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Seasons Of Hope: Helping A St. Paul Navy Family

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ST. PAUL (WCCO) — In communities all around us there are many good, hard-working families who just need a little help to get through tough times. So, in this Season of Hope, WCCO is connecting families in need with those who can help.

This week, we meet a St. Paul woman who put her sick uncle’s needs ahead of her own health, out of a sense of duty.

WCCO Morning Anchor Mike Binkley and Traffic Reporter Natalie Kane met them — and surprised them — with some things that should help both of them out this holiday season.

Service is a constant in Valerie Isabell-Brown’s family. She spent nine years in the Navy. Daughter Brittany plans to go into the Navy after college. Uncle Wallace Taylor was in both the Air Force and the Navy. Now, they both serve him.

“It can be a challenge,” said Valerie. “As you can see, he doesn’t speak, so I am him basically.”

Wallace had two strokes, can’t speak because of surgery for throat cancer, and has Alzheimer’s Disease. He moved in with Valerie because he doesn’t have any other local family, and he really didn’t like his brief stay at a nursing home.

“Let’s just say they were happy to see him go, too,” joked Valerie.

Valerie is a natural care giver. She’s a former foster mom, who used to work as a personal care attendant, but hasn’t been able to work for the last year and a half because of an arthritic knee that needs ligament surgery. She relies on Brittany to help with Wallace, and relishes visits from Dorothea Harris, from Volunteers of America of Minnesota.

“Dorothea comes in and talks about things,” she said, “asks me my needs, how’s my day going. And you know, it’s just kind of nice to bounce things off somebody who knows about it.”

They are proud people, whose sacrifices moved us and some of our partners. So, we brought some surprises to brighten their holidays.

We started off by giving them a certificate for free pizza for a year from Papa Murphy’s, a $100 gift certificate from Great Clips hair salons, and an entertainment package that included a family membership to the Science Museum of Minnesota, a family pass to Nickelodeon Universe, and tickets to see show at the Ordway, the Guthrie Theater, and a Harlem Globetrotters game.

The surprises were just starting, too. Valeria was standing by to present a $500 gift card, on behalf of Target and in partnership with the Volunteers of America of Minnesota.

Then another partner, who’d been moved by their story, knocked on the door. Matt Nungusser from Safe Fit Walk In Tub of Minnesota surprised them with a new walk-in tub. With Valerie’s knee problems, their old-fashioned tub was quite an obstacle, but not anymore.

Then, there was one final surprise for a family that that had been trying to figure out how to replace their broken down stove. A truck pulled up from Warner’s Stellian Appliance to deliver a brand new range.

“What a Christmas,” Valerie said. “This is awesome, this is awesome.”

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