one particular detail.
"I don't want my daughter to miss preschool while I am in the hospital," she said.
Mary promised to notify me when she does deliver her child so I can go to the hospital to meet her baby. And since so many people have contacted me to ask how Mary's doing, I will update her story in a future column.
To Mary's gratitude to her benefactors, I'd like to add my own words of thanks. By reaching out to a total stranger, you showed a young woman trying to improve herself that there are good people out there, cheering her on.
It meant a lot to her. And to me.
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.