Rita Howell is experiencing first-hand the generosity people in a small community can show to someone going through a hardship.
Howell was walking to work at Future’s Unlimited where she works as a preschool teacher’s assistant, on Nov. 5 when she passed out. A co-worker called EMS who told her she had suffered from a seizure. She would go on to spend one day at Sumner Regional Medical Center in Wellington.
She was released, but she suffered another seizure on Nov. 11 in the Wellington High School parking lot while dropping off her 16-year-old daughter, Reanna. Her daughter put the car in park and called 911. Wellington EMS transported Howell to the Sumner Regional Medical Center ER, and she was later transferred to Wesley Hospital in Wichita where she spent four days.
A single mother, Howell, 42, AND has lost three week’s pay from her job at Future’s Unlimited. When she was released from Wesley and came home to children they were down to milk and cereal with no money to buy more food.
She applied for food assistance, but that takes 45 days to become activated. A GoFundMe page was set up and people immediately started donating. The Wellington Police Department and Sumner County Sheriff’s office arrived at Howell’s house with boxes of food. Some former classmates from her WHS graduating class of 1995 as well as co-workers from Futures Unlimited and individuals from the community donated food.
“I was crying because I couldn’t believe how much people were being generous,” she said. “I’m definitely thankful for everyone’s help and generosity.”
Her children were also surprised. “They were overwhelmed like me,” she said.
Along with her daughter, Howell has two sons - Matthew, 21, and Brian, 5.
Howell estimates her family received enough food to last a month, but they still need basic essentials like toilet paper, soap, shampoo, paper plates, plastic ware and laundry soap.
Her biggest challenge, however, is getting her electric bill paid by Friday, Nov. 22, of this week. Howell made an agreement with the city in which she has until that date to pay the $94.58 left on her bill to avoid getting her electricity shut off. The Methodist Church donated $75 and an individual who wished to remain anonymous donated $102. Howell still owes an additional $165.42 by Dec. 5.
“I read a lot with people complaining about the city of Wellington, like the utility office, but they have done everything they can as far as giving me extensions,” Howell said. “I’m very thankful.”
She is waiting for her neurologist to give her the okay to return to work. It still has not been determined what caused her seizures, but they know it is not cancer, a tumor or bacterial infection.
“We’ve ruled out all the bad things,” Howell said.
Anyone wishing to donate to the family can contact Howell at her email - email@example.com or by phone at (316) 807-2051.
“I get very emotional when I think of it,” she said. “Some of the people tell me they're basically in the same boat I am. They say they don’t have a lot but can spare a loaf of bread or box of ramen.”
Somebody from Wichita, whom she does not know, donated a turkey to her family for Thanksgiving. He made contact with her through Facebook Marketplace.
“My family is going to be extra, extra thankful,” she said.