Food and Friendship: Hanover woman gives to neighbor

By Sabrina Squire - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

ASHLAND, VA (WWBT) – Every Tuesday at five, we showcase an Act of Kindness. Where I give $300 to someone wanting to pay it forward to someone in need, some organization, or cause they support. This week we traveled up the road to the center of the universe, the town of Ashland for a lesson in food and friendship.

Fifteen miles from downtown Richmond, amid fields of soybeans on what used to be a chicken farm, we arrive at the Maple Street home of Sharon Mays.

Sharon Mays: "How are you doing?" 
Sabrina Squire: "I'm doing great"

The widow and mother of two called to tell us about the kind hearted matriarch of Maple Street, 77-year-old Helen Madison.

"She's so good to us," said Sharon. "She's my second mother, I lost my mother in 2003; we call her Gangee for grandma."

She says Gangee's good deeds can be summed up in a word…

"Everything. She does everything," Sharon said.

That includes being a caretaker when Sharon's been sick. The cancer survivor has endured numerous operations.

"I've had 13 surgeries, 13-14, I lost count and Gangee's always been there for me, bringing me food, taking care of Harrison when I couldn't," said Sharon.

And on weekends Sharon says neighbors get a hearty serving of Helen's comfort food.

"She opens her home like that and feeds everybody. She cooks every Saturday," said Sharon. "She cooks and she doesn't have central air and heat. She always thinks of others, she needs to do something for herself."

Sharon and her son, Harrison, just want to show Gangee they're grateful.

Sabrina Squire: "Let me count out one hundred, two hundred, three hundred dollars for your neighborly Act of Kindness."

As we mosey across the road to grandma's house, Sharon tells me Gangee takes care of her neighbors while taking care of her own 78-year-old sick husband and 56-year-old disabled daughter, along with a handful of great-grandkids, and she still drives downtown to work four days a week.

Sharon Mays: "This is Sabrina."
Helen Madison: "I know who she is."
Sabrina Squire: "Mrs. Madison, it's a pleasure to meet you."
Helen Madison: "Pleasure to meet you too."
Sabrina Squire: "I hear you have Saturday dinner. How many people do you feed?"
Helen Madison:  "How many? A lot. Everybody and anybody."
Sabrina Squire: "You know this young man."
Helen Madison: "Yeah, he's my adopted grandson."
Harrison: "We appreciate everything you do for us, and we want to kind of repay you. One hundred, two hundred, three hundred..."
Helen Madison: "Whew I'm going out of town this weekend. Well, I appreciate it, because I never had any idea something like this would've went down."

As we retreat from the heat to a huge shade tree, Gangee tells me that as the oldest of nine, taking care of others just comes naturally. She's been doing that for four decades with the State Tax Department. So what about retirement?

"Well, I've retired. I worked there almost 30 years before I retired. Oh my, I've been back 10 years since I retired," said Helen.

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