The walls are lined with baskets of T-shirts, racks of button-downs, sneakers, little-girl dresses, little-boy jeans, winter coats, hats, and toys.

Auburn, Alabama—a nice day. A busy town. College kids wander the sidewalks. A rusted truck with hay bales sits beside me at a stoplight.

Pictures of eagles and tigers in every shop window. Orange and blue all over.

At the intersection of College and Magnolia is Toomer’s Drugs. A throwback to the old world. Their lemonade is a spiritual experience.

A few minutes away is the East Alabama Pediatric Dentistry clinic, on North Dean. It’s a nice-looking building with even nicer people.

The waiting room is full. A Hispanic family with six kids. A mother and her two-year-old. A father and his rowdy sons. Children swinging feet. This room is anything but quiet.

“We get’em from all over,” says Doctor Keri. “Because we’re one of the only offices who take Medicaid.”

Patients visit from as far away as Dothan. Needy patients. Hundreds of stories walk through these doors, each one is a heartbreaker.

We’re talking true poverty. Grade-schoolers with missing teeth. Eight-year-olds with handfuls of cavities. Disabilities. Mental illness. Childhood cancer. You name it.

But there’s also something special in this place. You can feel it in the waiting room.

The door to the back swings open. A small boy runs into the waiting room, toward his mother.

The Hispanic woman holds his chin and inspects his smile. She says, “Esa sonrisa.”

Which roughly translates into: “I love you so much it hurts.”

There is a sign on the wall in the waiting room. It reads: “Free coats, hats, scarves, and gloves.”

I ask about the sign.

“Oh that,” the receptionist says. “That’s our clothing closet. It’s all Mo’s doing.”

Meet Mo Malphrus.

She works here . She’s a certified sweetheart. Her voice is pure Cajun, her eyes are sharp, her lipstick is neon pink. Hugging her is like hugging your Aunt Bunny.

Mo leads me to a back room. She flips the lights on.

The walls are lined with baskets of T-shirts, racks of button-downs, sneakers, little-girl dresses, little-boy jeans, winter coats, hats, and toys.

Mo goes on, “I started doing this when my husband got cancer. I just needed to do something good in the world, and these babies needed clothes.”

The idea grew.

“Saw this kid come in,” says Mo. “She was wearing a pair of denim shorts underneath her jeans for underwear. She told us she didn’t own underwear.”

So, they started giving free underclothes.

Not long thereafter, a dental tech cleaned out her home closet. Instead of sending the clothes to a thrift store, she brought them to the office.

The rest is history. All heaven broke loose.

They were giving things away as fast as they could. Clothes started coming from all over. Friends and neighbors from all parts were leaving full bags.

“We’re running outta closet space,” says Mo.

And I’m running out of space here. Or else I’d write about all they’ve done. The families they’ve fed. The kids they’ve saved. The orphanages they’ve visited.

I’d also write about the little girl who walked in for a checkup. She was small, stringy hair, skin and bones. Her T-shirt was two sizes too small, her belly showed. Her bare toes poked through the fronts of her filthy sneakers. She smelled.

Mo led her to the back room. She gave the girl a pair of shoes, an armful of clothes, a new dress.

“These are the first new things I’ve ever had,” the girl said.

Mo hugged the girl. Hard.

“Everyone likes new clothes,” Mo tells me.



  1. Susan Hammett Poole - March 2, 2018 8:38 am

    Oh, I just wanta (((hug))) MO ? ? ? ? ?

  2. John - March 2, 2018 9:25 am

    Great story!! We have a place like that near Seattle. The Garage Of Blessings. Look it up. Mike Rowe visited there last week. Another wonderful story.

  3. Sherry - March 2, 2018 10:52 am

    Thank God for good people!

  4. Sandi in FL - March 2, 2018 11:54 am

    God bless Mo abundantly for her generous heart! This pressure-cooker world needs more like her. She reminds me of another angel, JoAnn Cayce of Thornton, Arkansas, who has been giving away clothing, food, toys, blankets, money, furniture and kitchen items for many years to anyone who has a need. She answers phone calls for such help at night, on holidays, even during a family meal. Numerous times throughout each year she has a “Give-Away” day and opens a huge gymnasium to the public where people come in and shop for free! Her book of true stories (“The Charity Letters of JoAnn Cayce”) will warm your heart to the very core and make you so thankful for everything you have. Her grown daughter and grandson are also involved in this wonderful giving program to the less fortunate.

  5. Carl Wagner - March 2, 2018 12:08 pm

    My mother, sister and her family live in Auburn. Going to look this place up next time I’m visiting them. Thank you ICH

  6. janiesjottings - March 2, 2018 12:22 pm

    Thank God for people like Mo and her co workers. Such a beautiful example of people reaching out to others in love. We need more writers like you Sean, writers who share the goodness of people. Thank you!

