Angel who helped a poor mom needs our help

PHOTO: GREGG KOHL
PHOTO: GREGG KOHL
Posted: April 14, 2014

IT'S A MUG SHOT that's been seen around the world.

It shows the face of Shanesha Taylor, a distraught mother of two, tears streaming down her face.

Taylor was arrested on child-abuse charges last month after leaving her 2-year-old and 6-month-old sons locked in a hot car in Scottsdale, Ariz., while on a job interview.

Most of us who read about what happened turned away from Taylor's anguish. Not Amanda Bishop. The 24-year-old New Jersey resident got busy, launching an online fundraising drive that has raised more than $100,000 for Taylor.

"It hit me hard," Bishop explained last week. "You can tell she's in despair.

"When I saw her tears, I knew that feeling," Bishop added. "I knew exactly what she was going through. 'Where do you catch a break? When does something go right?' "

Bishop could well have been asking those same questions about herself. Although she's not a mother, her situation is not much different from Taylor's.

She, too, is out of work and homeless. For months, she's been couch surfing, staying with whatever friend will take her in. At the moment, she's in Eatontown in Monmouth County, N.J., but hopes to get back to the Sicklerville area, where she knows more people.

For now, she sleeps on an air mattress in a living room in a friend's one-bedroom apartment. An overturned plastic laundry basket is a makeshift desk. Her belongings lie in piles around the room.

"I need a job, but more than anything I need a stable place to live," said Bishop, whose last job was at a Chipotle in Marlton.

Struggle is nothing new for her. Originally from Arizona, Bishop grew up with a single mother who was often out of work. The family moved frequently.

Bishop moved to South Jersey in 2009 to be with her now ex-boyfriend. Since her arrival, she's held a series of low-wage retail jobs at Target, Kmart and Wal-Mart.

But it's been months since she's been able to find work. She doesn't get help from her mother since they're estranged. Bishop gets by with money she receives from her current boyfriend, who lives with his mother.

More than anything, Bishop could really use the kind of aid that she so generously helped Taylor get. Originally, she hoped to raise $9,000 on YouCaring.com, which it did in four days. She was shocked when money continued pouring in. Bishop, who has never met Taylor, has been busy giving TV and radio interviews to reporters writing about Taylor.

Critics have given her hell for defending a woman who's far from a poster child for good parenting. Leaving unsupervised kids in a car is just wrong - not to mention stupid. But she didn't have a baby-sitter. She couldn't take the babies into the interview with her, so she left them in a car with windows rolled down about an inch.

Witnesses noticed the infant crying and contacted police. The temperature in the SUV exceeded 100 degrees. The baby reportedly had on a long-sleeved shirt with a short-sleeved one over it. Both kids were sweating profusely. Police arrested Taylor and the children have been removed from her care. Bishop has steadfastly defended her.

"I have family who deleted me off of Facebook, they felt so strongly against it," Bishop said. "I had friends who got mad and deleted me and blocked me.

"It's so easy to judge others and not sit back and look at the mistakes we've made," she added. "I find myself reminding people that no one said it's right to leave her kids in the car. But how do we prevent situations like that?"

Roger Laltoo, a real-estate agent based in Arizona, was listening to a recent radio interview Bishop gave and was moved not only by Taylor's problems but by Bishop's. Their impoverished situations reminded him of being little himself and holding his siblings' hands as his mother applied for public assistance. So, he created a fundraising page, also on YouCaring.com, to help Bishop. So far, it's raised a couple thousand dollars.

The money will help Bishop get her own apartment. She said she's always wanted to go to college, but had no money and no access to financial aid. She worked for a time for Best Friends Pet Care in Berlin, Camden County, and would enjoy working with animals again, a goal that college could help her achieve.

"She was just a sweet kid that was trying to make a difference for someone else and I felt compelled to put it out there that this sweetheart could use some help herself," Laltoo explained. "She's just a kid who has had some hard times, who just identified with someone and her children because of her own childhood and experiences. I just know it was the right thing to do."

Hopefully, others will be moved to hire Bishop or contribute to her fundraising drive because it's the right thing to do.


On Twitter: @JeniceArmstrong

Blog: ph.ly/HeyJen

Email: armstrj@phillynews.com

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