TARRANT, Alabama – Helen Johnson stared in amazement at the piles of food accumulating in her small Tarrant apartment on Wednesday.
“The last time I saw my house this full, I was 12-years-old and staying with my grandmother,” said the 47-year-old mother and grandmother. “I’ve been crying all day.”
On Wednesday, Tarrant police delivered two truckloads of groceries to the woman, who on Saturday was caught stealing five eggs from the nearby Dollar General. Instead of arresting Johnson, Tarrant Police Officer William Stacy bought her a carton of eggs and sent her home with the promise to never shoplift again.
That in itself, Johnson said, was a blessing. But those blessings now seem to have taken on a life of their own. Tarrant police said they’ve received calls from across the United States and world since hearing of Johnson’s plight. People have offered food, money and clothing.
It’s been so overwhelming, said Tarrant Police Chief Dennis Reno, he had to bring in a second police dispatcher to handle the volume of calls. Police officials today also set up a fund at People’s First Federal Credit Union on Ford Avenue in Tarrant to benefit the Johnson family.
“It’s growing and growing and growing,” Reno said. ” A guy called me from New York and just broke down. He said for two months he’s been angry with police, and he said this has totally changed his mind.”
A food bank from Memphis is set to arrive in Tarrant this evening. “This woman’s getting plenty of food,” the chief said. “She shouldn’t be hungry for a while.”
What a difference a week makes. Johnson’s two daughters, a niece and two grandchildren, ages 1 and 3, live with her in their Tarrant home. The kids’ mother gets a welfare check – $120 a month – but that check was lost in the mail. Johnson herself gets a disability check, which is set to come this week.
By Saturday, the family had gone two days without food. Johnson went to Dollar General on Pinson Valley Parkway with $1.25 and thought that would be enough to buy a carton of eggs. When she realized she was 50 cents plus tax short, she stuffed five eggs in her pocket out of desperation.
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