CAMDEN, N.J. — The young mum’s voice is composed on the telephone, but there was no mistaking her desperation.
Because she had no food for her four children she had been calling 911. With no phone support was to call the crisis line, that will be available even when there is a phone deactivated.
” All I wanted to understand … When I could get some type of help,” the young mother said in the Jan. 22 call. “I want somebody to come out … I have been … trying to locate food for my kids.
“My kids have not eaten since yesterday,” she continued. “I’m waiting for my food stamps to come. … “
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“It was dreadful,” said Tondaleya Bagby, a Camden County, N.J., dispatcher who overheard the call. She discharged Camden County Police Officer David Hinton, with instructions to check on the household.
However, the call stayed with her, and she knew she needed to do more. Giving Hinton her cell number, she requested him to let her know what he found after he got there.
“I went inside and found that a single mom and four children in a one-bedroom apartment,” said Hinton. “She told me she was not able to supply for them herself.”
The cabinets were bare, ” he explained. “The kids were eager to find a police officer, however they had been hungry. I believe she didn’t know what else to do, but I’m glad she called the authorities.”
Bagby told Hinton she wished to have pizzas delivered into the apartment, but Hinton instead suggested visiting McDonald’s, where he purchased Happy Food and food to hold the children until officers could do more.
The call gnawed at Bagby.
“All day, I had been considering the long term, for example, yes, they have food now, but what about tomorrow, next week, next month?”
She told Hinton she needed to do more.
“I told him once I got off work, I’d go back there with groceries,” she said. “I then texted my mom” — Camden County Sgt. Tracy Seigel — “and advised her about the call, and said I had been going out there by myself after work.”
Seigel, in moving alone at night into some neighborhood plagued by crime, feared, replied like both a cop and a mom.
“She said, ‘Uh, that is a drawback,’ ” her daughter remembered.
Seigel laughed. “That is what I told her, yes.”
Instead, Seigel appreciated some fellow officers, including newly retired Lt. Scott Bagby and Lt. Janelle Simpson and all of them pooled their money to buy 10 bags of groceries to get the family through the catastrophe, until more long-term assistance could be arranged.
Tondaleya Bagby, using her own money and exactly what the officers gave her, went into an Aldi plus a ShopRite, then Seigel and she moved to the apartment.
“(The mother) answered the door, and the kids were lined up,” said Bagby, who estimated the children’s ages between 9 and two years old. “She was so thankful and appreciative, and the children were excited. It made my heart smile.”
A mom herself, she pictured herself in the place of the woman. “I believe what she did was exactly what she needed to do. Irrespective of her situation and how difficult it might be to request assistance, she did her job as a mother, to get help for her children.”
“The officers do things like this all the time,” said Camden County spokesman Dan Keashen. The section also supplied a navigator to her to assist with social services.
Seigel and Hinton, mentioned from the division as its own Chairman of the Week, both withdrew the belief that they did anything more.
“We are there to protect and serve,” Seigel said. “And ‘serve’ in every sense. We’re police officers but we are human beings first.”
She is proud of Bagby, her own daughter, and the “warm, giving heart” she showed in helping a young mum in need.
“She doesn’t have a lot of cash, but she found a way,” she explained. It’s not unusual for her, though, Seigel said.
“It pulls at my heartstrings as a mommy to understand my daughter is really enthused about helping people,” she stated.
“She always says children are her kryptonite.”