Kimberly Miller can’t tell you exactly why her lawn was in such bad shape. She stutters, stammers and shrugs out answers.
“It’s just been one thing after another,” Miller said. “It just got away from me… normally I’m up on things.”
The front lawn of Miller’s yard made headlines on Memorial Day when her Sears Woods neighbors brought a petition to the Columbus Council to do something about her lawn.
Miller’s front yard was overgrown with weeds that scraped visitors knees as they tried to get in touch with her. Neighbors and city council representatives couldn’t get anyone to even answer the door on multiple visits.
The Ledger-Enquirer’s Memorial Day column spotlighting the issue spurred several dozen readers to take action, according to those who came to Miller’s house.
By 1 p.m., approximately 30 people were working on Miller’s front yard. People came from as far away as Phenix City and Crawford to mow the lawn themselves.
“Today is Memorial Day. That’s what this is about.”
Andrina Dedall said she and her husband brought their family and as much lawn-mowing equipment as they could in the morning. She and another man from Philadelphia Baptist Church were the first ones there.
The Dedalls knocked on Miller’s door. When no one answered, they left a note on her door and began cutting Miller’s lawn for her.
“All of us agree that it was a shame all those people could complain about her property, but no one could go out and (fix it),” Dedall said.
Several families said they abandoned their Memorial Day plans to come help clear Miller’s yard.
“We explained (to our kids) why we’re not going swimming today and not picnicking,” said Leigh Adams. “This is what God put us on earth for, is to serve each other.”
Dana Redmond, a woman from north Columbus, said she came to Sears Woods instead of visiting the Fort Mitchell cemetery like she had planned.
Redmond said she and her husband, both veterans, decided they wanted to help their community for Memorial Day.
“This is not the day to just sit around,” Redmond said. “This is our community, this is our family. Columbus is our family, so we came out to help.”
Miller said she was shocked so many strangers cared about her and were willing to help.
Miller, 55, lives with and cares for her 89-year-old mother Mae. Mae has dementia and survives off of her deceased husband’s military pension. Miller’s 26-year-old daughter Amanda also just moved away to Nevada.
Miller said she has been unable to work to her full capacity since injuring her back working in the Xerox mailroom at Blue Cross/Blue Shield 14 years ago. She said she tried to keep up a few part-time jobs after that, but stopped when the jobs aggravated her back too much.
Leigh Adams’ 16-year-old son Ryan said he didn’t understand why no one in the neighborhood helped Miller.
“Instead of sitting here fussing about it, how about you get off your butt, get on your lawn mower and drive over here and help out?” he asked rhetorically.
Jan, the Sears Woods woman who helped gather 81 signatures for the Columbus Council petition, said other Sears Woods residents have tried to help Miller before and been rebuked.
Multiple neighbors who refused to speak on the record said they had tried to clear the family’s yard for years, only to face profanity and scathing remarks from Kimberly’s mother Mae before her dementia made her housebound.
Other residents of Sears Woods said Miller should hire a landscaping company or do the work herself.
“She’s lazy,” Jan said. “She’s got the money, her mama’s got money coming in now… We all got aches and pains. This is her way of getting something free, and that’s fine.”
Miller did not want to discuss her financial situation.
Back in Miller’s yard, the lawn-mowing visitors were already planning for the future.
Redmond said she and Adams are organizing a group to return every month to make sure the yard stays clear. Redmond is starting a GoFundMe page collecting donations for continuing lawn care.
“(Mae’s) husband was retired military,” Adams said. “He served our country. Today is Memorial Day. That’s what this is about.”
Why it’s a highlight:
I found this story while keeping an eye on Facebook and tracking the community’s online movements. It turned out to be a blockbuster online story. Even better, we cleaned TV’s clock on this one. Their package was short, shallow and lacked any input from Jan or the neighbors. While the TV reporter was trying to pose people together for a group shot, I was going door-to-door getting quotes.