In 2018, Tina waited nightly for water to boil on the stove. This was not to prepare dinner, but to provide hot water for her 6 children to bathe. This was a daily reality for Tina, who was diagnosed with stage four Breast cancer in spring of 2018, though you wouldn’t be able to tell there was anything out of the ordinary about her by the smile on her face and her beautiful disposition as I spoke with her in February of 2020 during her second stay at the Evelyn D. Reinhart Guest House.Tina’s first sign of cancer was a troublesome lump that turned out to be much more severe than anticipated. Dr. Misti Wilson and Dr. Susan W. Schaffer of Bon Secours St. Mary’s helped her to develop a plan moving forward which started immediately with chemotherapy. A week before her scheduled mastectomy, she was contacted by Linda Powers through Dr. Misti Wilson’s office and asked to sit down and meet with representatives of Pink and Pearls, a nonprofit in Richmond that focuses on one breast cancer patient in the area each year.
After a tearful conversation and prayer about the Harris family’s needs, Susanne Mitten and Judy Jones selected Tina as their 2019 Pink and Pearls recipient. When Tina awoke from her Mastectomy, she was covered with a beautiful quilt provided by the Pink and Pearls ladies. She was also given food and gas cards to use on her way home from the hospital.
Each year, the Pink and Pearls organization selects the person they believe they can help the most. The basic needs of a recipient come first, then the spiritual and emotional support.
“It just comes to me,” says Jones of the recipient selection process “I pray all year about it. I know right away when I meet someone if they are ‘the one.’”
In this case, they knew they had to do something about the lack of hot water in Tina’s home. Within two weeks of the first meeting, Tina and her family had a working hot water tank installed. From there, the Pink and Pearls organization tried to help in any and every way they could. For Christmas, there was a tree full of gift cards in Tina’s home, and during the school year, there were clothes and backpacks for the children.
“Taking care of the financial burden allows people to focus on their families and condition,” says Susanne Mittens.
Charles City to St. Mary’s Hospital is a 50-minute-long drive. When the Harris’ vehicle broke down between treatments, Pink and Pearls bought them a 1991 Toyota van.
“1991 was the year I graduated,” Tina remarked with a laugh, then added, “You never know who God’s going to bring into your life. I am so thankful and so grateful.”
But Pink and Pearls is not the only organization to bless Tina.
During her Craniotomy in July, Tina’s husband Garcia and their children stayed in the Evelyn D. Reinhart Guest House for the first time for over a week. Susanne Mittens volunteers every Monday at the Reinhart House and passed along the message that there was a house specifically designed for cases like Tina’s–those having to travel more than 30 miles to reach Bon Secours St. Mary’s for treatment or surgery.
Every year, the Evelyn D. Reinhart Guest House holds a fundraiser called “Rockin’ on the Avenue” in order to provide for the year’s functions and operations. There is food, music, testimonies, and auction opportunities for unique prizes.
Similarly, the “Pink and Pearls” fundraising event provides for the next year’s recipient. Every single penny is given in some form (whether in physical gifts or gift cards) to whomever they select. The money is raised with the sale of refurbished jewelry and purses at bargain prices, and there is a raffle consisting of different packages from rubber boots to spa visits.
“You see where the money goes,” says Susanne Mittens. “It doesn’t go to salaries or corporate jets. It goes right to the people that need it. No one takes a cut.”
“For some people, it’s not a lot, but it’s good for me,” Tina says of her enjoyment of simple pleasures such as cooking and journaling.
Though Tina was blinded by her condition, she sees far more than the average person. She sees the beauty in everything, but especially the simple things like being able to spend time with her children. Through her faith, she is strong and vivacious; you can see the life pouring out of her smile.
At the very end of our conversation, I asked if I could give her a hug. (She says she prefers hugs to handshakes anyway.) While we embraced, she took the time to say a little prayer asking God to bless me in my life. I was completely taken aback and humbled by her words. She needed and deserved every prayer she could get, and I sat perfectly healthy. But then, I realized something—she was truly blessed by God, and those who need blessings the most are the souls that are lost and not hearing his call.
Though many cannot see God, Tina can see him clear as day. He has a face. His face is reflected in Tina, all the pink pearl ladies, the wonderful volunteers at the Evelyn D. Reinhart Guest House, and all who are awakened and guided by his spirit.