(This story originally appeared in the Bradenton Herald)
BRADENTON — The Milbert children walked around barefoot Wednesday in their new home, their excited voices bouncing off the empty walls. The eldest, 12-year-old Timothy, was eager to give a tour with his sister, 6-year-old Taylor. His arms stretched out as he showed off the living room, then the hallway. Felicity, 2 1/2, trailed quietly behind her big brother and sister.
“This is the girls’ room right here — all this,” Timothy said as he pointed at a checkered tablecloth on the floor with stuffed animals scattered throughout.
“And this is the parent’s room!” Taylor chimed in, leading the way to another room before quickly moving onto a bathroom with green tile walls.
The white house with the red door in West Bradenton marks a new chapter for the Milbert family after Bradenton police officer Jason Nuttall noticed the three siblings in early October outside a convenience store with their parents, Lindsay and Chris Milbert. Sensing distress, the officer drove up to the family and, after hearing they had moved from West Palm Beach for a job in Bradenton that never was, he launched into a daylong quest to secure food and temporary housing for them. What followed was a tremendous outpouring of support from the Manatee County community through individual donors, a GoFundMe page, and aid from the Salvation Army and Turning Points.
Most recently, Lindsay got a job as a hostess at Olive Garden, and Chris at Roy’s Automotive Clinic.
“I am like crying happy tears right now because I’m just overly joyed for the family to have a place for the kids and to be in an actual home and not in a hotel or a motel or in a little room,” Lindsay said early Wednesday evening after tidying up the kitchen. “I’m happy to have all this space … I don’t even know what to do with this space right now. I can’t get over it.”
As the mother of three spoke, the doorbell rang numerous times as Taylor and Felicity took turns pressing the doorbell button and opening the front door for one another. It was a new sound for the girls.
When they finally stopped, their feet made quick pitter-patter sounds as they ran around the house.
A smile spread on Lindsay’s face as she took in her new surroundings. Turning Points helped them find this house, she said.
“I absolutely love it,” Lindsay said. “I’m very happy and excited for the new beginning and a new chapter in our new lives.”
Lindsay grew teary-eyed when she spoke of Officer Nuttall and how he helped her family.
“I’ve gained a friend with him and he’s family now to us,” she said, “and always welcome here.”
The Milberts moved into the rental home Wednesday afternoon after Turning Points helped fund a weeks-long stay at the Marriott. Prior to that, the family had stayed several days in the Kentucky Colonel Motel and in the Blue Boy Motel, both located in Bradenton.
Outside in the backyard, Timothy smiled. He was happy and surprised that his family has a new home, he said. Nearby, his sisters climbed on a small trampoline.
“I love our new house,” he said. “It’s the best thing ever.”
Asked how she feels about the house, Taylor said it’s good. She said she likes her brother’s room, her mom and dad’s room, her own room and the playground in the backyard.
“I really wanted this house for a million years,” she said. “I really wanted to stay in this house.”