Given a helping hand

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NORTH ZULCH – The Bulldog basketball team soared to a huge victory over Buckholts on Friday, but the community’s real win came the following day when just about everyone in town showed up to support the Mackens family.

Jessica Mackens and her husband Brad would have been married for 20 years this month but Brad’s life was taken in a vehicle accident in January. He had recently started working for the North Zulch school district and had not yet begun to receive insurance.

Jessica and her son Joseph – better known as “JoJo” – were injured in the wreck and recently released from Memorial Hermann Hospital. Three other Mackens children, Brandon, Levi and Lynzie, were not in the vehicle at the time of the accident.

The North Zulch community wasted no time pitching in to assist the family by building a handicap-accessible ramp at their home, donating furniture and food, and hosting a barbecue luncheon fundraiser on Saturday. At press time, organizers said more than $12,000 was raised but they were still tallying donations.

The support has been overwhelming for Jessica, who worked at the North Zulch grocery store prior to the accident and has her hands full with four kids, a broken femur and a knee that was broken in eight different places. She uses a wheelchair now and her arms are still badly bruised from the accident.

“The community is amazing,” she said Saturday. “They’ve given me everything I need.”

Jessica, who has lived in North Zulch for just two years, said her parents and siblings recently arrived from Tennessee with the expectation that they would return with Jessica and the kids. They discovered, however, that the Mackens family already was at home in North Zulch.

“They came to see me at the hospital and saw what everyone had done for us,” Jessica said. “My dad said, ‘I will never ask you to come back home.’”

All the kids have returned to school now – even JoJo, who is also in a wheelchair. Jessica said they would likely undergo physical therapy for several months.

When asked whether she has even had a chance to process the loss of her husband, she teared up a little and says she was home alone briefly on Friday night, and she took a moment to grieve.

She attended Friday night’s basketball game and received hugs from everyone who passed by. Levi, her 10th grader, approached her with a buddy who wanted to say hello and wish her well. As Levi walked away to hang out with his teenage friends, he paused and said softly, “I love you, Mama.”

The behavior is characteristic of the Mackens family. They are humble and grateful for what Jessica calls her “extended family in North Zulch.”

“The community is amazing,” she reiterates. “We’ve had so many people come by and support us.”

A fund has been established at Wells Fargo Bank in Madisonville. Donations may be deposited to the bank using Account No. 3514424153 or wired using Routing No. 121000248.

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