Adopted in Arkansas

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Sometime this afternoon, Clyde Ben and May Cowan will get a knock on their door. A turkey, stuffing, and all the fixin's will be delivered. Free.

Ben and May, who are just shy of the century mark, are too proud for handouts. The Arkansas couple has gotten along just fine thank you for years on Social Security and baskets.

Ben sits in his favorite chair and deftly works the wicker. A hand-painted sign on the lawn of their two-bedroom home tells passersby of his wares.

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OK, the house that Ben built 50 years ago is a little run-down. The floors are rotting. No water in the kitchen. May lugs a pail in from the bathroom.

A turkey dinner? They'll be embarrassed by the generosity. They'll try to refuse it.

But Ben and May have been adopted. Like it or not, when the Cowans were beaten and robbed in their home two months ago, folks around Garfield, Ark., decided this couple deserved better.

"The response was amazing - 30 or 40 calls," says Debra Walz, witness coordinator in the Benton County prosecutor's office. "You hear about all the bad stuff. This is people reaching out to help."

A parade of neighbors have stopped by with homemade bread or a bucket of chicken. In recent weeks, Nabholz Construction of Rogers, Ark., has led a phalanx of contractors through the house that Ben built. A new kitchen, new light switches instead of pull strings, new floors, new roof, new white vinyl siding.

May calls it "wonderful." Ben is grateful, but insists he'll pay for the work. Mike Jensen of Nabholz won't hear it. "They're family now."

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