Sometimes, those who help others need help themselves. When Michelle Laramy-Flagg moved to Las Vegas in June as a single mother, she had nothing to her name. But she had a job, which saw her processing applications for people applying for state assistance.
After work, Laramy-Flagg would pick up her girls and bring them home to an apartment near Summerlin devoid of furniture. The family would eat on the floor. Without a TV, they spent their evenings playing games. At night, her girls slept on mattresses. Their mother didn’t even have that; she slept on the floor.
Laramy-Flagg insisted they were doing all right even though one whole paycheck went to day care and after-school child care. Her other paycheck had to pay for everything else.
This Christmas, Walker Furniture’s Home for the Holidays program learned of her circumstances from two of her co-workers — Marianne Ford and Angela Rowland — and sent a team to verify their claims. The program provides families in need with free furniture.
Ford said she nominated her friend “because I used to be in her shoes, I used to be struggling with kids … I see how she helps people every day, and no matter what’s going on with her life, she’s always happy and willing to help somebody, and I thought maybe it was her turn.”
Laramy-Flagg said she thought the Walker people were social workers, come to see if she had food for the girls, Heidi, 5, and Sharlize, 8. The Walker team, which included HELP of Southern Nevada, had to convince her that she was not being investigated.
Tom Kennedy, who helps coordinate the effort each year for Walker Furniture, said thousands of letters asking for help were received. Laramy-Flagg’s family was one of 28 to receive free furniture.
Heidi had made a “tree” at school. It was cut from colored paper, decorated with stickers and pinned to their apartment wall, their only holiday decoration. Laramy-Flagg said she could not afford presents to put underneath it, but that the girls understood that finances were tight.
On Dec. 14, the day the furniture was delivered, she said she still couldn’t believe strangers would give her free furniture. But the Walker Furniture representatives kept carrying in more things. The guilt trip came as soon as they left.
“I felt, ‘What if there was another person who didn’t have beds for their kids, and what if there’s someone who needs it more than me, and I’m going to prevent them from getting it?’ I felt terrible,” Laramy-Flagg said. “I sat up all night just thinking about that. What if there was that one person who was doing worse than I was? I mean, at my job, I help people get benefits, people who are unemployed and who are struggling, and I see that, and it’s my thing where I tell them, ‘It’s OK. It’ll get better, I promise. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like.’ So, I’m like, ‘I don’t deserve this.’ “
The Walker Furniture crew left behind wrapped gifts for the girls. The presents were from the Las Vegas Rescue Mission and sat under Heidi’s paper tree, waiting to be opened on Christmas morning.
Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2949.