Former Powhatan teacher takes in student, daughter’s friend during pandemic
RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The stillness of country living is gently interrupted by the sound of two bikes, from two little girls, once classmates, now sisters through circumstance.
It all started in February 2020 when Mary and Meggie Brann were put out of their apartment weeks before the pandemic began. Their only granddaughter, Jade, who they have custody of, by their side - the three of them now homeless.
“Anybody that thinks they can survive in a car, I’m here to tell you, no you can’t,” said the grandfather, Meggie Brann.
The family slept at gas stations.
“After we were told we couldn’t sleep at Sheetz anymore, we went to the 64 rest area,” said Brann.
They cleaned themselves up as much as they could at a storage facility.
“Jade would go into the bathroom, wash up, clean up and get ready for school,” said Brann.
Virtual learning took place wherever the trio could find WiFi.
Dawn Butler was a former teacher at Jade’s elementary school.
“Her academics weren’t up to par because living in a vehicle you don’t have internet. One Friday, I asked her what she was doing after school and she said, ‘I would be hanging out in a car this weekend.’”
Dawn’s daughter Carlynn, is Jade’s classmate.
“I called the grandparents and asked if she could come over for a playdate and spend the night. I got permission. She came over and within an hour of them riding on the golf cart, and seeing what we have here, she asked if she could stay the entire weekend,” said Butler.
The following Monday they made a decision.
“My husband called and said we can’t send her back to a car because it was November and it was getting cold,” said Butler.
Her husband Jason went with his heart.
“I’m a big guy, but I got a big heart man, and I can’t have some kid staying at a rest stop. Whatever needs to be done for her to stay with us until they get back on their feet is what needs to be done,” he said.
Jade’s grandparents, Meggie and Mary, knew what needed to be done.
“She’s the only granddaughter I got. I love her to death and I would do anything for her within my power,” said Meggie.
With the help of social services, Meggie and Mary temporarily handed over that power to Dawn and Jason.
“I think the best thing that ever happened to Jade was that she had somewhere to live, a nice bed, food to eat, she could take a bath like she’s supposed to. I wish there were more people like that out there,” said Meggie.
The Butler family even pulled money from their savings to bring Jade along on a pre-planned trip to St. Maarten in the Caribbean.
“We got her passport expedited and the first time her little feet were in the ocean was when we took her to St. Maarten,” said Dawn Butler.
This once-in-a-lifetime trip gave the girls an opportunity to get closer.
“It allowed them to have the first time for this, the first time for that, I think that helped them as a sister pair,” said Jason Butler.
Their bond is stronger than ever - even though things have changed.
“Now, she’s back with her grandparents but we get her once a week,” said Dawn Butler.
Two strangers took in a little girl without pretense, and these grandparents made a decision out of love - A long but beautiful journey for this now, blended family.
“We want her to be a kid. where she has plenty of places to run, play, play with the dog. That’s what a kid should be doing instead of thinking in their mind where they’re going to sleep at night,” said Jason Butler.
Selfless love for a child in need, and kindness that can’t be measured - just to allow a kid, to be a kid.
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