GILMER, TX (KLTV) - She left her home, when Hurricane Rita forced her out. Now Emma Thompson calls East Texas home. The storm took everything from Thompson. But, she is turning her heartaches into small moments of happiness for others.
Thompson has the most infectious laugh, and with her laughter comes an extra gift. It is her love of children that brings her to the Upshur County Food Pantry every Monday and Wednesday.
"I can be down in the dumps," said Thompson. "I come in here and that first little kid comes through. Oh it's gone."
For the last two years, she has given away used toys and stuffed animals to children at the pantry.
"You take a little kid like that...I gave him a toy last week and the next thing I know I seen him coming up at me like this," she said, puckering her lips up for a kiss, "And give me a kiss. And, if I can make that little kid smile that's it."
Just the toys, Thompson has a story. She lost her husband in Hurricane Rita. Her grief is now used to bring joy to the lives of children she meets through a labor of love.
"I get toys donated to me [then] I take them home and wash them," said Thompson. "Everyone is washed, if they're not washed i don't give them away. If they need mending I mend them. If they need dresses I give them dresses."
One doll only came with a head and two arms. But Thompson found a way to make magic.
"I said, 'Let me see what I can for the head,'" remembered Thompson. "So, I made this little ballerina."
At 73, Thompson says it is the cute little faces that keep her toy mission of love going.
"That's the reason I do it," she said. "You asked me the reason. Here's the reason: innocent love."
Innocent love that heals one woman's soul.
Even after Thompson didn't need to visit the pantry for food anymore, her visits continued and so did her refurbished toys. She has yet to miss a day when the pantry was open.