'Big Mama,' always helping others, now in need of help herself

Fort Lauderdale woman's charity headquarters destroyed in fire

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A month after a fire tore through Essie "Big Mama" Reed's charity headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, a lot more work still needs to be done.

"Turkey time is here," Reed said. "My place is blooming with smoke, mildew. You can't walk in there. Water is still on the flooring in there." 

Reed operated her Team of Life charity from her home and didn't have insurance. Now, the woman on whom others rely for help during tough times is in need of assistance herself.

"You love Mama? Y'all come on out, and I know you love me," Reed told Local 10 News on Monday. "Some of you may not have the funds to help me, but these hands are powerful. You can do it."

A fire started in her kitchen Oct. 3 and spread throughout the house. Reed's sons have been working tirelessly this past month trying to clean up and clear the place. There is still plenty more to be done, including installing new floors, walls and a ceiling.

Big Mama has been a fixture in South Florida for decades, handing out meals to deserving families on Thanksgiving.

The task of helping others has become more difficult after the fire, but she said the show must go on.

"I plan on doing something," she said. "You can't stop the work of God. So my people, my children, your mama will be ready." 

Those interested in helping Reed recover can do so through her Team of Life's website or the group's Facebook page.

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