Pamela Spencer was a grieving mother behind on her rent and in need of help.
Her son Bryant Morgan was murdered a year ago in a confrontation over a girl. The loss of Spencer's 20-year-old son was hard enough. Then came threats from some of the family of the 18-year-old convicted of shooting Morgan. Threats escalated to a courtroom melee after the killer's sentencing last September.
Spencer, who moved from Chicago to Omaha in the hope of a better life, said she feared for the well-being of her six other children, four of whom live with her.
She wanted to move to protect her family, but she didn't know how she could when she was already behind on rent. A relative advised her to check into the Goodfellows program.
Leann Quiroz at Heartland Family Service — a Goodfellows' partner agency — recalled her first meeting with Spencer.
“There was no hope in her eyes,” Quiroz said. “She looked so sad and empty.”
Quiroz listened as Spencer recounted her life, her son's death and how she had fallen behind on her rent after the slaying. Spencer told Quiroz that everyone else had turned her away, saying that they were sorry for her loss but that she didn't qualify for their assistance programs.
“I wasn't going to tell her that,” Quiroz said. In fact, Goodfellows is designed for people like Spencer — those who need one-time emergency assistance to get back on their feet.
Spencer said she walked into Quiroz's office in need and left with a friend. She also got the assistance she needed to catch up on her rent. Goodfellows paid $500 to her landlord in May.
Spencer found a job and, after being threatened outside the court, moved to a new address.
“It felt good that someone was able to help us,” Spencer said.
Quiroz said she often receives thank-you cards or telephone calls from the families she helps. With Spencer, it's different, she said. Spencer stops in to visit periodically.
Quiroz said she can see the burden lifted from Spencer's shoulders.
“I am very blessed to know this lady,” Quiroz said.
While Spencer hopes her children are safer in the family's new place, she still fears for them. She left Chicago to get away from the violence; she feared that if she stayed, her older sons would end up in gangs, dead or in jail. She couldn't let that happen. But now, she said, she doesn't think there are any safe places.
Spencer wipes away tears as she recalls her late son. She tries to keep a brave face for her surviving children because it is their love that keeps her going, she said.
“When I'm by myself, it's when it hurts the most,” Spencer said.
Contact the writer: 402-473-9580, email@example.com
Goodfellows provides assistance to thousands of families each year. It has raised and distributed nearly $10 million since 1945. With The World-Herald paying all administrative costs, every dollar donated to Goodfellows goes directly to disadvantaged families – helping them with one-time urgent needs, providing holiday meals and providing funds for clothing, shoes and coats. Click here to learn more about Goodfellows.
Click here to donate to the 2012 drive, or mail your contribution to:
World-Herald Goodfellows Charities, Inc.
1314 Douglas St.
Omaha, NE 68102
To contact Goodfellows, call 402-444-1388 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.