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Non-profit gifts new house to Vidalia officer’s widow, child

VIDALIA — New York-based non-profit Tunnel to Towers recently gave the widow and child of a Vidalia Police Officer a new home after his life was shortened by COVID-19.

Next week, Chelsea Bates and her six-year-old daughter Madison of Vidalia are moving to their new house — mortgage-free — located in Cabot, Arkansas to be closer to Bates’ parents in Jacksonville, she said.

Bates’ husband, Rev. Kejuane Bates, 36, died April 1, 2020, with complications associated with the coronavirus.

Kejuane Bates served as a Vidalia Police officer, as pastor of Forest Aid Baptist Church on Lower Woodville Road in Natchez, as the offensive line coach of the Vidalia High School football team, and DARE officer and school resources officer for Concordia Parish School District.

Chelsea Bates said the non-profit Tunnel to Towers reached out to her in August to help her with her living situation, which she could not afford without her husband’s financial support.

Some officers of the Vidalia Police Department met the Bates family at the new house in Arkansas for a ribbon-cutting Friday, Chief Joey Merrill said.

Members of the department reached out to Tunnel to Towers within a few months of Kejuane Bates’ death and told them of the Bates family’s situation, Merrill said.

The Tunnel to Towers Foundation serves veterans and families impacted by fallen heroes, which includes first responders like Kejuane Bates.

Merrill said thanked the Cabot Police Department for the treatment they showed officers and the Bates family and thanked Tunnel to Towers for everything they did for the Bates family as well.

“A big thank you also goes to the Vidalia Police Officers, the attorney general’s office and all of those who dedicated their time and effort in making this happen,” he said. “A lot of folks were involved in this happening. We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of (Kejuane Bates) passing, which is a sad time. I just hope this will help the family financially during this difficult time.”

Chelsea Bates said the support of the non-profit came as a surprise.

“I honestly have no idea how they knew our situation,” she said. “I didn’t know how we would be able to afford our living arrangements.”

Bates said the non-profit worked in conjunction with Wells Fargo to procure a house to be donated to her family.

Bates said the new house was built in 2018 and contains three bedrooms and two bathrooms with a lake in the backyard for her and her daughter to go fishing.

It is also located in a quiet neighborhood near a ballpark right down the street from the school Madison will be attending next school year.

“I could not have found a better home,” Bates said.

Madison was just as excited about the new house too, Bates said.

“She was excited and immediately went to pick out what she will put in her new room. She is fascinated by the ducks in the lake.”

Bates said she is “forever thankful” to Tunnel to Towers.

“I’m also thankful to my family in blue, which now includes the Cabot Police Department and the Vidalia Police Department. And of course, I’m always thanking my husband in heaven. I wish he could be here celebrating with us and to see the fruit of his work.”

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