‘It’s been a struggle,’ but Jackson’s Mama Tu-Tu says she’s still helping people during pandemic

‘It’s been a struggle,’ but Jackson’s Mama Tu-Tu says she’s still helping people during pandemic

Wanda Beavers started hosting a barbecue last summer after talking to a man who hadn’t eaten ribs in 15 years.

It’s just the kind of thing Beavers, known in Jackson as Mama Tu-Tu, does to offer kindness and help to people in her southside neighborhood who are experiencing homelessness or financial need. She offers a place to sleep, hot showers and clean laundry to anyone who needs it.

The novel coronavirus threatened to put a stop to that by taking away income from Beavers, a lifelong Jackson resident, at a time when people needed her most. Donations dropped off because people lost their jobs and income. Beavers said she worried about keeping her water on.

Beavers even worried she couldn’t afford to host what’s now become her annual free neighborhood Fourth of July barbecue. Then, Amanati’s Take Out, 262 Cooper St., stepped in to purchase all the food, because Beavers does so much good for the community, employee Mark Kasmikha said.

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“I want to give thanks to the guys at Amanati’s,” Beavers said. “It’s a neighborhood thing. That’s the neighborhood party store and we’re going to be right out there.”

Ribs, hot dogs and corn are on the menu for the 1 p.m. Saturday, July 4 barbecue in the store’s parking lot.

Beavers is always there to offer help to anyone who needs it.

She gives free sandwiches to people who are hungry and would give the clothes off her back to someone who needed it. Every August she organizes a backpack drive to give school supplies to local children. She hosts baby showers to help families get nursery staples. She gives toys and stuffed animals to kids.

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If someone needs something, Beavers will do her best to get it for them.

“When I came to Jackson, I came here myself, homeless. So I try to give back,” Beavers has said. “I definitely have walked in their shoes. That’s how I give back – I bring them in.”

Beavers was immortalized in a 2019 Bright Walls mural by an artist who travels the world, painting people who matter to their community. The mural is on the back of the Lofts of Jackson building, between Michigan Avenue and Cortland Street, east of Jackson Street.

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, fewer people have stayed in Beavers’ home, but people have continued to shower and wash their clothes there, she said.

“It’s been a struggle but by the grace of God, I have made it,” Beavers said. “They had some stimulus checks come out. I spread that all around to try to make ends meet. That was a blessing too. I just try to take it one day at a time.”

A donation box will be set up at the barbecue for people to help Beavers and the people she helps.

“I don’t want the water to get shut off,” Beavers said. “We gotta keep Mama Tu-Tu’s house going because it’s been going for 20-something years.”

Beavers expects a big turnout for the barbecue, especially since people are less able to travel to family reunions with job loss and issues of safety on planes, trains and buses, she said.

Food will be served rain or shine, with people socially distancing and wearing masks when possible, Beavers said. Amanati’s is providing hand sanitizer, and the area is big enough for people to space out she said, adding that people are encouraged to get food and leave to help keep people safe.

“I’m not only doing it for the homeless, cause I feed people and I love people, that’s my passion,” Beavers said. “It’s for anybody that needs, anybody that’s hungry or lost their jobs due to COVID-19 or are on part time.

“You can come on down and get you a plate. Have fun and eat as much as you can, as much as your belly can hold.”

Food will be served until it runs out.

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