Newsletter

Heather's Tree Newsletter Issue List:


She Would Be 37

Am I really old enough to have a 37 year old?

I ask that question in present tense, because even though she's not with us on this earth, I celebrate her God-given life every birthday, and this past March 10th, Heather would have turned 37. The last 9 years without her still seem unreal. So much has happened. So much has changed...except for the fact that she is not here to share this life. Her 6 year old little brother just started first grade. I remember when she started 1st grade...I have pictures to cherish, and every year after. It almost feels like another life, one lived so long ago. It feels separate and apart from where I am today, yet I want to go there again. To see her face, kiss and hug her and talk to her. I'd give anything to hear her voice and watch her throw her head back, mouth wide open, laughing out loud, with that mischievous look in her eye...she was always up to something! Those who know her, know that laugh well!

But my last memory with her alive was here at the Traverse City airport, flying back home after a 2-week visit with us. She came here to get away, re-cooperate, reflect and heal from the wounds she sustained at the hands of that coward. High on drugs and steroids, he had let himself into her home early one morning and attacked her as she was sleeping...with a rubber hammer. Beating her, mainly on her head. She didn't even have a chance to defend herself. Her roommate heard the commotion and ran in screaming for him to stop. He fled and Heather was taken to the ER, sustaining serious injuries to her head which required 57 staples to close the wounds. I flew back home to Mississippi to be with her and I won't go into all the details, I know most of you have heard them before. But even though I made her file charges against him, she later dropped them, unbeknownst to me after I returned home. And 3 months later, she was gone. He ended what he had started and none of us know why.

But the last time I saw her beautiful face... she was going through security at the airport and I just couldn't seem to turn away from watching her leave. Heather and her little dog, Hobie. We waved to each other as long as we could, until she was past security and out of sight. I had such a heavy heart, a sense of sadness with tears running down my face. A mother's premonition? I don't know. Never in a million years did I think it would be the last time I saw her alive. I just know my heart hurt. The picture attached is that day, the last picture of us together.

I miss my girl, every single day. I pray Heather's legacy will continue to be one of love and happiness. But I will keep telling her story, praying it will wake those in dangerous relationships and give them the courage to leave and seek help.

On this 9/11 anniversary of sadness and grief for those of us who love and miss Heather, those affected by our nation's tragic loss and those who have lost loved ones due to domestic violence or any reason, I pray for peace and comfort.

Thank you for your support and for being a part of our lives in the past, present and future as we strive to make a difference in this world.

And as Heather always did...let your soul shine,

Linda

Heather and Linda

Remembering My 9/11

It's funny the things your mind allows you to remember when tragedy strikes. I vividly recall my activities that day, 9/11/07 before the phone call came; a mid-September day, the warm turbulent air and puffy gray clouds threatening rain, the client I had just seen for business. Getting back into my car, I checked my cell phone for messages and saw missed calls and a voice mail from my Mom. When I listened she was crying hysterically and asking me to call her. I felt a tightening in my chest thinking something was wrong with my Dad, not wanting to hear bad news but needing to make the call. Never in a million years did I expect to hear the devastating news that my precious daughter's life had been taken. A parent's worst nightmare.

I also recall trying to drive after speaking to my parents, not knowing where I was going, not able to breathe, screaming inside my car, tears streaming down my face and trying to make phone calls...to Philip, my boss, my best friend in town and I'll never forget driving down the road and looking into the eyes of a stranger, a guy turning in front of me, he staring at my contorted face, me crying uncontrollably, not trying or caring to conceal my anguish. I know he wondered what was wrong with this woman driving around in her car and sobbing. I didn't know what to do. I pulled over to the side of the road and sat there until my boss and co-worker arrived, hugging me and crying with me. They waited until Philip picked me up. After that I remember bits and pieces of the remainder of that day, calling Xan, Heather's brother and telling him the news; us crying together on the phone, still in disbelief and shock, knowing our lives would never be the same. Some days I wish I could forget that day but I can't. It has shaped my life in many ways.

Over the years, I have learned to cope and yes, to be happy again. I have so much to be thankful for. God has blessed me with another precious son and a beautiful grandson and daughter-in-law. My life is full and worth living, 'tho for a while I wasn't sure. I know Heather is with me every day. I see ladybugs, hear a certain song or feel some reminder that she is there. She watches her friends as they raise families, kisses her little brother at night, caresses her nephew and surrounds me, her grandparents and those she loves with sunshine, or "soulshine" as we call it. I know she is watching over us all on this day and every day.

