Lindsay Milbert sat in a Blue Boy Motel room Tuesday evening with her family. Her hair was freshly dyed thanks to her sister-in-law, and she had just returned from applying for another job. The mother of three carried a radiant smile, a stark contrast to her anxious face less than a week ago.
“I’m feeling more hopeful. I’m very hopeful now. Every day is a brighter day for us,” the 34-year-old said. “I’m grateful for everything that everyone has done for us.”
On Oct. 6, Bradenton police officer Jason Nuttall noticed Milbert, her husband Chris Milbert, and their three children outside a convenience store near 17th Avenue West and 14th Street West. Sensing distress, the officer drove up to the family and, after hearing they had moved from West Palm Beach for a job in Bradenton that never was, he launched into a daylong quest to secure food and temporary housing for them.
What followed Nuttall’s gesture of kindness was an outpouring of support from the Manatee County community. Several people who heard about the family’s struggle stopped by the motel and dropped off food and clothes for the couple and their children: Timothy, 12; Taylor, 6; and Felicity, 2 1/2. Their motel stay is paid for by donors through Thursday. Chris was offered a job but experienced a roadblock because his driver’s license is expired. Another job offer recently came in, and he is working on trying to get a new license or identification card.
“I’m too proud. ... I feel like I should be able to do this on my own but I know the situation. I can’t,” Chris said earlier before his wife returned with their son from her job search.
Chris said he’s overwhelmed by the support of the community.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said.
Officer Nuttall said people have contacted him through Facebook to help the family, and others have gone to the police station to drop off items.
“The support and the people wanting to help is really good,” he said. “The outpouring has been great.”
Back at the motel room, Felicity slept soundly on a pile of blankets in bed. Taylor moved around the small room, restless. Her hair flew in her face as she flashed a toothy grin. Chris said he doesn’t think his girls understand what has happened to their family.
“But I know the older one does,” he said of son, Timothy. “He just says that he just wants to get into a regular home. He doesn’t like living motel to motel. It upsets me because I should be able to provide a home for my child. That’s what I’m trying to do now. I’m trying to start from the bottom and work my way up. ... It’s all about my children.”
Chris said the family is seeking help from Turning Points to try to get a federal grant for an apartment. Outside their room was a bicycle a woman donated to Lindsay so she can have a way to get around town while applying for jobs. A GoFundMe page to raise money for the Milberts also was launched by a Tampa resident who heard their story. As of Tuesday night, money raised had risen to nearly $400.
“I’m very grateful, and I would love to pay it forward one day when I can afford to do this,” Lindsay said. “I want to say from the bottom of my heart that I care a lot about everyone that has donated and, even though I haven’t met you, I’m very grateful.”