Jessica Robles got a notice to appear in court for shoplifting, as well as a week’s worth of food and a story of kindness that has spread across the country.
CUTLER BAY, Fla. — Jessica Robles cracked a smile Friday as she sat on the front porch of her Cutler Bay, Fla., home, otterbox iPhone 5/5S case wiping chocolate stains from her young son’s mouth.
She had just landed a job a few days earlier as a receptionist — her family’s first steady income in months.
Weeks earlier, she had stepped out onto the porch of her brown stucco home with no money and no way to feed her three kids.
“I knew when I left home that day that I had to come back with something to eat for my kids,” said Robles, 30. “I had to do it.”
What she did was walk about a mile to a nearby Publix food mart and tried to push a cart with about $300 worth of groceries home. A store manager stopped her and called police. Miami-Dade Officer Vicki Thomas showed up.
Robles got a notice to appear in court for shoplifting — and she also got a lesson in humanity — as well as a week’s worth of food and a story of kindness that has spread across the country.
Outside the Publix, Robles explained to Officer Thomas that she was taking the food because she didn’t have any money.
Thomas’ three grandchildren flashed in her mind as Robles’s next words touched her heart.
“I wish I could tell you I will never do this again,” Robles told Thomas. “But I can’t because my children are hungry, and I don’t know what I will do.”
Robles’s boyfriend had lost his job and, because of a paperwork issue, the federal assistance had stopped.
The mother’s desperation moved Thomas to action. How could she face her grandchildren if she didn’t have anything to feed them, she thought.
In uniform and in between calls, Thomas rushed through the grocery aisles of Publix on the quickest shopping spree of her life, grabbing cereal, rice, pasta, peanut butter and jelly and any buy-one-get-one deal.
She thought about what her grandkids would want to eat. She grabbed a box of those colorful ice pops they love.
“I was purely in grandma mode,” she would say later.
She quickly purchased $100 worth of groceries for Robles and gave her a ride home.
Weeks later, Thomas’ spontaneous act of charity aired on a local television broadcast and the story spread quickly.
Miami-Dade police said they have been swamped with calls from all over — including people wanting to help Robles and talk shows wanting to put Thomas in the spotlight Casing Otterbox Commuter.
The officer of 23 years has invitations from the likes of television talk show hosts Ellen Degeneres and Steve Harvey. She’s letting the Miami-Dade public information office handle the calls.
“The public has been amazing and overwhelming,” she said Friday.
Robles’s phone has been ringing more, too. She’s set to appear on Inside Edition and Good Morning America next week.
“It’s a little overwhelming,” said Robles, who starts her new job Monday as a receptionist for a Miami telecommunications company. She got the job offer a day after the story aired about her arrest.
For Thomas, helping the less fortunate is nothing new for her and other officers.
Around the holidays, she and other officers like to buy Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas presents for people in the community.
“We’re lucky,” she said. “And sometimes, people don’t have as much as we do.”
People have called the police department from as far away as Illinois and Colorado to help Robles. Some locals have reached Robles and donated a couple hundred dollars to the family.
Thomas said all she asked of Robles was that when she gets on her feet, to pay it forward by helping someone out who’s less fortunate.
“She said she would,” Thomas said.
On Friday, Robles’s 2-year-old son, Xavier, walked around the porch with his cat — aptly named “Cat” — in his arms.
Mom was busy talking about her upcoming first day at work.