God bless those affected by 9/11/01 on this anniversary of sadness and grief. I pray for them and their families and those who have lost loved ones due to domestic violence or any reason. But for those of us lucky enough to have loved and known Mary Heather Spencer, 9/11 will have its own meaning for each of us. I thank you for your support and for being a part of our lives in the past, present and future as we strive to make a difference in this world.

Heather will always be missed and loved. Her epitaph reads, "Let your soul shine as brightly in Heaven, as it did on earth. Incredibly loving; eternally loved."

Yes, her soul continues to shine brightly this day and every day.

God Bless You All,

~Linda


Summer 2011 Newsletter

Wow! Has it really been one year since our last newsletter? That's hard to believe but true. We all lead such busy lives...jobs, kids...life just seems to fly by. But it goes without saying that our work at Heather's T.R.E.E., is always a top priority. And in 3 months, the 4th Annual Heather Spencer 'Soulshine' Memorial Concert will be here, once again at Hal & Mal's in Jackson, MS on October 22nd. The past two years, this organization has greatly helped our cause with their generosity with this event so please stay tuned as more info will be coming soon!

To catch you up on a few things, I thought you may want to know that your donations and support at Heather's T.R.E.E., are making a huge impact in many people's lives. First off, we contributed $20,000 to the Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence (mcadv.org) after last year's event...wow, what a success! And the majority of those funds, $15,000, have been ear-marked and are being allocated as mini-grants called “Heather's Hope Mini Grants”. The remaining $5,000 is being used for Coalition public awareness efforts.

The following is an excerpt from the Jackson Free Press article, written by Ronnie Mott on April 19, 2010:

“Heather's legacy lives on to protect Mississippi women who are the victims of domestic violence. Her family and friends organized the non-profit Heather's T.R.E.E. shortly after she was murdered in September 2007 by her boyfriend, with the purpose of training, providing resources, educating and empowering women in the state.

At a press conference this morning, Anna Crump of the Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Mary Ann Kirby of Heather's T.R.E.E. announced the Heather's Hope mini-grant program that will help women escape their abusers. The program provides up $600 annually to each of the state's 12 women's shelters to give women immediate funds in times of need.

"Upon a victim entering a shelter, there's a short turnaround time for victims to apply for emergency cash, which, if I'm not mistaken, is the only program of its kind in the system," Kirby said.

Women often break free their abusers with little to no resources, The Heather's Hope mini-grants are intended to provide just enough cushion to keep women from needing to return to a violent situation. "It may enable her to buy a bus ticket to Arizona," Kirby said.

"It may enable her to, for her children, pay an emergency tuition, to buy a cell phone, (make an) apartment deposit--anything that it takes to allow her to sustain independently. If a woman's been brave enough to leave ... we don't want (her) to be trapped, financially."

The funds will be administered through the MCADV with a 24 to 48-hour turnaround, Kirby said, adding that the grants will grow as Heather's T.R.E.E. receives additional funding.

"How wonderful would it be to have $10,000 or $20,000 available sitting in a pot for these women?" Kirby asked.

The announcement came in conjunction with National Crime Victims' Rights Week, Crump said, which began April 18 and ends April 24.

"This is the 26th year, and the coalition has been a part of it every year," Crump said, adding: "Mississippi has been rated second in the nation for domestic violence incidents and fifth for domestic violence homicides." She acknowledged, however, that those statistics are merely a snapshot, because so much domestic abuse goes unreported.

Spencer's grandparents, Jay and Mary Henley, who were in attendance during this morning's news conference, acknowledged the difference that the two organizations are making in their granddaughter's name.

"We were talking in my kitchen about a month before she was killed ... and she said, 'Gram, I want to do something different with my life,'" Mary Henley said. "It's been a horrible experience to go through. We miss her so much. ... I think Heather would be pleased over this."

What an important and meaningful way to see your donations at work. In addition to the grants, Heather's T.R.E.E. also awarded the 3rd Heather Spencer Scholarship Award to a deserving Northwest Rankin High School senior through a process of applications and essays, in the amount of $1,500. This year, the award went to Kayla Huddleston, who will be attending Mississippi State this Fall.

On my last note for this newsletter, I would be remiss if I did not mention a group of guys and girls who put the sound and visualization to Heather's T.R.E.E. event every year by web, billboard, radio and TV, and that is Mad Genius Creative Fusion in Ridgeland! What a creative, artistic, and imaginative group of people they are! If you saw the awesome TV commercial last year, caught a billboard, spied it in a magazine/paper or heard it on the radio, you have Mad Genius to thank! They even brought home the gold at the 2011 Jackson Advertising Federation ADDY awards for the Public Service Multi/Media/Mixed Media campaign for Heather's T.R.E.E. and went on to win the Best of Show for Community Service! Our hats are off to you guys for a super job well done and thanks for all you do!

