Rock Island refugee family gets life-changing gift from a stranger

ROCK ISLAND-- A Quad City business made sure one family can continue their customs after a fire destroyed an important part of their life. It's not something Del's Metal Company had to do, but owners say they wanted to do.

Turning old scrap metal into something new; that's what Tom Caldwell from Del's Metal Company is accustomed to. But on Thursday, Tom finished a special project for a family he's never even met.

"Hopefully this one will work out pretty good for them, and hopefully Mr. Marty won't get called down there again," says Caldwell.

He's talking about Rock Island Fire Marshal Greg Marty.

Back in November, his crew got called to a structure fire.

"When our crews arrived, what they found was a wooden structure in the backyard right up next to the garage that was on fire," says Marty.

That unrecognizable pile is what's left of a family's homemade wooden fish smoker, destroyed.

But it's a new day. Ask Linda Weah, she'll tell you it's a wonderful day, all because of this donation from Del's, a new smoker, made safely just for her.

"I am so happy!" exclaims Weah while she dances, sings and praises thanks.

Weah and her family haven't always lived in Rock Island, but she's made it home for the past 15 years.

"I'm from West Africa. I'm a refugee. I came in 2004," explains Weah.

She's brought with her African customs, like using a smoker to cure fish she catches from the Mississippi river to eat and store year round.

"They'll go down with poles in hand and come back with fish and poles," says Caldwell. The family passes his business when they fish.

"In this case the smoking was not a hobby. This is survival. This is a way of life," explains Marty.

Overcome with thanks, Weah realizes what this gift means for her family.

"They bring a lot of different traditions and cultures we may not be used to. So it's great when you can get to know some of these folks and learn about where they come from and how they live then help them to keep those traditions right here at home," says Marty.

"Today you helped me," says Weah.

Weah plans on fishing later on this week, and then she is excited to use her new, custom, safe smoker to prepare the food.

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