BRANDON — The angel cried.
Tears flew down the face of Janelle Duncan after she helped assist Heather Ussery, a woman in her 30s suffering from colon cancer.
Duncan and members of the Brandon Foundation's Angel Program graciously lent a hand to Ussery and her family, bringing them clothing, medical supplies and groceries. They also prayed and talked with the family.
"The blessing of helping one person or family at a time and showing them God's love can heal the hearts of hurting people," Duncan said.
It's those reciprocal benefits of giving and receiving that fuels the foundation's Angel Program. Established in 2006, it helps families in the Brandon community who experienced a catastrophic event or life-threatening illness. The Angel Program has assisted more than 400 families and works with more than 80 registered charitable organizations.
Recipients have only praise for the program.
"Being diagnosed with cancer, my angel family gave me reassurance that I am not alone," said recipient Natasha Zapatero, who received food, household items, assistance with a minor roofing repair and help completing her taxes.
"I am grateful for their help," Zapatero added.
The Angel Program — a combination of 50 volunteers, team leaders and foundation members — not only provides, but serves as a community conduit, connecting individuals and local business owners who want to help to those in need.
Foundation executive director, Liz Brewer, said those in need can fill out an "Angel Assistance Request form" online at brandonfoundation.org. Each request gets screened to make sure it meets the standards of a catastrophic event or life-threatening illness.
The foundation initially funded the program for several years and also benefited from a grant from the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay.
Now, with the grant money dwindling, the group hopes to raise $20,000. It's also hoping to raise awareness and draw more volunteers for various foundation projects. Individuals can donate goods and money through a monthly program called Difference Makers.
Duncan has mixed emotions when she thinks of Ussery, who died in June.
"I know we made a difference in their lives," Duncan said. "She's now in heaven."
Contact Tatiana Ortiz at [email protected]