Community pays it forward to Macon County business owners after house fire
(Source: WSFA 12 News)
Penny Walters stands in her home that was heavily damaged in a fire several weeks ago. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News)
Penny interacting with loyal customers at her store, Walters' Gas & Grill. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News)
MACON COUNTY, AL (WSFA) -
If you've ever been out on U.S. Highway 80 headed through Macon County, chances are you've seen or stopped in at a restaurant called Walters' Gas and Grill.
The owners of the popular eatery just lost their home and belongings in a house fire and their employees and customers are doing what they can to pay it forward to the caring couple.
It's the only gas station and restaurant for miles on Highway 80 in the Society Hill area and owners Penny and Robert Walters are known for their kindness and generosity towards their customers and employees.
Robert has been the local mailman for more than 30 years. The couple’s store is open seven days a week. Homemade specials are made from scratch daily. They also have a row crop farm and produce farm.
“They're just great. this is a little country store and they've put their heart and soul into it and they help this community. They feed people when they don't have any money. If police officers come in here in uniform, they eat free every time,” said Lori Rambo, an employee. “People will come in and not have gas and she will give it to them on credit. You just don't find that anywhere.”
That’s why community members felt compelled to find a way to help the Walters through a tough time, after a devastating fire at their home off of Fitzpatrick Road.
The fire happened three weeks ago, leaving the Walters with lots of smoke and water damage to the structure and contents. It started in their laundry room and it's believed their dryer sparked it. They were not home at the time but friends in the area were able to call 911 for help.
The family has been trying to salvage what they can and they are temporarily living in a camper.
“With the fire, it's added some difficulty but with the grace of God, we're going to make it through,” Penny Walters said. “It could have been a lot worse We're just trying to take it one day at a time.”
Their employees have planned a big fundraiser at the gas station this weekend to help them recover.
“Unfortunately, they were under insured and are desperately in need of the community's help,” Rambo said. “They're not the kind of people that accept help. I told them that in order to give blessings, you have to receive them as well and it's their turn. I hope they see how much the community loves them and wants to give back for all of the things they've done over the years.”
For the Walters', the outpouring of support means a lot to them. This isn’t the first time they’ve dealt with loss. Their son died tragically when he was 18.
“This all melts my heart. It brings me to tears, actually,” Penny said. “It's so humbling to see the love from all of our friends and family and even our customers. They're just wonderful. We're like a big family here at Society Hill. We’re just so blessed to have such great people in our lives.”
The fundraiser at Walters' Gas & Grill (15930 US Hwy 80E., Opelika, AL, 36804,) will be held Saturday, May 20 from 9 am- 2 pm.
There will be a bake sale, car wash, door prizes and a BBQ Dinner for $8 per plate.
All proceeds go to the Walters.
“You can also send or give donations here at the store, whatever anybody can to do give and help,” Lori Rambo added. “They have a camper at a pond and we want to enclose their pond house so that they can live in that while they sort out the insurance and all of that. You can never plan for this kind of tragedy. They have been the most resilient family I've ever seen.”
The cause of the fire at the Walters’ home is still under investigation.
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