Please be sure to invite all your friends to this year's event....we have a lot of new, exciting things in the works and you don't want to miss it! See you soon October 22nd at Hal & Mal's in Jackson, MS for the 4th Annual Heather Spencer 'Soulshine' Memorial Concert! And thank you again for your amazing generosity and support!

Let your soul shine,

~Linda


Summer 2010 Newsletter

It's true, the older you get, the faster time flies. I hope everyone is having a fantastic summer so far and enjoying every good thing this world has to offer! I can't believe 2010 is already half over! A friend gave me a key chain last year that says, "Whenever a door closes, God opens a window".

This year I have lived that quote. My husband and I have been blessed with a son, a new baby boy named Memphis. I had him on April 29th and he is bringing us so much joy. He is almost 3 months old now. Heather has a little brother she will never know on this earth but we hope she will meet him one day in Heaven. My Mom told me she was proud of me for being able to bring another life into this world to love after so much heartache from losing Heather. It took me quite a while to figure out if I could handle it. I am sometimes over protective of him but he is our little miracle and I know Heather is keeping a watchful eye over him. While a piece of my heart will always be missing, it is full of love for this new little life and I pray that he will grow up to be a kind, considerate, loving and compassionate individual. And I will do everything in my power to make sure he does.

Now on to Heather's TREE news.....

The 3rd Annual Heather Spencer "Soulshine" Memorial Concert is set for October 16, 2010, again at Hal & Mal's in Jackson, MS! We are now accepting monetary donations, silent auction items, volunteers and food donations for this year's event. We are striving to make it ever bigger and better every year, though last year will be hard to top!! From last year's proceeds we established the Heathers Hope Grant Program to assist women in need due to domestic violence through MCADV and it has already assisted many women in the area.

In May we also honored an exemplary NWR student, Cameron Treadwell, with a $1500 scholarship to Mississippi College to help him pursue his studies. We are striving to use our donations to the best extent possible by helping those in need.

An addition to the event this year is the 2nd Annual Duathalon "DU it for Heather" sponsored and conducted by Indian Cycle and Fitness that will kick off the event on the same day, October 16th. Last year's race was a huge success and I'm sure it will be even bigger this year! More info to come from Indian Cycle. Thank you to Patti Harvey and the staff at Indian Cycle for their continued support of Heather's TREE! We appreciate you so much!

On another positive note, Mary Ann Kirby, Heather's TREE treasurer, has been selected as an "Honorary Chick" by the Chick Ball that raises money for domestic violence initiatives. The Center for Violence Prevention, a women's shelter in the Jackson Metro area is putting on the "Chick-a-Boom" July 24th to honor Mary Ann and other special women in the area for their work regarding women's issues! Congrats to Mary Ann for this honor and thanks to her for her hard work regarding Heather's TREE. She is constantly keeping us out in the public and raising awareness for our cause!

Please keep us in your prayers for another successful benefit and mark your calendar on October 16th to attend! Thank you as always for your support! Let your soul shine, LHF

~Linda Francomb


Fall 2009 Newsletter

Heather's TREE Poster 2009Where to start? The past year has flown by and it's hard to believe we just completed the 2nd Annual Heather Spencer Memorial Concert. It was a challenging year, not only for me personally as I still struggle daily to make sense of losing my daughter, but the entire country has been devastated by the economy, lost jobs, housing foreclosures, war and bail outs. As a committee, we didn't quite know what to expect for our second benefit.

Would people come?

Would we get enough auction items donated?

Would we raise enough money again this year to help other women in need?

The answer would come to us Saturday night, October 17th at Hal & Mal's as we watched people stream through the door to attend the event, help us double auction revenues from last year and praise us for what we were doing; sharing stories, smiles and tears. The answer to all those questions was unequivocally YES!

The people of Jackson and Mississippi in general, proved to us and to everyone that they do indeed care and want to see that domestic violence is eradicated from each and every home.

The evening was much better than anticipated. The big room at Hal & Mal's was beautifully decorated with gigantic ficus trees sprinkled with white lights and driftwood centerpieces, lovingly made by some of Heather's closest friends, adorned the tables across the room. Over 150 auction items lined table after table in the Red Room; the room continuously full with bidders. All in all, the night could not have been more perfect. Except of course, had Heather been there and able to see the love that she invoked and the impact her life was making on others. I know she was there; in spirit and in the faces of those who knew her and loved her.

