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How one St. Johns neighbor is turning her tragedy into hope for others

Posted at 11:25 PM, Apr 12, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-12 23:25:41-04
  • On October 1st, Leslie Williams lost her only son, Alex. He died of suicide.
  • That same month, Leslie started a non-profit named 'HOPE for Alex' in his name to help other people eat.
  • Leslie also got help from Chuck Desander who owns Specialized Deer Processing to help prepare and store the meat.
  • Since it's start, Leslie and Chuck have donated 5,000 lbs of meat to local food pantries and organizations.
  • Video shows Leslie taking product to food pantries, and the story of how the non-profit came to be.

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story)

I'm your neighborhood reporter Russell Shellberg here in St. Johns, where one woman is transforming a tragedy in her life into hope for others in the community.

For St. Johns resident Leslie Williams, her life changed after October 1st, 2023, her son Alex's 35th birthday.

"I started making phone calls and got the bad news," said Williams.

News that no mother wants to hear: Alex had died from suicide. Although Leslie was heartbroken, she knew she needed to carry on her son's legacy, which led to contacting Alex's first employer, Chuck, at Specialized Deer Processing, a place Alex visited frequently.

Photo of Leslie's son Alex
Photo of Leslie's son Alex

"Alex loved to grill meat and protein, so that's where we came up with giving back," said DeSander.

With Chuck's knowledge of processing and Leslie's dedication to her son, she created HOPE for Alex, a non-profit that donates processed meat to local food banks to help other people eat.

Hope for Alex Flyer
Flyer inside Specialized Deer Processing showing HOPE for Alex and donation jar.

"If you can afford to go to the grocery store or the butcher, you can get those kinds of things on your own, but in general, our folks would never be able to do that. And Leslie can provide that," said Director of Beacon of Hope, Cyndi Thelen.

Leslie Williams hugging member of Beacon of Hope as she drops off donations
Leslie Williams hugging member of Beacon of Hope as she drops off donations

Since starting the non-profit in October 2023, Leslie and Chuck have been able to donate 5,000 pounds of meat donated from MSU, local hunters and farmers, and others to local food pantries and organizations.

"You can get about 4 servings of protein per person, which will equate to 20,000 meals," said DeSander

And serving those people is what keeps them both going day by day.

"Be aware of people in your community. People need things that you don't realize they need," said Williams.

For more information on the non-profit, click here.

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Russell Shellberg

5:49 PM, Jun 03, 2022

Your Neighborhood Reporter

Russell Shellberg

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