Franklin church hosts sale to help couple buy handicap-accessible van

The hardest part was being so close.

Robert and Patricia Griffin lived just down the street from Friendship Baptist Church, their spiritual home that was central to their lives. But after Robert Griffin, who already had one leg amputated due to injury, had to have his other leg amputated in early 2023, he was forced to use a wheelchair.

The couple was left without an easy way to visit the doctor, see family or attend the church they held so dear.

The congregation at Friendship Baptist Church saw their pain and extended need, and stepped up to help. Plans came together for a community yard sale, which ended up raising more than $5,600 — enough to help the couple buy a handicap-accessible van.

Finally, the Griffins were able to reconnect with their Friendship family.

“Every time they came in, that was the completion for us. We were seeing all that our labors had done, and we as a church were so happy,” said Dezra Findley, a member of the church. “We were seeing them so happy. It was beautiful.”

Robert Griffin died in early November from illness. But Patricia Griffin is thankful he was able to spend his final month among the people and place he loved so much.

“With everything he had been through, and even now with his passing, they’ve meant a lot to me,” Patricia Griffin said.

For more than 15 years, the Griffins had attended Friendship Baptist Church. They were regulars at Sunday worship, took part in Bible studies and helped with church activities.

They had a spot in one of the front pews.

“They were always here, and always worked in the church. They are such a light; everyone loves them so much,” Findley said.

Through Robert Griffin had one leg amputated years ago, he was able to get around in a regular car. When illness forced doctors to amputate his other leg in January, they were suddenly homebound.

“The vehicle we had, I wasn’t able to get him in and out to go places,” Patricia Griffin said.

As members of Friendship Baptist Church’s women’s Sunday school class learned about the Griffins’ dilemma, they were compelled to do something to help.

One of the members, Loretta Hicks, made the suggestion to organize a yard sale and raise money for a wheelchair-accessible van.

Planning started in July, and Pastor Fred Brown made the announcement to the congregation looking for help. The church community responded.

“The whole church wanted to be involved. It started in the Sunday school class, but as we started talking to people, they all wanted to be involved,” said Barb Butler, a member of the church.

People from throughout the church donated thousands of gently used items for the sale. Quickly, the church’s common area was filled with throw pillows, lamps, home decor, bicycles, clothing and everything in between.

To motivate the congregation, Brown issued his flock a challenge. If they raised $2,000 for the Griffins’ cause, he’d dye his hair blue. The colors went up as the dollars increased — orange hair for $3,000, purple hair for $4,000, pink for $5,000.

On Sept. 30, the church opened its doors. The community came out in droves. People wandered through rows and rows of items, while the sales piled up. People also donated additional money to help the Griffins.

By the time the sale ended, they had raised about $5,600.

True to his work, Brown revealed his new pink hairdo to the church community.

In a Facebook post, Brown wrote, “Best Hair Day Ever! Our church family teamed together to raise money for a wheelchair-accessible van. We raised enough to have to color my hair pink today!!! We hope to get the van this week. Thank you to everyone who put a lot of effort into this! Thank you to those who came out and bought a lot at the yard sale!”

Brown had located an affordable used handicap-accessible van, and with the funds raised, the Griffins were able to purchase it, as well as take care of registration and license plates.

Additional funds have been set aside in case of needed mechanical repairs down the road, Butler said.

“The Lord has been good,” she said.

Throughout October, the Griffins had regained their lives. They were regulars at church again, and were able to go to the grocery store and doctors appointments much easier than they had previously. They were able to go to Cracker Barrel to celebrate their 25th anniversary.

One of their church friends hosted a fall bonfire at their home, and the Griffins were able to attend.

“He was so happy to have it, to be able to do what he did,” Patricia Findley said.

In late October, Robert Griffin was forced to go to the hospital as fluid had built up inside his body, straining his heart. His blood pressure started dropping, and those doctors tried different methods to drain the fluid and reduce stress on his organs, there was nothing they could do. He decided to come home on hospice.

On Nov. 3, he died in his sleep.

The Friendship Baptist Church congregation has rallied around Patricia Griffin to support her in her grief.

“Everybody has been very supportive and giving. We’re there for her,” Findley said.

Patricia Griffin remains thankful for everything the congregation at Friendship Baptist Church has done for them.

“It’s meant so much,” she said.