‘They are just heroes:’ Witnesses to Columbiana Centre shooting give back to mall employees

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Published: Apr. 21, 2022 at 8:55 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 21, 2022 at 9:33 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. – (WIS) Witnesses to the Columbiana Centre mall shooting are giving back to mall employees whom they say displayed heroic efforts in ushering patrons to safety.

Jennifer Mauldin and her friend Mary, through the generosity of Lita’s Treats on Lake Murray Boulevard, delivered two dozen cupcakes to employees at the Gap and Bath and Body Works on Thursday.

Mauldin said this is all in an effort to show the good in people, and bring some healing and positivity to an otherwise traumatic situation for so many.

“In such an evil thing that happened and such a bad thing, we really want to highlight the good and really say thank you to them as much as we can,” she said.

Mauldin said she, Mary and her husband Ben were in Bath and Body Works on Saturday when the shooting happened. When she heard the gunshots, she first thought it was a balloon popping.

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“We ran in through Bath and Body into the White Barn area and went behind the cash register, and we were probably there maybe 20 seconds at the most, probably the longest 20 seconds that I had,” Mauldin said.

Employees then rushed them out the back door to safety.

“If was an employee in their situation, I probably would’ve been running for myself and not thinking about everybody else,” Mauldin said. “They are just heroes to be able to do that. And they kept everybody calm, and just said, ‘Y’all just keep running, just run as fast as you can.’ And it was just, it’s just mind-boggling that they would sacrifice themselves for strangers.”

As they sat in the car for over an hour after the incident, Mauldin and Mary brainstormed ways to give back, and kept coming back to Lita’s. The pair had just been to Lita’s hours before they went to the mall.

When Mauldin came to Lita’s with idea, the company donated the cupcakes.

According to Mauldin, when she and Mary delivered the cupcakes, along with thank-you cards, to the employees on Thursday, she said some employees were moved to tears.

Employees told her that the cupcake donation is the first such token of appreciation they’ve received since the incident.

Mauldin said the employees’ selflessness is inspiring.

“I’m thankful to God that we’re still here and I know that there’s healing,” she said. “And I hope that it brings more people out to say thank you and really on such a tragic situation that no one saw coming, could control or anything, really puts some positive into this. Let’s think about the good and not the evil, and let’s bring some healing and bring community involvement and bring our community together.”

Theresa Thames, a Lita’s Treats employee, said that she feels great about being able to share the company’s “blessings” with those affected by the shooting.

“To be able to have a little upbeat in the situation, even though it’s still a little nerve-racking for certain individuals, it feels good that we can deliver that to others around,” she said.

Mauldin hopes to expand these efforts to other stores in the mall, and would like to start a community action group that brings tokens of gratitude to other “heroes” in the community who respond during times of crisis.

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