Debbie Vaughn cherished her son’s smile and the effect he had on others.
Bryan, a special needs man, never spoke a word, but he said “a million words through his smiles.”
“He smiled at everyone,” she said.
Bryan suffered from craniofacial dysplasia and had a stroke at birth. He did not walk until he was 10 years old, and he had been able to walk until eight years ago. He had another stroke and that condition put him in a wheelchair. He suffered myriad health and physical problem and required constant care.
He lived at home and died in August. He was 42.
Vaughn wanted to find a way to honor her son. She created Bryan’s Pantry, which provides free food at some area fire stations, including one at the Pilot Point Fire Department. People may drop by the station and get canned and non-perishable foods from a cabinet inside the fire station’s lobby. They may also leave food.
“He had a love for people,” said Vaughn, who lives in Cross Roads. “Bryan didn’t understand race, religion or political views. He loved people. He touched a lot of lives. I thought through these pantries, he could continue to touch people’s lives by helping others.”
The fire station is one of three stations to store the food, along with Krum Fire Department and Denton Central Fire Station, with a second station targeted in Denton as well for an additional pantry.
Vaughn said she came up with a pantry as a way, most of all, to help children, including those who live in small towns and go to bed hungry.
“I thought perhaps this would be a way of touching those lives and helping someone — and honoring Bryan at the same time,” she said.
Vaughn said she wanted to do something good to come from the loss of her son. She picked Pilot Point because her father, Howard Thompson, was at Countryside Nursing and Rehabilitation; she moved him here from Abilene. He had been here about a year before he died in April.
“My dad had a love of people, too,” she said. “When he was in Abilene, he was on the news there one time, feeding the hungry. He would fix bacon and eggs and take them down to under the bridges where people were and give them food.”
She thought Pilot Point would be one good place to set up a pantry. She chose fire stations so that people could get access 24 hours a day for their children. (Her husband, Glen, is a retired firefighter.)
Vaughn said she has had “overwhelming” support for the cause. She has a hair salon in Krum and the customers have been donating food.
“I have had many donate cash for me to go buy the food,” she said. “A firefighter’s wife actually called me last Friday from Denton and said that her extended family usually exchanged gifts and this year they decided to donate that money to a cause and they chose Bryan’s Pantry to donate to. So those things are very special. We have just been overwhelmed with people and their goodness.”
She hopes her idea grows and feeds more and more people. A sign at the pantry reads “Take What You Need. Leave What You Can.”
“It’s a good place to put it for the community,” said Pilot Point Assistant Chief Bryan Cox. “When Chief Hudson brought it to my attention if we had a place for it, we made a place for it so that we could participate in the program. It’s just another way for the fire department to help the community.”
He said the fire department takes no credit for the pantry, explaining the fire department just set aside space for it.