Angela Nellum says her daughter Tyshawna Nellum loved people and helping those in need.

“She was a people person. She loved giving back to society,” Angela said. “She loved children, and Christmas was her favorite holiday.”

Angela, a Greenwood resident, said around Christmastime, Tyshawna enjoyed giving clothes, toys and bikes to children in need. If she found out that someone had lost a job and couldn’t afford Christmas presents for their children, Tyshawna would help.

Angela said it didn’t matter if it was a child of a friend, someone she knew or someone she didn’t know, Tyshawna enjoyed the opportunity to make a child’s Christmas morning a happy one.

“That was my daughter,” said Angela. “She always did things like that. She would help everybody’s children.”

In August 2017, Tyshawna passed away at the age of 25 when she was hit by a drunk driver. Since then, Angela knew she had to keep Tyshawna’s name and memory alive in a way that best represented her daughter.

“My daughter was a person who touched many hearts with her warm smile, sense of humor and her cheerful giving,” said Angela. “So that’s why I wanted to continue what she started.”

Angela, along with a committee that includes family and friends, recently started Ty Mullen’s Closet.

“My family came together and said, ‘We need to do something to keep her name alive, and we need to do a foundation in honor of her,’” said Angela. “We sat down and thought about some things, put it together, went through the proper procedure, and it was created.”

The organization is incorporated, and the committee is in the process of working on its 501(c)3 nonprofit status.

“My daughter had a heart of gold,” said Angela. “She loved children. ... She was a people person, and she touched hearts wherever she went.”

• • 

Tyshawna was a 2010 graduate of Greenwood High School. Throughout elementary school she was active in band and cheerleading. In high school, Tyshawna was a junior maid on the homecoming court.

In October 2016, she began working as a correctional officer at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman.

“She loved it,” said Angela. “It’s not a place where I wanted her to work, but that was her choice. She loved criminal justice.”

Tyshawna’s passion for her career was evident to all around her.

In a statement released by the Mississippi Department of Corrections, Warden Sonja Stanciel, who oversees the area where Tyshawna worked, said “She loved her job. She kept a smile on her face. She was dedicated. She was eager to learn and wasn’t afraid to ask questions. She had gone back to school to further her education.”

On her way home from work on the night of Aug. 19, 2017, the car Tyshawna was driving had a blowout along U.S. 49. She had pulled the car over to the side of the highway with a flat tire when she was hit by another vehicle.

Antino Rodai of Cleveland was arrested and charged with DUI, driving without a license and without insurance, and careless driving.

According to the office of Assistant District Attorney Tim Jones, the case has not yet been presented to a grand jury.

“She was amazing,” said Angela about her daughter. “She passed at 25. I felt like she had her whole life ahead of her, but God had another plan. I’m dealing with that each day.”

Sixteen months later, it’s still a struggle coming to terms with her daughter’s passing. Angela, however, finds the strength to move forward by living life in a similar way as her daughter — giving to others and spreading positivity.

“I know that in order to get through my difficulties in life that I have to give to others daily,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be buying anything. It can be a hug or just a word of encouragement. I try to do that daily — give somebody a little happiness, a little peace of mind.”

• • • 

The name of the organization, Ty Mullen’s Closet, adds some of Tyshawna’s personality. Mullen is Nellum spelled backward, and Ty Mullen is what Tyshawna used as her name on Facebook.

Angela serves as the executive director of the organization. When it first formed, the committee came together to brainstorm about what would be their first project.

“We decided to give out coats to several schools in the Greenwood area,” said Angela.

The coat drive is a perfect way to honor Tyshawna — her love of giving, her love of children and, with it being the holiday season, it also pays tribute to her love of Christmastime.

Through donations from committee members, family, friends and donors in the community, Ty Mullen’s Closet purchased coats, gloves and socks to present to children who were in need at several elementary schools and preschools.

“Our ultimate goal was to make sure our children are warm during the winter season,” said Angela.

This past week, the organization presented the items to children at Threadgill Primary School, East Elementary School, Claudine Brown Elementary School, Gilliam Head Start Center and Davis Elementary School.

The children who received the coats were selected by staff members at each school.

Winter coats and items will also be presented to children at Threadgill Elementary and Bankston Elementary schools this upcoming week.

Ty Mullen’s Closet plans to expand in 2019 with more community service projects. Angela also wants to make drunk driving prevention a focus of the organization.

“We just hope and feel that it will prosper and grow,” said Elizabeth Pitts, a committee member. “It’s just excitement to me to have this in honor of her name and giving back to the community, because (Tyshawna) loved people.”

At a recent event at Claudine Brown Elementary, where Angela is a second-grade teacher, Ty Mullen’s Closet presented several winter coats, gloves and socks to students.

Angela and other committee members helped the children try on their new coats. Each child’s face was lit up in excitement.

“For me, it touched my heart because it felt like my daughter was doing it,” said Angela. “It felt like my daughter was actually giving them these coats.”

Trying on a new winter coat, a young boy with a big smile on his face wrapped his arms around Angela, thanking her with a hug.

This, to Angela, was priceless.

“My daughter is gone but she teaches me every day how to be a better person,” she said.

Contact Ruthie Robison at 581-7233 or rrobison@gwcommonwealth.com.

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