‘When you go through grief, you don’t look forward to the holidays’: Nonprofit collects gifts for homicide victims’ families

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Holidays can be hard for those who have lost loved ones – especially for families of homicide victims.

For the past two years, Alive Community Outreach has made it its mission to ease the burden of family members who lost a loved one due to homicide. During the holidays, the nonprofit hosts a Christmas gathering for families of homicide victims. Children decorate Christmas cookies and receive Christmas presents.

Timika Bonner benefited last holiday season.

“Holidays I think numb myself to it,” Tamika said. “Right by the Christmas tree is his table, his pictures, right by the Christmas tree. I don’t know if I am numb or if I am adjusted. I don’t know what to call it, I don’t cry… I don’t cry like that anymore. Because I think I accept it. “

Photo Courtesy: Timika Bonner

On Oct. 2nd, 2012, Timika thought she was going to lie down and have a relaxing night but instead she was snatched into a mother’s nightmare. Her son, her “baby boy”, De’onta Bonner was killed at the age of 18 after graduating from North Side High School.

Timika rushed to see her son’s body for herself. She found him deceased behind a vacant home.

“I remember looking at him saying no, no, no, and dropping to my knees,” Timika said. “He was gone. I wanted to touch him, to find out he was cold and hard. My son was gone and I was in shock.”

Timika never thought she would experience this nightmare. After her son’s death, she struggled to do day-to-day tasks like cooking. She told WANE 15’s Briana Brownlee that she would get dressed only to sit in the dark. It’s been nine years since her son’s killing and the case is still unsolved.

Timika misses her baby boy and his beautiful smile year round but Christmas time makes it harder for her family. She finds strength through God. Last Christmas, Alive Community Outreach helped ease the burden for Christmas shopping.

“It does wonders, especially when you don’t have much to do for your grandbabies and babies,” Timika said. “When you go through grief, you don’t look forward to the holidays. I’m looking forward to it for the grandbabies, but it’s not like it used to be. It’s like I’m falling off. “

Alive Community Outreach is a faith-based nonprofit focused on building direct, supportive relationships with families affected by homicide and connecting them with services and resources in the community. The group was founded by Rev. Angelo Mante whose cousin was shot and killed in Fort Wayne.

The organization started doing the Christmas gatherings back in 2019 and have donated gifts to more than 100 families in Fort Wayne.

“A lot of parents are raising their grandchildren, so this is a great opportunity to share the love with these families,” said Cynthia Gardner, family coordinator for Alive Community Outreach. “During the holiday season that is a big time for families to be together. For the ones who have lost loved ones, they are sometimes going through it and feeling down.”

Gardner gave Timika an early Christmas gift, a Christmas ornament of her baby boy De’Onta.

So far there has been 45 homicides in Allen County and last year there was 43 total. Timika had a message for those families that continue to grieve.

“Cry if you got to cry, scream if you got to scream. Don’t let nobody tell you to get over it, because you don’t just get over it,” Timika said. “Grieve at your pace, but be encouraged.”

The Christmas gathering is Sunday from 1:00pm-4:00pm at First Wayne Street United Methodist Church.

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