How much do you love your children? How far are you willing to go to make sure they are safe, healthy and happy?
Most parents would do just about anything to protect their sons and daughters, even when it requires great sacrifice and striking out into the unknown.
Chantre Russ is one of those parents whose love is sacrificial — and she’s proved it. Recently, when her eldest child’s father was murdered, she knew she had to get out and go somewhere safer.
She found out that there was public housing in Kansas City, so she gathered up a few belongings and her precious children, and scraped together enough money for bus tickets.
Once the Greyhound bus dropped her and her three little ones off, they had no direction. It was just Russ, her 4-year-old, her 2-year-old, her 7-month old, and two bags of belongings.
Where to go? What to do? She didn’t know. So she did the best she could at that moment and herded her little family into the stairwell of a parking garage.
At 2 a.m., they were spotted by a compassionate policeman, Sgt. AJ Henry. His heart went out to the mother and her children, and he decided to call someone who could help.
Gina English, KCPD’s Social Services Coordinator, got the call. Meanwhile, some officers pooled their money so Russ and her three kids had somewhere safe to stay.
The only thing they weren’t willing to do was to separate the family. The officer was adamant about that.
English later said, “It was not going to happen on his watch. That family was not going to be separated.”
Just in case anyone leveled accusations against the mother, English made sure to stand up for her and prove that she was a great mom, she had just experienced difficulties outside of her control.
“This woman, where she’s at, what she’s done, she has done everything on her own. She just needed a support team,” she said. “She just needed someone to cheer her on and remind her that she’s made it this far and she can continue to go further.”
More money and donations came in, thanks to the work of English and the kindness of other officers, and Russ was able to find a place to stay for the foreseeable future.
One policeman’s wife even went so far as to visit in person, bringing dinner and toys and clothes for the surprised mom. English saw the look on Russ’s face and reassured her that she could accept the gifts.
“I could see the mother feeling overwhelmed and I could see her going into herself and I looked at her and said, ‘I need you to know this is not charity. This is love. This is support.’”
When Russ later heard about how Henry had been so serious about keeping her family from being separated, she was incredibly thankful.
“I’m just so thankful the officers found me because I don’t know what I would have done,” she said, “because I was actually thinking about calling Children’s Division on myself.”
At the end of her rope, she thought she had no other option but to turn over her children to people who had the means to provide for them. But thanks to the generosity of the people who discovered her, they would remain a family.
“That’s a good parent,” said English. “That’s a good parent.”