‘Citizen Bryant’ leads effort to assist families in need

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

The whole thing moved like a chain reaction. In the end, what City Commissioner Elaine Bryant started resulted into a life-changer for 15 Tallahassee families.

Insisting that she was moved by a higher power and referring to herself as “Citizen Bryant,” she said she just wanted to do good for people in need during the coronavirus pandemic.

Bryant made the announcement at a press conference last Thursday on the front porch of the Leon County Schools administrative building.

She turned to some of her friends, who called on their friends. The outreach continued until more than $19,000 was raised to give the families that needed help. Bryant mentioned roof and air condition repairs among the things on the must-do list for the families.

City Commissioner Elaine Bryant carries a handful of manila folders with gifts for needy families in Tallahassee.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

Some will also get help with paying their rent through August, while others will get gift cards and assistance with making their auto payments, Bryant said.

“In essence, the lord spoke to me and told me I needed to reach out and bless some citizens in our community,” said Bryant, who is up for reelection to Seat 1 on the City Commission. “I’m so overjoyed but not only did this come to me but I was able to reach out and touch some people and they expanded it to their circle. ”

Eventually 50 people got involved. Bryant first reached out to Assistant Superintendent Michelle Gayle for the Leon County Schools’ help. She brought two social workers in to assist with identifying the families whose names weren’t revealed.

Bryant explained why the families were only identified by numbers.

“Whenever we find ourselves in need,” she said, “what’s important is what are the needs and not the person.”

Leon County School Superintendent Rocky Hanna (right) joins City Commissioner Elaine Bryant (second right) at a brief press conference last week.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

The families represent children who attend Title 1 Schools or those who were simply affected by the pandemic. Title 1 schools receive federal funding for children who come from economically disadvantaged homes.

“Many of our families are struggling right here in Tallahassee/Leon County as a result of this crisis; many have lost their jobs (and) lost their businesses,” said Superintendent Rocky Hanna. “I can’t thank you enough for reaching out from the goodness of your heart to do something special to help in this situation.”

Hanna said the gesture by Bryant was the first by an individual, although during the holiday a business owner gave a “significant amount of money” to brighten Christmas for some families.

Bryant challenged other community organizations to follow suit and help families that are having a hard time in the pandemic.

 “We are in need, families are in need,” she said. “Embrace a family, adopt a family. Even for a month to help them catch up.”