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March Neighborhood Hero: Donna Townsend

Donna Townsend was nominated for all the service, food and love she provides to the homeless community in Athens.

ATHENS, Ala. — Donna Townsend is this month's Neighborhood Hero

She was nominated by her neighbor George for all the service she provides to the homeless community in Athens, Alabama. 

Donna Townsend knows the secret ingredient to keeping the hearts and bellies full of her homeless friends is love, a recipe passed down from her mother long ago. 

"I was raised in the country, and I would get off the school bus and mother would say, 'John and Jane, down the street are sick'. She'd have food cooked up and we'd load up and go and deliver food," said Townsend.

Donna's love for the homeless community has allowed her to build long-lasting relationships as well as save lives. "These two guys right here [pointing to a photo] were my very first two guys, and I still have a relationship with them. One of them told me one day, 'Miss Donna, you saved my life. The day you met me, we had no food, we had no water, we had nothing'. It was a summer day. And he said, 'I told my dad and I've told my nephew that you saved my life that day.' And all it was was some crackers snacks and some water'."

I went with Donna to visit some of her friends. 

On Tuesday, she packed up several bags.

On Wednesday, it was time to deliver them. 

She said no one might talk to me, but that she gets thank you cards and thank you notes all the time.

That didn't stop me from seeing very clearly, with my own eyes, the sheer amount of love that was in the air. 

Donna said, "This is some of our friends that we'll see tomorrow. They love hugs and we love hugs. So that's a good thing."

One of those friends is Charles. Donna met him years ago, and to this day, the two still have a relationship. "This little guy, I met him, he was asleep. The first time I met him, he was on that bench here.[pointing at another photo] And I woke him up. I pulled in, woke him up and ask him, was he hungry? He said, 'Yes, ma'am'. So, I drove home and made him two sandwiches and carry my Gatorade and brought it back to him. And he woke up and he's eating here."

Like most Neighborhood Heroes, Donna doesn't like to take any of the credit.

"Somewhere along the way I found this and it's so applicable. Alone, we can do so little. Together we can do so much," said Townsend.

She constantly thanked her sweet husband, Joe. They'll celebrate 54 years together next week. She says they finished high school together but were not high school sweethearts. 

As well as her dear friend Tanya Griffin, who has also been working side by side with the Townsend's for years.

"I mean, when I think of Donna, I think of love and I think of just such a big heart. I mean, she never meets a person, an animal that she doesn't love. And you just feel it from her when you're around her. And you have to. It kind of rubs off on you," said Griffin. 

That's exactly why Donna Townsend is this month's Neighborhood Hero.


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