“This is what community used to be. This is what community is all about,” said Michael Baxton of St. Peters A.M.E. Church Saturday at Willie Dean Anderson’s 105th birthday bash in Cayce.
Baxton was among the estimated 100 celebrating Anderson’s birthday a day early. Anderson, known better by Mama Dean, felt the love of her family and community who planned the birthday party with the aid Cayce Department of Public Safety.
Anderson’s birthday was in the works for a while but when a fire destroyed her home April 18, Stephanie Kelly was going to put the party on hold. That is until everyone told her Mama Dean needs the party for her milestone birthday.
“I was planning a birthday party for her already. When the fire happened, I was ready to cancel it all. But they said ‘have it, have it; she needs it,’” said Kelly. “Everyone came together and it’s a beautiful thing. We got strangers to come out and say we’re there for you.”
When Kelly mentions everyone, she’s talking about all the family members and the Cayce Department of Public Safety. The public safety officials knew they wanted to help out with Dean’s party after the fire destroyed her home April 18. “She’s a wonderful person and very caring,” said Captain Thomas Steinbring. “She’s fostered and raised over 70 children.”
After fostering children, she then decided to take care of the elderly, Kelly added in reference to her nurturing personality. Her caring personality isn’t meant to be mistaken for weakness. “My grandmother is feisty and strong,” said Kelly.
Even her younger sister, Quleen White, describers Dean as “spicy and feisty.” White is the only surviving sibling. White and Dean had three sisters and two brothers but they’ve gained family and friends in Cayce.
Steinbring and his colleagues knew they wanted to assist in the party planning process as well as with a host place after coming into contact with Dean and her family. “When we got there (to the home on Lee Street), the rest of the home suffered smoke. The fire lasted a little longer,” he said. Eventually Steinbring came into contact with Kelly and offered help.
“I said I can’t cook but I can help plan and I know people,” said Steinbring, who came back to Fire Chief Byron Snellgrove with a plan of action. Steinbring went to the community and businesses and is amazed at the support and donations pouring in.
“They’re all here to help her,” said Steinbring who mentioned various donations from a number of sources including: Lowe’s, Nature’s Own, Harvest Hope, BiLo, Dollar General, US Foods, Farmers Home and Furniture, Graphics Source, Luke Septic Tank and even HGTV.
Every day, Dean asks when she can go home. Currently, she’s staying with Kelly, but Kelly would love for her to go back to her house on Lee Street after it’s been refurbished. “Mama Dean is a strong person. She didn’t wait for anybody,” said Kelly. “On Sundays if weren’t awake for church, she’d drive herself. She didn’t wait for anybody.”
Steinbring envisions Dean going back home. “The family would like to rebuild her home. I would like to see her back home by the Fourth of July,” he said. “Not everybody has things to donate but they have hands to help. With drive, we can rebuild. She calls Cayce her home. We come together for a lot of things and I’d like to see this come together.”
If anyone wishes to donate and help Dean rebuild the future, they may visit the Go Fund Me page at gofundme.com/3o9f8hc or contact the Cayce Fire Department at 803-796-9020.