A Security Officer With a Calling to Help

    Listen 5:00
    Alicia Denby

    Alicia Denby (photo taken by Cherri Gregg)

    “I feel like when you do good things in your life, you receive good things in your life,” says Alicia Denby, who works as a security officer.

    Born and raised in the Logan section of Philadelphia, the single mother of a 14 year old son says she is a third generation giver.

    “My grandmother was a loving person,” she says, “my great grandmother was a loving person-; my dad and mom would literally in their neighborhood take kids on vacation- and my dad he paid people’s bills.”

    So it’s no surprise that Denby stepped in when a couple weeks before Thanksgiving she saw a man looking flustered at the check out at the Aldi in Brewerytown where she was working security.

    “He just looked In distress,” she says, “he had a cart full of groceries.”

    Kevin McCorry, managing editor for Keystone Crossroads here at WHYY, was the
    flustered man. The dad of four is in charge of grocery shopping for his family and on that day, he arrived at Aldi a half hour before closing time. But he was so familiar with the story, he made it to the line with five minutes to spare. Then he learned he was in a bind.

    “I realize I don’t have my wallet,” he says.

    It was a major inconvenience, but not a tragedy. McCorry says his plan was to simply go home and return the next day. That’s until…

    “A really kind security guard innately sensed the situation and she very casually sensed the station and very casually said- ‘do you need my help.”

    Denby paid about $146 bucks for Kevin’s groceries, no questions asked.

    “I wasn’t looking for anything in return,” she says, “it was just a good deed for someone who needed my assistance.”

    And then minutes later. Denby did it again. This time for a woman with a much smaller need but who appeared to be in even more distress.

    “I paid for her groceries as well and she just bust out in tears,” says Denby.

    “At that point I a just like who is this security guard who just swoops in like super woman without any ego attached to it,” says McCorry.

    He paid Alicia back via Venmo and filed the good deed away. Then, just before Thanksgiving he tweets about the interaction.

    “It was such a powerful act, I suppose, that it felt like there can be so much negativity and toxicity put out there on social media,” says McCorry, “I don’t get too personal on Twitter too often, but this just felt like a situation that was worth putting out there to people to say like, ‘Hey, look like there’s good stuff in the world.’”

    McCorry’s thread got scores of retweets and hundreds of likes.

    “So much great attention came to Alicia, which was great,” he says.

    “When I saw that tweet, I just broke down in tears and just cried,” says Denby, who had to create a Twitter account to see the social media interactions. “I was like wow.”

    The tweet lead to folks sending money to Alicia via CashApp and Venmo, they even offered her game tickets, thanking her for the good deed. And all of the kindness from strangers came on the heels of one of roughest seasons on Alicia’s life.

    “I’ve been through a lot,” she says, “a lot…. yeah…”

    Denby says her mother Sharon died of brain cancer three years ago. She then lost her dad Dewey Denby in July 2021 from complications caused by COPD. Denby, who now lives in the home her dad has purchased for her mom, says she’d battled sadness trying to make ends meet and cope with the loss, but soon began seeing her giving…in a different way.

    “I think I do what I do to continue the legacy that my dad planted before he left this earth,” she says.

    So while the single mom looks like she’s just a security guard, she sees herself as something more— instead, as someone who is there to lend a helping hand.

    “Either by jut having a personal conversation, listening o people if hey are feeling down,” she says, “if they need extra cash and I have it on me I give and day God bless you have a nice day— it’s just who I am, it’s just me.”

    In addition to paying for groceries while working at Aldi, Denby has made sandwiches for the houseless, provided free lunch to people who look hungry, given away clothes and she says she has donated her time, attention and talent to those in need. She says she was also the caregiver for both her mother and father during their final days.

    “I go through my moments where I miss my mom and my dad and and I feel a little numb at times,” says Denby. “But I just look at my son and I say, I have to keep it moving and I have to keep pushing because I have someone that’s looking up to me.”

    And doing for others also helps keep her going. With all the kind deeds, some might say, Alicia Denby is a good soul.

    “A good soul— I’ve never been called a good soul,” she says, “I have never had nobody say this to me at all…so it’s an honor.”

    She says she performs good deeds when she feels it’s the right thing to do:

    “If you’re a good person and you help people or you listen or you just lend a helping hand it’ll come back to you,” says Denby, “I believe in it— my blessings come from others or from just being a good person overall. ”

    And while what she did for Kevin seemed small on the surface, the act of kindness had a much bigger impact.

    “It was one of the situations you walk away and like, wow, humanity for all its issues and all its problems there are just people out there that just do the right thing for the right reasons,” says McCorry.

    “Just to see the expression on people’s faces is really amazing,” says Denby, “It feels like these things that I’m doing for people can go a long way.”

    Thanks Alicia Denby for the reminder.

    WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal