• Neighbors trusting 'power of prayer' in desperate search for missing boy

    By: Mark Barber

    Updated:

    GASTON COUNTY, N.C. - The search for a missing 6-year-old boy is drawing a Gaston community together.

    [SEARCH FOR MADDOX: FBI uses parents' recorded voices in search for missing boy]

    One resident was in tears and too emotional to talk as she dropped off food and water on Monday for search crews.

    Those crews have been searching the area near Rankin Lake Park, where Maddox Ritch was last seen on Saturday.

    [IMAGES: Search for boy with special needs at Gastonia park]

    Thane Kendall, director of the Greater Gaston Baptist Association, said, "We have a lot of disagreements as far as other issues, but when it comes down to it, we know how to unify and to pull together as a community to do efforts just like this."

    His ministry center where volunteers help find clothes for needy families is right across the street from the park where Maddox vanished Saturday afternoon.

    "We have been absolutely crushed by this news. Our prayers have gone out for this family, especially for this little boy. I have a grandson about that same age, I can't imagine what the family must be going through with this," said Kendall.

    For days, residents have helplessly watched crews comb through the area and said they're now trusting in the power of prayer.

    "We're a faith-based operation of 115 Southern Baptist churches in Gaston County, so we will mobilize them in prayer to get this child found," said Kendall.

    As hours have dragged into days, neighbors like Billie Taylor are promising to keep praying.

    "I had three sons. I lost one of my sons," said Taylor, whose son died of cancer.

    It's especially hard for her to watch the crews search because her grandchildren are the same age as Maddox.

    [RELATED: Body of missing 1-year-old swept away by floodwaters found in Union County]

    "I can't even imagine something like that happening to them. I can't even imagine. It just breaks my heart," said Taylor.

    Nearby businesses are also joining the search effort.

    The clerk at a gas station near the park told Channel 9’s Mark Barber that Maddox’s mother stopped by to ask if surveillance cameras picked up anything that could help.

    The gas station employees said they're going to look at the footage once the store manager returns.

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