Anna Walker Crump, Executive Director of the Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence, made a powerful and uplifting speech and encouraged the crowd to continue in this fight. The musicians of the night were amazing! Shadz of Gray opened, followed by Patrick Harkins, Brad Biard, Georgia Thomas, Rally for One, Dave Gatlin and Passenger Jones. Each band brought their own style of music and there was something for everyone as people danced and enjoyed the night.

The food once again was deliciously prepared by the best restaurants in Jackson (list then) who generously donated their products and was a huge hit by all!

There are countless people who contributed to the success of this night and without them, it would not be possible to continue. Words are never enough to thank them and I know I would mistakenly leave someone out if I tried. But I do know that while we strive to put an end to the pain and suffering caused by those who have no regard for the preciousness of human life, there are far more of those who are willing to take a stand and say yes, you DO matter and your life IS worth living and are there to help make a difference in the lives of those who feel they have no hope. And that is what drives me and all those who loved Heather, to continue this battle year after year, until domestic violence is no more.

We hope you will make plans to attend next year.

Thank you once again and may God's continued love and blessings surround you. I pray you and yours have a blessed holiday season.

~Linda Francomb

 

Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence Leadership Conference

Thursday, November 5th, 2009, Heather's T.R.E.E. made a $12,000 donation to the Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence at their annual leadership conference to establish the Heather's Hope Grant Program.

These funds will be allocated for an emergency grant cycle available to women within 24-48 hours of arriving at a shelter. Women often stay in violent relationships because of a lack of financial independence. We want to make sure that a woman that has in fact been brave enough to leave an abusive home will not have to return because of financial reasons. Cash grants may be used for a deposit on an apartment, a cell phone, lunch money for her children or clothes to work in. We feel the Heather's Hope Grant will best serve the mission of our organization.

Thank you to everyone who attended the Soulshine Memorial Concert on October 17th that made this donation possible.

Also a HUGE thanks to the folks at Indian Cycle Fitness and Outdoor, Fleet Feet and the Bike Rack for choosing Heather's TREE as the beneficiary of funds raised at the DU It For Heather Duathalon on October 31st, Over 200 participants registered and raced to put and end to domestic violence.

We are honored beyond belief and look forward to continuing her legacy by serving others in need.

 


Summer 2009 Newsletter

A note from Linda, Heather's Mom

This summer brings about many memories as every season does without Heather. It's so hard to believe that on September 11th, 2 years will have passed without her. As I've mentioned before, many days are still a blur to me. I know the mind has a way of helping to manage this daily grief, allowing me to go on but there are days when I go back ...remembering the good times, the bad times, the "should haves", the "could haves", the "what ifs"…and when the reality of this nightmare tells me I will not see her alive again on this earth, my heart catches in my throat and I feel almost incapable of surviving another second. Yet I do. And so does all her family and friends who miss her earthly soul. We will all see to it that Heather lives on in what we accomplish through this mission to help others and continue her loving legacy, bringing help and hope to those in need. Her soul will shine on for eternity.

Scholarship News

On May 15th 2009, we awarded the first Heather Spencer Memorial Scholarship to a deserving Northwest Rankin High School graduate! Heather graduated from NWR in 1997. The recipient was Madison King. Madison exemplified the student qualities of integrity and leadership and we were excited to help her with her college education and future goals with the $1,500 scholarship!. We plan on awarding various scholarships yearly.

Organizational News

We are now an official 501 (c) 3 charitable organization and all donations are tax-deductible! We hope this will open the doors for corporate donations as well as individuals so we can help more women each year!

Benefit News

Plans are being finalized for the second annual Heather Spencer "Soulshine" Memorial Concert being held once again at Hal & Mal's in Jackson, MS on October 17th, 2009. We are now accepting donations for the silent auction items and donations of any kind. Musicians are being lined up as well and this years' event promises to be even bigger than last year. Make your plans now to attend and let's eradicate domestic violence from Mississippi! Thank you for your support!

Let your soul shine, Linda

 


PET PICS FOR A CAUSE!

Pet Pics for a CauseSummer is fast approaching and it's time once again for Mary Moment Photography's fundraiser, "Pet Pics for a Cause"!

This is MMP's 2nd annual event to raise funds for Heather's T.R.E.E. and the fight against Domestic Violence. Mary Moment Photography is owned by Katie Stafford, one of Heather's best friends, who founded her photography company in Heather's name, Mary Heather. MMP is holding this year's event at Winner's Circle Park in Flowood, MS on Saturday, May 23rd from 2p - 5p. For a donation in any amount, MMP will take a portrait of your favorite pet or pets and give you a FREE 5x7! Heather always told Katie she was crazy if she didn't start her own photography business since she was so good at it and was constantly taking photos for family and friends. After Heather's death, Katie took Heather's advice and founded Mary Moment Photography and is now a busy photographer for weddings, senior portraits, children and events of any kind.

