When Pastor Michael Usey of Greensboro’s College Park Baptist Church began helping a refugee family whose father and oldest child sustained injuries when their farm was destroyed by bombs in Syria, he assumed the worst was behind them. Certainly nobody expected anything as terrible as what happened on Valentine’s Day.
The family, which consists of a mother, father and five children (Pastor Usey requested their names be withheld to avoid endangering relatives in Syria) was in the process of moving from a house on Valley View Street to a better and more conveniently located apartment. Around 9 a.m. on Tuesday the 14th, the mother was preparing to take her children to Newcomers School for English lessons while her husband was at work at Grandover Resort. Due to so far unclear circumstances, two pit bulls running loose in the neighborhood approached the dwelling.
Greensboro police received a 911 call about 9:10 a.m., according to a press release. Officers “saw two large dogs lying beside the child,” the release stated. “For the child’s safety, a Greensboro police officer fatally shot one of the dogs after it moved away from the toddler.”
The family doesn’t speak English and Pastor Usey warns that his description is second hand. “As I understand it, the second youngest boy was putting on his shoes on the front steps with the door open. One dog ran into the house and dragged the youngest outside. Both dogs bit him. Mom protected the two youngest while screaming and hitting the dogs. She was joined by two neighbors, but the dogs would not let go. Police arrived, one dog was shot, and the second fled.”
The 19-month-old boy was taken to Brenner Children’s Hospital, where he underwent eight hours of surgery. According to a GoFundMe page set up by volunteer Laura Tastad (link at the end of this article), he suffered serious damage to his face, ear, arm and leg, and will need more operations. He is listed in serious condition, but is said to be resting comfortably.
Pastor Usey explains that his church became involved with the refugee family through Cindy Knul. “She used to head Lutheran Family Services, with whom we helped to resettle a bunch of families before they closed up shop a couple of years ago. We got together and brainstormed how to get various agencies resettle Syrian families in Greensboro, since several were coming to the Triad.”
“She let me know that this particular family had fallen through the cracks. The group ‘catching’ them doesn’t welcome church involvement (they would say otherwise). Cindy called and invited us to meet them right before last Thanksgiving. We did and fell in love with them. They were connected with the Islamic Center of the Triad, and had support there, and several families were assisting them. Still, they had needs, including not enough food, some kind of infestation in the house, and not enough warm winter clothes. We thought we could be friends and help out a little. We assembled a team, found a leader for it in Dr. Alice Stewart, who is a Business Professor at A&T, and were off.”
Laura Tastad created an online fundraiser for the boy’s medical expenses. Laura is not a member of College Park Baptist, but her friends Nancy Dufran Cravey and Mathew Cravey are.
“Nancy told me they were sponsoring a few families and asked if we had anything to donate. I said yes and asked what else I could do. So far, that’s been limited since this family was sort of in a holding pattern until their new apartment was ready, but they were supposed to move this weekend. I took a day off next week to babysit while the mother goes to have dental work, but I doubt that is even a thought in her mind at this point. Rather than turning my day off back in, I’m going to use it to see what else I can do; sit with them at the hospital, cook some dinners for their freezer, help get their new place in order, whatever they need.”
Laura says that anyone wishing to help can find more information via the GoFundMe set up for the family.