Governments don't live together. People do.
Mom vows to keep feeding needy kids from her driveway despite city crackdown
A Pennsylvania woman has vowed to continue doling out free lunches to children in her hardscrabble neighborhood, even though officials there have threatened to fine her $600 a day.
Angela Prattis, 41, was ordered by the Chester Township Council to wind down the makeshift dining room she runs in the driveway of her modest home during the summer for the hungry kids who come to her daily in search of a good meal. Under pressure from the community, the local leaders agreed to let Prattis finish her mission this summer, but told her she would need a zoning variance to resume the operation next summer.
"I'm going to continue to feed the children," Prattis told FoxNews.com. "I'm just doing this for the kids. I don't want a big fight.
"I just want to be in right standing with the town," added Prattis, who feeds 20 or more kids on some days. "I know how to follow protocol, as long as it's clearly defined."
The mother of four, who works as a massage therapist, says she serves up the lunches while the kids are out of school because many are too poor to get good lunches at home. Prattis gets the food from the Philadelphia Archdiocese, which makes daily deliveries of pre-packaged lunches, drinks and snacks to her doorstep. She pointed out that the archdiocese required her to take a preparatory class focusing on nutrition -- and other essentials -- before serving kids.
"I'm not working with some fly-by-night operation," she maintained. "This is the archdiocese, for crying out loud."
Prattis, her husband, Derrick, and their children recently moved into the home after living for years in the Delaware County Housing Projects in nearby Woodlyn. She says her new neighborhood isn't affluent, but the people are salt of the earth types.
"This isn't a working-class neighborhood," she quipped. "It's a hardworking-class neighborhood."
The neighborhood kids enjoy the lunches and benefit from the nutrition, she said.
"We have tons of children, here," Prattis said. "There's a lady who baby-sits a bunch of kids and she brings them around because the parents can't afford to have them in day care and feed them at the same time.
"We had a nasty storm last Wednesday, and I only set up one table because I didn't think the kids would come in the pouring rain," she said, before adding, "They all came. I served 20 children in the pouring rain."
On a typical summer weekday, neighborhood men set up three plastic tables in Prattis's driveway, along with about 25 folding chairs donated by The Church of The Overcomer in nearby Trainer, Pa. Food from the Archdiocese's "Feeding Program" arrives around 9:30 a.m. truck. Prattis said the eager children are usually on hand when the Archdiocese truck arrives, and help unload their own meals.
"They know that I'm committed and going to be there at that particular time for them. "It means a lot for them to have a friendly face that they know will be there every day. And for me, I know when they're with me, at the least, they are safe and having fun, and out of harm's way, and not getting into trouble."
But on July 31, Councilman William Kennard showed up at a meeting of the neighborhood civic association and told the gathering Prattis' free lunch program was unlawful. At the town council meeting two days later, elected officials voted to levy a $600-a-day fine for each day Prattis fed the kids.
Kennard could not be reached for comment.
Prattis continued to serve the meals, and, although no fine was levied, on Aug. 10 she received a letter from the township saying she could serve kids until Aug. 24, but that she must apply for a variance next year. It costs $1,000 to apply for the variance, she said, and there is no guarantee the council will accept it, Prattis said.
One way or another, she said she'll be feeding kids next summer.
"What's in my heart?" she asked. "I feel like they could be focusing on a lot of other serious issues that are taking place in my neighborhood, instead of something I think is very positive and keeping our kids on the right side of the law."
Faith in Humanity: Crowd of Good Samaritans Rescue Sisters From Burning Wreck
Passing motorists who saw smoke billowing Thursday from a stand of pine trees along southern Mississippi’s Interstate 10 rescued a woman and her disabled sister trapped inside a wrecked, burning sport utility vehicle (SUV).
Fifteen to 20 motorists, including a photographer for The Associated Press, came to the aid of the women Thursday afternoon in Hancock County.
Photographer Gerald Herbert said the rescuers pulled the disabled woman from the wreck first, but getting the driver out was difficult.
“No one had fire extinguishers,” Herbert said. “We were all sure she was going to perish. The sounds of her screams and the sight of the fire inching closer to her, that was the most horrible and helpless feeling I’ve ever felt in my life.”
As flames spread in the SUV and the driver screamed in panic, those who’d stopped flagged down motorists in a desperate search for fire extinguishers, water — anything that could be used to douse the flames while others tried to find a way to extricate the driver.
Using extinguishers provided by passing truckers, the rescuers were able to control the fire as they worked to free her.
Mississippi Highway Patrol spokesman Ben Seibert identified the driver as Giovanna Demonte, 36, of Picayune, Miss. He said she was airlifted in stable condition to Gulfport Memorial Hospital. “She had serious head trauma. Anytime that happens, injuries are considered life-threatening,” he said.
Seibert said Demonte was traveling eastbound on I-10, just past the Louisiana-Mississippi line, about 11:30 a.m. when she went off the road, overcorrected, and crossed the median. The passenger side of her 2002 Chevrolet Trailblazer then crashed into a tree.
Police said the driver’s sister, Felicidad Demonte, 39, of Slidell, La., was in the back seat and suffered minor injuries.
Petty Officer Melissa Estes, who’s based at the Naval base in Gulfport but is from Annapolis, Md., said she came upon the scene after picking up her mother from the airport in New Orleans.
“I noticed the smoke,” she recalled. “I saw only one person so I stopped and ran down there to help. Others also stopped and a couple of guys broke the windows to the back passenger seat and were able to pull the girl out and her wheelchair. We got her to the road safely. The woman kept screaming `My baby! My baby!’ I really thought the car was going to blow up.”
Zach Miller, of Hurley, Miss., said the entrapped driver was screaming at the top of her lungs.
“I kept telling her, ‘We won’t leave you here to burn. We’re gonna get you out of here,’” he said.
Herbert said a man in a pickup truck tried to pull the car out of the valley where it landed and a cement truck eventually joined the rescue effort and began spraying water on the vehicle, keeping the flames at bay. Others used crowbars to help pry open the car’s jammed door and the Good Samaritans finally were able to pull the woman to safety.
“She was so blessed that mixer had a water hose,” said Harold Catha Jr., also of Hurley, who helped with the effort. “I know that saved her life.”
Catha said he used his fire extinguisher to help put out flames that were licking at the SUV’s front tires. “But the flames would abate for a second or two, but then blaze back,” he said. “The mixer was able to put water inside the vehicle when the flames were trying to get to her. While the water was being poured on her and the fire, they were able to pull the car up out of the woods and get her out. It all took maybe 10 to 12 minutes but it felt a whole lot longer.”
Seibert, the highway patrol spokesman, said police didn’t witness much of what happened but are grateful for the efforts of the motorists.
Said Seibert: “We greatly appreciate those who stopped because sometimes there are accidents when nobody stops.”------------------------