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Jefferson Award Winner, July 2019: Kelly LeGrand

MADISON (WKOW) — This month we dealt with extreme heat, posing a danger to those who live on the street.

But Madison’s Kelly LeGrand made sure even the most vulnerable were kept safe, because she’s walked in those shoes before.

“There were plenty of times I slept in my car, plenty of times where I didn’t know where our next meals were coming from.”

Life for Kelly, hasn’t been easy.

“I had a baby that died at birth, so I kind of had a nervous breakdown. I didn’t know I was going through it, so I was manic.”

While battling mental illness, she became an addict, broke the law and wound up in prison.

“I worked, I worked, I worked to change my life around,” she says. “I just took all those negatives and turned them back into positives and said I’m giving back to the community. I know what’s right and what’s wrong and I can help people that are going through trauma because I’ve been there. I’ve lived the experiences.”

Nine years ago she started volunteering for Friends of the State Street Family, an organization that serves Madison’s homeless.

“She’s the heart of Friends of the State Street Family,” say Outreach Director Beth Maglio. “She’s the hub, the person who keeps us all going.”

Kelly takes crisis calls 24 hours a day, answering the need for food, clothing, shelter. She says she volunteers 40 to 50 hours a week.

“She also has taken so much time, in her own life, to educate herself on things,” says Beth. “So, she really is an expert on housing, she’s an expert on trauma informed care, on addiction.”

In mid-July, when extreme heat posed a life threatening danger, Kelly was there, securing hotel rooms for anyone who needed a safe place to go.

“We ended up with 77 rooms last week, 136 adults and 162 infants, children and teens,” says Kelly. “We provided meals to some families, we provided transportation.”

That’s what the organization does all year long, with help from donations.

Kelly also dedicates a lot of volunteer time to Santas Without Chimneys and Project Babies.

“We make sure that no child is forgotten in Madison.”

As a single mom, she makes sure her teenage son learns the value of giving back.

“He’s like, ‘I’m there mom, how can I help.”

Kelly’s impact is immeasurable and with her help, Friends of the State Street Families serves thousands every year.

“We’ve developed such a good relationship in the community that they’re not just the individual, they are our families.”

Amber Noggle

Anchor, 27 News at 5, 6 and 10

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