For more info, please visit, www.marymomentphotography.com.

 


Winter 2009 Newsletter

This newsletter is way past due and a long time coming.  On November 6th, 2008 committee members from Heather's T.R.E.E., Mary Ann Kirby, Jay Herrington and Elizabeth Hall, met at Millsaps Cabot Lodge in Jackson, MS with the Mississippi conference training session for leaders of the state shelters for battered women and children and presented a check to executive director of the Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence (MCADV), Anna Walker Crump, in the amount of $10,000! 

These were the proceeds from the 1st Annual Heather Spencer ‘Soulshine' Memorial Concert held on October 11th, 2008 at Hal & Mal's in Jackson.  A goal we had strived toward and achieved, but not without a gigantic dose of assistance.  We all were proud, humbled and thankful for the amazing turn-out at the event and the generosity of those who donated and/or attended.  The love and compassion of family, friends, acquaintances and strangers, never ceases to amaze us and we thank you all from the bottom of our hearts.  Your unending support will never be forgotten and we hope we can count on you to help us again this coming year.

On a personal note, 2009 begins another year without my beautiful, loving daughter.  I pray daily that the pain and anguish our family has felt and will continue to feel as long as we live on this earth, will not be experienced by others.  It is a pain I would not inflict on my worst enemy. It is why I, along with Heather's family and friends, will continue to fight this silent crime of domestic abuse and eradicate it from this city, state, and world, one woman at a time. I am blessed that I have personally been contacted by other Moms, daughters, girlfriends, etc. who have told me that Heather's life, even in death, has made a difference in theirs.  They realized the dangerous, abusive situations they were involved in and how it can end like Heather's did and they got out.  I praise God for that.  And if anything positive can come from the constant heartache of losing Heather, it's saving the life of someone else and sparing other families and friends the anguish of losing another precious soul.  Please continue to support us in this fight and pray we will all make a difference.

~Linda F.      


Photos from the presentation of $10,000 to the MCADV


Heather's Tree charity ceremony


Set Them Free for Heather's Tree a Huge Success!

Heather's TreeThe fundraiser on August 23rd, "Set Them Free for Heather's TREE" at Winners Circle Park in Flowood was a huge success! A special thanks to Clear Channel Radio's Miss 103, Rick Adams and staff and to Jan Michaels and crew at Q105.1 for their coverage of the event and loyal support. We couldn't have done it without them. They have done so much to help us raise awareness and funds against domestic violence and we thank them from the bottom of our hearts.

A big thank you also to everyone who came by and bought balloons in honor of a loved one or to show their support; you too, are helping us battle this silent crime.

The 1st Annual Heather Spencer 'Soulshine' Memorial Concert and Benefit is getting close and we have lots of awesome silent auction items from supporters and an amazing line-up of musicians scheduled to perform.

There will also be speakers, t-shirts for sale and free food! More details to come soon!

Mark your calendars now to attend Saturday, October 11th from 6pm until 1am at Hal & Mal's in Jackson, MS!

 


August/September 2008 Newsletter - Thoughts from Linda

At the time of this newsletter, eleven months have passed since we lost Heather. I look back and wonder where I've been. Minutes turn to hours, hours to days, days to weeks, weeks to months…soon a full year of grieving, of missed hugs and kisses, of laughter and "Heather"isms, of beautiful smiles and practical jokes, of text messages and daily I Love You's. She missed her little brother's wedding, never met his wife and will not see the success he's become. Her 29th birthday has passed. Heather's death has created a vast emptiness I never knew existed or ever wanted to know.

+ Continue reading "Thoughts from Linda (Heather's Mom)"

 


July 2008 Newsletter - Rebekah's Story

Over the last 9 months since Heather was killed, I have received many emails and stories regarding domestic violence. The majority of them expressing their sadness over her death. They have all been so meaningful to me and I treasure each and every one. Many are from friends and many from people I don't know. This month's newsletter comes from one of those people. It is an extremely powerful and courageous story about domestic violence and how it affects not only the one who is abused, but those who witness it and are forced to live with it, mainly children. Rebekah is one of the lucky ones who escaped it. If nothing else, I hope "Rebekah's Story" will open the eyes of those aware of a domestic violence situation and do nothing about it, to do something. Many times, children's lives depend on it.

~ LHF

+ Continue reading "Rebekah's Story"

+ Download July 2008 Newsletter (PDF - 29KB)

 


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