A woman with a giant heart is this week's Mid-South Hero.
Tina Handy-Mallet created a Christmas program that helps dozens of Mid-South families each year struggling during the holidays. However, what Handy-Mallet does for people stretches far beyond toys during the holidays.
Handy-Mallet moved to Memphis from Oklahoma more than 20 years ago, and when she got here she saw families who couldn't afford gifts on Christmas. That image stuck with her, and inspired her to work to make sure everyone, especially children, had something to open during the holidays.
“I want people to teach their kids there is still hope,” Tina said. “If we don't step up and start doing things--no matter how little we have--then our kids won't respond.”
In 2001, she started a different kind of angel tree program for two families. It was more involved for families in need and the sponsors who donate.
It was a party that began with just two families and now has more than 40 families. The program's more than 70 sponsors make sure more than 100 people receive gifts during the holidays.
Handy-Mallet organizes it all with music food and lots of cheer.
“She's baking for people; she's doing cakes for weddings; she's doing cakes for people who've lost loved ones,” said Kristina McNervin, who sponsored a 9-year-old girl last year. “She has put together something that she didn't mean to put together, but it came together and came together well.”
Whether it is Handy-Mallet's daughter, Dayza Bogard, or Stephanie Blair-Tyler, who used to be a recipient but is now a sponsor with her grandchildren, the one constant is Handy-Mallet helping children and families struggling in the Mid-South during the holiday season and throughout the year.
"I don't make promises to families that I'm not going to keep," she said.
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