HAE crossing guard learns what she means to community

HAE crossing guard learns what she means to community
Henry Cosper, Grant Tedder, Max Berzenyi, Parker Roberson, Meredith Berzenyi, Peyton Franks, Colin Shea and Leighton Dostie join Maxine Brown curbside behind Hendricks Avenue Elementary School.

Over the years, Hendricks Avenue Elementary Crossing Guard Maxine Brown has lived through a lot of trials and tribulations – cancer being one – but it wasn’t until she encountered a brain tumor in October that she fully realized how precious she is to the San Marco families she serves each day.

After receiving her diagnosis earlier this fall, Brown let a few parents know her cerebral surgery would take place Oct. 24 and that October 20 would be the last day she would help guide the kids across Old San Jose Boulevard in the early morning and after school.

“She let us know a couple of weeks before,” said Kit Rossi of San Marco. “A bunch of us neighborhood moms wanted to do something for her to help her out.”

At first the HAE parents discussed setting up a meal train and giving her gift cards, but then realized a more meaningful gift would be to aid her financially, so they set up a Go Fund Me account to help with her medical expenses.

“We will be setting up some meals for her, and I know she will love cards and treats from the kids as well. But I really think she will benefit most from financial help with medical bills. This will be such a tangible outpouring of love from her community that will speak volumes to her heart,” Rossi wrote on the Go Fund Me account.

The account was established Oct. 16 with a goal to raise $5,000. In less than a week, the goal was met, and after a month, 102 neighborhood donors have pledged to help, surpassing the goal with a total of $5,698.

“It was just amazing. The money came from Hendricks Avenue Elementary families and so many others that just know her from driving by,” Rossi said. “Even if you don’t have a child at school, everybody knows and loves Mrs. Brown.”

Assisting Rossi with the fundraising plans were Leighton Davis, Amy Franks, Sarah Troup and Emily Dostie. HAE Coach Shannon McGlynn also helped by spreading the word among the faculty and staff at school, Rossi said.

“I’ve been through so much – back surgery, breast surgery, and I lost my only daughter (and only child) when she was 25. She had a 19-month old baby and I raised her,” Brown recalled in a telephone interview from her St. Nicholas home Nov. 17. The surgery was successful and the tumor benign, she said, adding it is her hope to recover quickly enough to be back at her post before Christmas break.

“I’m just so blessed. God has truly blessed me. This just took me unawares,” she said about the monetary gift. “I never expected it. Who would think this would happen when I just stand up and wave at somebody and smile? It never dawned on me that something like this would happen to me of all people. People are so good. I’ve had so many bad things happen to me, I never thought anything good like this would happen. I didn’t realize the kids love me like they do, and then the parents do, too,” she said.

“One of a kind” is how Amy Franks, an HAE parent who lives across Old San Jose Boulevard from the school, describes Brown. “Maxine has been there seven years. We’re so blessed to have her because she knows every kid, and if someone doesn’t show up she calls to inquire if they are okay. She makes every mom feel like there is another parent there parenting their kid,” Franks said.

“She remembers the kids’ birthdays, and gives them balloons and treats on holidays, and we know it is tough because surely she is on a limited income. She loves the kids, and she loves to see them light up, and we love to see her devotion there,” Franks continued. “She does her job because she loves it. She does it for the children.”

The fact that Brown was a very special patient was immediately apparent to Baptist Hospital Jacksonville President Michael Mayo, who was notified by one of his neighbors that Brown would be admitted to Baptist for her surgery.

“Almost every day on my way to work I go by the school and usually it is early, before the kids and their parents begin to arrive, and she’s out there with the friendliness she always exhibits,” said Mayo. “She waves and I wave, so I kind of knew her, not by name but by presence. When Suzanne Honeycutt called Jennifer, my wife, to alert me of her situation, I went by to check on her. I visited her post operatively after her procedure. I was really amazed at her remarkable recovery,” he said, adding that he prayed with her and gave her his business card with cell phone number in case any issues arose.

“When you see someone every day, you don’t always pay that close attention, but now when I go by and she is not there, I think about her. She’s a real fixture in the community, and, apparently, she’s very good with the children and is especially kind and sensitive,” he said. “When I see her again, I may roll down my window, or better yet, just stop and reintroduce myself.”

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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