Group of cleaners helps mother after 7 children found in filthy home

After arrest, woman gets 2nd chance to get back on her feet thanks to strangers

By Maggie Lorenz - Multi-media journalist

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -  A Jacksonville woman arrested this week on a charge of child neglect is getting a second chance to clean up her home and get back on her feet with the help of strangers. 

On Tuesday, News4Jax reported on 35-year-old Shona Baker's arrest after police said trash, roaches and urine were found throughout her home with seven children living inside. The Department of Children and Families removed the children, between the ages of 2 and 12, from the home.  

"Get myself together. That's what I'm working on. That's what I'm doing," Baker told News4Jax on Tuesday while she was in the middle of cleaning her apartment. 

After seeing the story, local cleaners said they were touched to help Baker get her house back together so she can bring her children home. On Thursday, they scrubbed Baker's apartment from top to bottom. 

The women who organized the cleaning did not know Baker, but they said they saw a mother in need and they wanted to help.

Renee Garrett, who owns Interior Designer cleaning service, helped organize the cleanup. When asked what moved her to help Baker, she said, "I saw it on the news and the Lord led me to her."

Baker explained Thursday that she got overwhelmed and didn't know how to ask for help. 

"It's hard to be a single mom. I raised 11 kids. I have 11 -- nine boys and two girls," she said. "It ain't easy in this world. It's hard when you've got kids."

Hearts were full and hands were busy in the small apartment Thursday afternoon as the group of cleaners tried to get the apartment in shape to bring Baker's children home.

"Nowadays, the way the society is going, we're all gonna need some help eventually," Garrett said.

Garrett and a group of about 10 people pitched in for cleaning supplies, paint and brand-new furniture -- all out-of-pocket. 

"When you've done been through struggles, God will leave things on your heart. It's not what you do, it's how you do it. The Lord is unexplainable, so when you're dealing with God, it's certain things you can't explain," Garrett said. "We want to be here to help someone in need. It's not about what she didn't do, it's what we can help her do."

On Friday, Baker will wake up in practically a new home. 

"All my helpers, I love y'all, appreciate you. Thank you," Baker said.

She said she hopes her children can join her soon to enjoy it. 

"I miss my babies and I love my babies," Baker said. "I thank everybody for helping me that's here today."

When asked how her children were doing, Baker said they were in a safe place Thursday night. 

The group effort involved multiple cleaning organizations, including Interior Designer and A&L Knock it Out cleaning services. Renata Thomas also helped organize the cleanup.

"The Holy Spirit told me to help because it's time for us to come together as women. I help because two years ago, I started my organization called No Longer Bound By The Pain. I speak to women who have been physically, mentally and sexually abused. I have found a purpose and I feel like she needs guidance, love, stability and support and I felt like, as women, it's time for us to stick together. We do so much tearing each other down when we can build each other up. I understand my purpose in life. I help because I am a mother," Thomas said. "I just can't imagine not being without my children and all she needed was guidance."

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