DeWitt woman turns grief into action for others

LANSING, Michigan – It’s a heartbreak that no parent should have to go through – the loss of a child.

This week’s good neighbor lost her son to cancer, but it’s what she did after her world fell apart that makes her this week’s good neighbor.

As the pandemic continues, Dewitt resident Denise Greenhoe is tasked with distributing face masks. These are not just average masks; they are homemade and the ones she sewed herself. She says they are a hit!

“People come before I can even open the bags, and it never stops until it’s all gone,” Greenhoe said.

“It’s really nice of him,” said Carmyn Ayers, a resident of Lansing. “I know it probably takes her all day to make them. They are so beautiful.”

Denise greenhoe

Denise’s son, Ryan. Photo taken in the hospital.

Denise started making face masks when her son Ryan was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago. She continued as he considered all of the treatment options. Sadly, Ryan passed away in June.

Denise says when Ryan died it almost destroyed her.

“Making the masks was my only distraction, and it’s also literally the only reason I’ve been getting up in the morning for months now,” Denise said. “Because what I’d like to do is pull the covers over my head and say, leave me alone.

Every now and then, Denise pulls up in front of the Kroger on the south side of Lansing to hand out her masks and return whatever she can.

Denise says everyone she gives masks to is grateful, but it was a homeless man who told her he didn’t have a pillow, it really touched her heart – and prompted her to do even more.

A child waits to choose one of Denise's masks.

Adam fakult

A child waits to choose one of Denise’s masks.

“When I stop and think people don’t even have a pillow which is one of the basic necessities in life, how is that possible? And what can I do to change that ?, Denise said.

So she started buying pillows, blankets and even gloves to hand out. She uses her own money to buy all the supplies. Denise says the thanks she receives warms her heart, especially the hugs from the children.

Eight-year-old Rain Hinton and two-year-old sister Hope received pillows, blankets, masks and gloves from Denise. Rain says she’s grateful.

“I have a pillow and a pink blanket,” Rain says. “My sister, Hope, has a pillow as well as a pink blanket like mine. I want to say thank you. It’s amazing!

Lansing resident Deborah Becker agrees. Deborah says Denise is restoring her faith in humanity.

Denise sets up her stand in front of Kroger

Adam fakult

Denise sets up her stand in front of Kroger

“This here, it shows you that there is still hope,” said Becker. “There is still hope, especially during the holidays. It brings back the Christmas feeling! “

Denise says that when her son Ryan was alive he knew she had given the masks and he was proud of her.

“I used to drive home, and as soon as I got in my car, I texted Ryan, who would be in his chemo chair,” Denise said. “I would say I distributed 100 masks today! And he answers by SMS, good job, mom; I’m proud of you. So, to make my son proud of me, what more could you ask for?

Denise hopes to continue handing out masks, gloves and pillows for as long as she can. As she uses her own money to buy all the supplies, some friends helped her set up a Go Fund Me Account to help with expenses.

Denise Greenhoe, we want to thank you for making the world a little better, one face mask, one blanket and one pillow at the same time.

You are the good neighbor of this week.

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