Helping others changed the life of Seymour woman

Seymour resident Shannon Mellencamp had a life-changing experience in December 2020 when she and her brother, Charles Newby, delivered Christmas meals to about 150 families.

Mellencamp, a driver for A1 Taxi, said providing meals to those families was the best gift she had ever received, and the experience changed her life.

“Families don’t get together like they used to on Christmas because they don’t have the money,” Mellencamp said. “So I told my brother we needed to do something and came up with the idea that we would feed 100 families in Seymour for Christmas so they could get together and be with their family.”

Mellencamp and Newby, owner of Newby Recycling, bought one turkey, one ham, a bag of potatoes and enough food to make a complete meal and a dessert, then put it all in a box for each family. Newby financially backed the project, and they ended up serving 150 families.

“I had some friends that helped me box up things at my house, and we put them in the taxi and dressed up like elves and drove around town and delivered the food,” Mellencamp said. “To see the relief that you can give to somebody that doesn’t have it was overwhelming, and I’m the one that got the gift that day.”

Mellencamp said she made a commercial to let people know about the Christmas meals, so if anyone knew of a family that needed a Christmas meal, A1 Taxi would be the place to call.

Her son is Sgt. Thomas Mellencamp with the Jennings County Sheriff’s Department, and her daughter is Katelyn Phillips of Scottsburg. They can seldom all get together on Christmas, so Shannon usually drives the taxi that day and lets the other drivers stay home so they can be with their families.

“My son is a police officer, and last year at Christmas, I bought pizza and took it up to the Seymour police station and also bought every officer on the force a Christmas stocking, like a little Santa hat,” Mellencamp said. “They had gloves, a hat, hand sanitizer, a mask and a few things like that because they don’t get to be with their families on Christmas, either.”

She has driven for A1 Taxi for about four years and said when you drive a taxi, it makes things more personal.

“I never knew there was so much need here until I saw it firsthand,” she said. “I wanted to distribute the holiday dinners after I helped with the donation of a coat to a woman in need and saw the impact it made on her.”

Mellencamp saw people all over town who were in need, and that’s when she conducted a coat drive.

“There was a homeless guy that lived out behind Walmart behind the dumpsters back there where they throw the tires, and I dropped him off out there and asked what he was doing,” Mellencamp said. “He said he didn’t have anywhere else to go, and in the winter, it gets so cold, and some people don’t realize that a homeless person doesn’t have a place to go.”

She said it would be great if people who have an extra coat could find someone who is homeless and give it to that person.

In an effort to help more people, Mellencamp buys jewelry in bulk at Traderbakers, takes it all home and cleans each piece to sell on Facebook.

“I donated all the money from selling jewelry this summer to the Seymour city pool for the kids that are less fortunate,” she said. “I was able to buy and donate 45 $40 pool passes this summer because I figured if you can get a kid in at the pool instead of in the alleys or getting in trouble, it could change their life, and it’s something so simple.”

Mellencamp said she never realized it’s the simple things that can really help others until she started working at A1 Taxi.

“Something else I’ve done is a little thing called Nobody Goes to Bed Hungry, where people called A1 Taxi if they didn’t have food and were hungry,” she said. “A1 would get them a pizza at Domino’s and bring it to them, and it was deducted directly from my pay because I just can’t stand the thought of somebody going to bed cold or hungry.”

Shortly after she started the program, Mellencamp was down on her luck and went to Dave Young at Young’s Tattoo and said she needed some help.

“I asked him if he could maybe give a tattoo for free and I could sell raffle tickets for it and all the money would go to Domino’s Pizza and then it wouldn’t come right out of my pocket,” she said. “So he’s going to try and get more people involved instead of it just being me and coming out of my paycheck and see if other people could donate things to raffle off and the money will go to Domino’s and they’ll sell me pizzas at cost.”

Mellencamp said her life hasn’t always been easy, and she has been homeless and hungry before and knows it can happen fast, so that motivates her to help others when she can.

As a taxi driver, Mellencamp also takes students to Margaret R. Brown Elementary School, Seymour High School, Seymour Middle School and the Sixth Grade Center.

“We have about four or five different runs we do every morning to make sure the kids get to school,” she said. “I have three little Mexican boys I take to school and they teach me a Spanish word every day, and at the end of the week, they quiz me, and if I flunk it, I have to give them a Polar Pop.”

Her little dog, Phoebe, goes everywhere in the taxicab with her, and everybody knows about her, Mellencamp said.

“I got her when she was about four weeks old when her mom pushed her away and wouldn’t feed her, so I told them to bring her to me,” she said. “She’s a little Shih Tzu, and everybody associates her with the taxi, and now, she’s two years old.”

Something else Mellencamp does is buy little trinket/gift boxes, paints and decorates them, and then she sends them up to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, she said.

“A lot of the kids there don’t get to see their parents because they have to be at work or home and don’t get to visit, so I give them this little box to cheer them,” she said. “They can be used for trinkets, jewelry, chapstick or maybe a cellphone charger. I make them for all ages, and this helps me with my own depression, and if I’m feeling anxious, I’ll go home and make one of these and that takes me away from where I’m at.”

She said the true meaning of a gift is when you don’t expect anything in return, and when you think you’re giving that gift, you‘ll see you’re the one getting the gift when you give to others.

In her spare time, Mellencamp enjoys spending time with her kids, and she loves going to Panama City, Florida, because it’s her happy place.

Recently, Mellencamp went to the emergency room and thought she was having a heart attack, but it turns out she has two blood clots in her left lung, she said.

“I’m sick myself and barely making it, but it could be worse, and I could be going through this with nowhere to go,” she said. “I think more people need to help others, and if it wasn’t for Bonnie Fleming, the owner of A1, I couldn’t have helped as many people as I have.”

Mellencamp said Fleming, her boss and best friend, passed away Sept. 3 after some heart issues. She owned and operated A1 Taxi and was a driver for A1 Taxi Medicab.

“Bonnie has always been 100% behind me in whatever I do, and she did her part, too, because I use the taxi for a lot of stuff, and when I drove up to St. Jude to deliver 400 trinket boxes, she paid for the gas and helped me,” she said. “She has touched the lives of so many, and I miss her so much already.”

Mellencamp file

Name: Shannon Mellencamp

Age: 50

Residence: Seymour

Occupation: Driver for A1 Taxi in Seymour

Family: Son, Thomas Mellencamp; daughter, Katelyn Phillips; dog, Phoebe