  7. Noah Funderburg - March 2, 2018 12:54 pm

    My favorite line was, “All heaven broke loose.” We world needs a lot more of that!

  8. Farris - March 2, 2018 12:56 pm

    We were just there for my daughter’s check up , we drive the 120 miles round trip twice a year. Kelley is multi handicapped and Dr Keri and her staff ( kudos to Larissa ) take exceptional care of her , when other dentists turned her away ! That was many years ago , Kelley is now 33 years old , but Dr Keri tells me there will always be a place for her and they will always have a place in my heart ❤

  9. Sue Cronkite - March 2, 2018 1:15 pm

    Another good one.

  10. Victoria - March 2, 2018 1:20 pm

    God bless them all

  11. Jan - March 2, 2018 1:20 pm

    I have always loved Auburn, AL, and known it was a very special place. Now there is one more reason to believe in Auburn and love it!

  12. Dave Conkle - March 2, 2018 1:30 pm

    Your columns tell life as it should be – full of love ,giving and caring . Always a wonderful part of my day . If you’re ever in Pensacola would love to show you St Joseph Medical clinic – a free medical clinic with similar goals .

  13. Sandra Smith - March 2, 2018 1:37 pm

    BRAVO, MO !!!

  14. Donna J. masmar - March 2, 2018 3:10 pm

    Sean–Better show “Returning the Favor’==Mike Rowe; sounds like a great project for him.
    D.Masmar- March 2, 1018

    • Nolvia - March 2, 2018 7:27 pm

      I agree with that! ☝️

  15. Dee Corkran - March 2, 2018 3:21 pm

    My husband and I own a dental practice in Vine Grove, Kentucky. There is a plaque right outside our 100+ year old building stating that Thomas Lincoln passed by with his family, including Abraham, on their way to Indiana. We are the only office in our area that accepts Medicaid patients and this lovely story relates exactly why we do it.

    • Rita J. Naftel - March 2, 2018 5:08 pm

      God Bless yall Dee! We did Head Start for many years at our office and it was not easy!

  16. LARRY WALL - March 2, 2018 3:45 pm

    “All Heaven broke loose.” I love this line, Sean. A beautiful expression that is seen every day if we all will look. But after reading this expression I believe that I will be more likely to see and realize that it happens through the actions of people like those that work in that dental clinic. God bless you Mo. And God blesses you Sean with your vision of the real world. Thank you for helping us to also see it.

  17. muthahun - March 2, 2018 4:07 pm

    Powerful. And yes, favorite line: “All heaven broke loose.” Pass it on.

  18. Diana Williams- McAfee - March 2, 2018 4:12 pm

    What a wonderful story!! Everyone should do this! The would would be a much better place. Thank you Sean, for the positivity you bring to us everyday!!

  19. Jo - March 2, 2018 4:28 pm

    We have a free clothes closet here too, for women who are trying to get back into the work force and need to look professional. Bless that dental clinic – wonderful work!

  20. Karen - March 2, 2018 4:58 pm

    I have been reading your column for months, and I was so excited that you were coming to Auburn. I heard you speak on Wednesday at the country club. I keep telling everyone you spoke just as well as you write, which is a rare combo. I’m a writer, too, and the thought of public speaking makes me physically ill. Thank you for writing about my “little” town that I love so dear!

  21. Rita J. Naftel - March 2, 2018 5:04 pm

    Auburn, Alabama was a great place to live. Our dental office was one that the Kopper Kettle explosion got. I remember Pediatric Dentistry, great group! I also remember the Head Start buses that would bring little ones to our office on designated days; kids were exactly as you described. . . Thank you for your memories!

  22. JULIA - March 3, 2018 1:32 am

    Though I’m from Hartford, AL, most of my life has been lived in Auburn. I’m not surprised at all about this story, and am extremely proud. Thank you for this, Sean! War Eagle!

  23. Mary Lee - March 4, 2018 12:09 am

    Love this beautiful piece. More tears. Love all those beautiful people at that dentist office. God bless them all.

    • Rita J Naftel - March 4, 2018 3:27 am

      We had a dental practice in Auburn & Opelika, Alabama. This is a true story! God Bless Mo!

  24. Char Ewers - March 4, 2018 4:53 pm

    I really enjoyed your closet article as having to go through my moms attic, basement not to mention the 1st floor and back porch,it’s an overwhelming task, but folks out there who own next to nothing may just be the ones to whom the donations should go!! Thanks again for the wonderful reminder Mr. Dietrich

  25. Nelson Russell - December 28, 2021 4:28 pm

    Great story. There’s a lot of good people who do go things that we never hear about. It’s nice to hear a story such as this.


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