A heart of gold | County 17

A local baker and a friend start a fundraising effort to benefit the family of Brian Harris

GILLETTE, Wyoming – Megan Aalbers is no stranger to tragedy.

Megan knows firsthand the feeling of hopelessness when your world falls apart with no one there to help you catch it.

When her close friend NaTasha Kinney called her one hysterical morning for comfort and companionship after the death of Brian Harris, an old friend of NaTasha’s, on New Year’s Eve and learned that her father, Billy, had also recently lost to your wife. , Megan resolved within minutes that the Harris family would not be left alone to negotiate her heartbreaking tragedy.

“Megan is one of my closest friends and she was one of the first people I called,” NaTasha said. “We just broke loose and 15 minutes later she called me back and said, ‘I have an idea.'”

With death comes unexpected financial burdens. With funerals, cremations and burials; a grieving family could easily spend thousands of dollars to put their loved ones to rest.

“We just felt like we needed to do something to help,” Megan said. While she knew that she personally couldn’t afford to offer enough help, she came up with an idea to raise funds in a different way: by selling breakfast burritos and donating the proceeds to Billy.

Megan said that when her bakery shop was open before she was forced to close it two years ago, breakfast burritos were kind of a commodity and she would sell a ton of them.

“They are amazing,” NaTasha said. Every morning on her way to work, she, like many others, would go in the opposite direction to visit Megan and buy a burrito.

Once they had the idea, they got to work.

Megan designed an initial flyer that was later redesigned for aesthetics by her teenage son and publicized the cause on her social media page, The Homestead Bakery.

NaTasha, though out of her element, is preparing to follow Megan’s lead as she navigates the monumental task of rolling up burritos and the many hours it will take to pack and deliver them to Gillette and Campbell County.

The two expect to receive and fill up to 300 orders within the next week. They’ll be accepting burrito orders through Jan. 12 and hope to deliver them Jan. 13, according to Megan, though she says she’ll likely make a few more to fill the backlog.

a heart of gold

Megan doesn’t know the Harris family personally, but that didn’t matter to her when NaTasha called her.

“When your best friend calls and she’s having a crisis, you do what you can do,” Megan said.

NaTasha said that Megan has always been like this, that she is there anytime you need her, no matter what the situation.

“Megan’s heart is just…it’s huge and I love her,” NaTasha said. “She never asks for anything in return. I could call her for anything and she would be at my house in minutes. She’s amazing.”

It’s an endearing trait of Megan’s that has persevered through the years despite her own experiences with tragedy. Years ago, her son was transported to Denver, Colorado, after being diagnosed with kidney failure.

At that point, he had lost everything financially, including his storefront, and had nowhere to turn.

“I remember no one really reached out to Megan to help her,” NaTasha said, no one other than the school she worked for. “That was hard to watch because she didn’t know what to do. I can cook, I can’t cook like Megan, it was just one of those things where I was there emotionally for her, but no one really reached out.”

If it hadn’t been for the few hundred dollars raised by the school, Megan would have had no way to eat and no clothes to wear. But even though the experience is still fresh in her mind with her and her son going to Denver for regular health checkups, Megan still retains a sincere desire to help people in need as she has done several times before with fundraisers. for bakery customers facing medical bills and for non-profit organizations

“I can’t help people financially because I have financial problems myself,” Megan said. “If this is something small that I can do to help someone, then maybe one day they can help me.”

A community coming together

Gillette is a community that has come together time and again over the years when one of their own needs help. Thousands upon thousands of dollars have been raised for individual medical expenses and funeral costs.

“The community is just amazing,” NaTasha said, especially when someone just goes out of their way to try. “When you need them, they are there. You just have to put it on.”

By the end of the first day the fundraising effort was announced, the two had already received 100 orders. As of January 6, that number had doubled to 200 with orders from businesses and individuals alike.

“When it is published, people help. It doesn’t matter if they know you or not,” NaTasha said, adding that one of the largest orders so far was from UPS for 58 burritos with other businesses and residents pledging to place additional orders. next week. promising additional orders next week.

They don’t really have a specific dollar amount that they hope to raise. NaTasha said the two are accepting whatever people can donate to the cause.

In some cases, people donate ingredients like chili to make green chile sauce to go with the burritos, NaTasha said, while others donate cash to buy the ingredients.

“It’s kind of a job by itself,” he said.

Friendship

Megan never had the chance to meet Brian, but she feels like she got to know him through emails, texts, and messages from people thanking him for what he’s doing.

“I feel like I almost know him,” Megan said and has come to understand how well known Brian was and how loved he was.

NaTasha, for her part, has known Brian since they attended classes together at the alternative school that later became Westwood High School in a friendship that lasted for years.

“(Brian) just lit up any room he walked into. He had the biggest heart,” Natasha said. “If he sat down to talk to you, he really cared what you were saying. If you needed him, he was there.”

During their school years, NaTasha was the only one with a car and would pick Brian up from school along with another friend and drive them home every afternoon.

Years after her time at school ended, Brian remained in her life and was good friends with her partner, Jeremy.

NaTasha recalled that the two shared laughs and made memories together, one of which involved Brian’s desire to buy boating hats for his boating excursions after christening himself “Skipper” and Jeremy “Captain.”

“I feel like by doing this, (Brian) needs us. And we’re going to be there for him,” NaTasha said.

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