A spirit of charity helps single mom through the holiday

Many people find that the charitable urge tugs at their hearts a little stronger around Christmas. Because of a death in the family, one Bartlett police officer wasn’t available to participate this year in the Fraternal Order of Police’s usual Christmas shopping trip for children in need or other charitable works of the season. But that officer, Aaron Meadows, was still hopeful about giving back to someone.

When he heard through the grapevine that an acquaintance was having a tough time, he took up her cause and championed it with help from fellow police officers, firefighters and community members.

Meadows, a Bartlett native, learned that Mandy Mae of Memphis had been diagnosed with cancer of the spleen and liver earlier in 2016 and was having severe money troubles because of her costly medical bills. He’d only met her through a mutual friend a couple of times, but he was touched by her story.

She is a single mom with a serious illness, foregoing some of her cancer treatments just to put food on the table. She takes care of her elderly parents, who have their own medical issues. And her older daughter recently had a baby and moved back into the mother’s home. Mandy Mae has a full plate of responsibilities.

Meadows found out through their mutual friend that she was in financial trouble but hadn’t been asking for help. “Nobody’s going to tell anyone that kind of stuff,” he said. “They don’t want anyone to know when they need help. People don’t tell anyone when they need help.”

What really grieved her enough to mention her difficulties was how the money crunch affected her two youngest children.

Meadows said, “I found out that the cost of her treatment had become so expensive that she wasn’t going to be able to buy her kids any Christmas presents.”

He touched base with other officers, firefighters and emergency medical service personnel who also didn’t get to pitch in to support a charity project this year, and they agreed to help. Initially, the plan was just to buy the children’s presents. Her four-year-old daughter, Lindie-Rhea, had typical childhood wishes for a fun Christmas. The eight-year-old boy, Ezekiel, didn’t want much – just a nice suit to wear to church because he’s an usher.

“I thought that was really awesome for an eight-year-old to only want one thing—to look nice on Sunday at church,” he said.

The cause turned into something awesome, he said, because police and firefighters and their families hopped on board.

Meadows didn’t set up a GoFundMe.com account or some other formal structure for giving, but he and his colleagues managed to raise enough funds to help. He brought her a truckfulof presents to sneak past the kids and a few hundred dollars to help out before Christmas. He has some late donations that he is planning to deliver to her as well.

He estimated the charitable gifts added up to about $2,500 or more in presents, cash and other resources donated to help the family survive her medical crisis and have a happy holiday. The Bartlett Fire Reserves alone contributed a $300 gift card to Kroger.

“People are still trying to bring me things for her,” he said.

She told Meadows the children were thrilled with the gifts, he said. “She sent me a video of her daughter talking about what Santa brought her, and that was awesome.”

She didn’t know the extent of the support she was getting until Meadows met her with the gifts and the money.

He said, “She just told me that she was thankful for the blessing and was wanting to know who all helped.”

Written by Carolyn Bahm, Express editor. Contact her at (901) 433-9138 or via email to bartlett.editor@journalinc.com.