Banquet to benefit grieving mother

Branda Mullin poses with her daughter, Makinna Smith, in this undated photo. Smith was killed in a two-vehicle crash in August in Jefferson County.

Even in the aftermath of unbearable tragedy, unimaginable pain, life goes on.

Providing support to those in the wake of tragedy is one of the goals of Helping One Woman, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing comfort and support to those in need of hope.

In Jefferson County, the Dandridge chapter will be honoring Branda Mullin on Thursday night during a dinner ceremony at Angelo’s At The Point at 122 Boat Dock Drive.

The event is part of “Girls’ Night Out,” in which those in attendance purchase their own meal and provide a $10 or greater cash gift.

The money collected will be given to the honoree as a supplement during her time of need.

Mullin lost her daughter, Makinna Smith, in a two-car collision on Aug. 18. Smith, a junior at Jefferson County High School, lost control of her vehicle and collided head-on with another vehicle on East Highway 25-70. Smith was Mullin’s only child, and HOW chose to step in and help her in her time of loss.

“My son attends Jefferson County High School, and he told me about (the crash),” said Pricilla Melo, chapter president of HOW. “We honor one woman a month that is experiencing a major illness or has experience and an irreplaceable loss within the last 12 months.”

Mullin was selected at last month’s HOW meeting when her name was drawn from nominations submitted by the women in attendance - and randomly selected at the previous month’s dinner. The mission of HOW states “in order to help create such a world, we are women joining together to demonstrate our support to help one woman at a time move forward on her journey through times of devastating trouble and loss. We believe that when we help one woman, we are helping one family and through that family we are helping our community.”

“Every month at our dinner, members introduce the name of a deserving woman, and the name is randomly chosen,” Melo said.

The motto of HOW is divided into three parts:

• One woman with $10.00 can buy another woman lunch.

• Ten women with $10.00 can buy another woman’s groceries.

• One hundred women with $10.00 can make a real difference in another woman’s life.

Founded a decade ago by two women in California, HOW has spread to every state supporting women who have suffered personally with financial gifts and comfort from other women with shared experiences. Melo served a co-chapter leader in California before relocating to Tennessee, where she started a chapter in Dandridge in April of last year.

“I made a lot of friends, and one of them lost a daughter,” Melo said. “I wanted to help, so I joined HOW.”

Melo personally sympathizes with what Mullin has experienced. Melo’s son Arnel died nearly two decades ago, and that tragedy motivated her to help other women deal with her loss.

“I lost a child 16 years ago, and I got a lot of support from the community,” she said. “I wanted to start a chapter (of HOW) here in Dandridge to help other women.

“At the time, (Arnel) was my only son. I can’t imagine how it is to lose your only child.”

Though the organization and the dinner meeting is designed for women to help other women, anyone who is interested in helping can attend the meeting can attend. Those wanting more information can contact Melo at 661-586-5619.