The Dallas Examiner
“I want that,” exclaimed 5-year-old Nevaeh Simmons as she ran up and down the Target aisles, filling two red carts with $1,000 worth of toys.
Brimming with happiness and wonder, no one would think little Nevaeh was faced with a tragedy a month ago.
Her mother, Gabrielle Simmons, was killed by a 15-year-old robber while working at a Southeast Oak Cliff Dollar General not far from the child’s elementary school.
Although nothing could fix the tragic loss, Williams Chicken owners hoped to ease the pain by surprising Nevaeh, her sister and her five brothers with a huge Christmas shopping spree at Target department store on Dec. 22.
“I didn’t expect it to be like this,” said Aris Joseph, Simmons’ fiance and the children’s father. “This is something I’ve never seen before, and I’m overly appreciative of it.”
The Simmons were picked up in a party bus, offered complimentary lunches from Williams Chicken, then the children were gifted with a shopping spree through the Change for Change program, in which Williams Chicken customers donated loose coins throughout the year.
After Gabrielle’s murder broke the news, Williams Chicken CEO Hiawatha Williams and his wife Doris chose the family, as well as local resident Clara Roiz and her family, for a holiday treat.
“That is the foundation of which we built the company,” Williams said. “We’re apart of the community and make our living from the community, so it’s only right.”
The six minors – ranging from 9-month-old Ar’brielle Joseph to 11-year-old Martavionne Parker – packed up several carts with Paw Patrol toys, video games, Barbie dolls and clothes while donning black shirts with their mother’s photo on the front.
“I’m going to make sure everybody sees her face every day I walk out the door,” Joseph said passionately as he marched with his children.
The holidays won’t be the same for the Joseph-Simmons family, but the positive distraction proved to be a success.
“They take a whole lot of weight off of me by doing this,” Joseph said. “I don’t get much sleep, but I keep my house together. Seeing them happy brings me relief. Knowing they’re comfortable and secure is my relief.”
By the end of the spree, they went over the $2,000 budget by $500, even after a 20 percent Target discount. The local community gave out a helping hand for the mourning family.
“Everybody in Dallas has came through for this family,” said Taiesha Parker, the children’s aunt. “Since day one, Dallas has shown nothing but love. People I’ve never met are giving their hearts out to these babies.”
Doris Williams said the franchise’s generosity came from a personal empathetic place.
“It could have been me,” she expressed. “I have two sons, and it could have been me or my husband, so we really have to be sensitive to other people’s problems.”
The family hopes that this gracious help will continue to pour out to the children as the murder story loses media traction.
“We’re looking for long-term help,” Parker said. “Someone who will help in April and May when it’s not as fresh on the news anymore.”
Doris said the franchise will continue to check-in with the family from time to time and provide them with books, school supplies, and job and housing opportunities throughout the new year.