Richland County deputies trade citations for compassion through yard work

Published: Sep. 11, 2023 at 5:41 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Sometimes all you need is a little helping hand and that’s exactly what the Richland County Sheriff’s Department (RCSD) gave to a local woman when she needed it most — especially when the cause hits this close to home.

”In 2015 I was diagnosed with stage 4 follicular B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” two-time cancer survivor Lt. Frieda Brown said. “My bone marrow was infected, my lymph nodes, all my organs, I had a 7.5 pound spleen. It was probably the hardest time of my life, but I had a lot of support from our department and the community here in Richland County — my family … I was able to kick its butt.”

Frieda Brown is a Lieutenant with RCSD Code Enforcement unit. Back in August, she and her team received a tip about a local resident in need of help.

”It was a property that needed a lot of attention,” Sgt. Garo Brown from the RCSD Code Enforcement Unit said.

However, it wasn’t because of a lack of care or consideration, but a tip from a fellow deputy led the team to the true explanation.

”So she was trying to figure out a way to get back to South Carolina to address her home, but still had to take care of her husband in the other state,” Frieda Brown said.

It turns out the homeowner was actually forced out of the state as her husband was battling his own severe medical concerns.

Unable to leave her husband’s side, she began getting notices regarding her overgrown property and soon feared she’d lose her home.

Caught between caring for her husband and maintaining her home, there was physically no way to do both, so the Code Enforcement Unit told her not to worry.

Then the team got to work.

“We went in there with big riding lawn mowers, we cut the shrubs, the bushes, we had weed whackers, blowers,” Garo Brown said.

The efforts were all driven by volunteers.

Frieda Brown said the team was joined by surrounding neighbors as well as members of other law enforcement agencies across the Midlands.

They took the time out of their own days and even brought their own equipment to help get the job done.

“We’re not doing it for ratings, or likes, or anything like that. We’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do,” Frieda Brown said.

Not for credit, not for validation, but just a joint drive to do good.

An overwhelming amount of help came to the Code Enforcement Unit — and it came from all over.

Frieda Brown even reached out to local Walmart and U.S. Lawns stories who quickly became interested in the department’s efforts and donated large amounts of equipment, so all of the volunteers would be prepared for projects like these.

”They gave us some really nice equipment,” Garo Brown said. “Lt. Brown was the first one to reach out to them and we didn’t really have to say or do much. They were just like, ‘Sure what do you need?’ Up until now, they’re still asking us, ‘Hey do you need this, hey can we give you this?’”

Whether it be a new weed trimmer, protective eyewear, or even something as simple as gloves, it was the generosity of these donors that makes the consistent upkeep possible.

Now, the equipment may help, but the efforts to protect this woman’s home would be nothing if it weren’t for the hearts and good intentions of those involved.

“Sometimes taking people to jail or writing tickets is not the answer,” Garo Brown said. “So instead of doing that, we decided to help her with the issue. Sometimes just that little extra boost is all you need.”

A little boost goes a long way.

As Frieda Brown knows all too well, severe health concerns can take a toll on your life unlike any other.

Standard procedure may have told the unit to issue heavy fines that could eventually lead to a loss of the home, but for the team doing good for the community they serve was ultimately more important.

”It’s just grass right?” Frieda Brown said. “But, the fact that you’re getting a notice that you’re going to receive a citation because your yard is overgrown. That’s added stress you don’t need. So just having one less thing off of your list of things to take care of, it means a lot.”

“She became very emotional,” Garo Brown said. “Going through medical issues, whether it be cancer or anything else, is very trying.”

”Neighbors helping neighbors, that’s all we’re trying to do,” Frieda Brown said.

Lt. Brown and Sgt. Brown told WIS the Code Enforcement Unit will continue to keep up with maintaining her property, thanks to the help of surrounding community members, fellow law enforcement agencies and their generous donors.

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