Crystal Woman Uses Personal Connection To Bring Voice to Missing Minnesotans
A Crystal woman is giving a voice to the voiceless with her Facebook page.
Shelia Bradley-Smith runs Minnesotans United for Missing Persons, a Facebook page, out of her home in Crystal.
“I got hundreds of emails or Facebook messages asking me to share their missing loved one,” Bradley-Smith said.
Bradley-Smith and her volunteer administrators monitor requests that people send into the inbox. She then helps families and loved ones create fliers and spread the word about their missing family members.
“Remember, one post has the potential to reach a thousand people,” Bradley-Smith said, showcasing the number of shares one of her recent posts garnered.
“It spreads like wildfire from the Minnesota missing page, and the next thing we know, somebody’s found.”
She works as a helper and a coach to families of the missing.
“Pray for them,” Bradley-Smith said. “Unfortunately, I know exactly how they feel.”
In Her Voice
The cause is deep and personal Bradley-Smith.
Her great nieces, Diamond and Tionda Bradley, went missing in Chicago on July 6, 2001. She’s carried that weight ever since.
Years ago, at a missing person’s conference, she was handed two candles. She tried to give one back– but one woman gave it back to her.
“Shelia, you have two missing,” Bradley-Smith said, in tears. “We are so used to compartmentalizing. Diamond and Tionda, Tionda and Diamond. But they are two different people. And that’s what makes my nieces’ case hard.”
The girls still haven’t been found. Bradley-Smith helps run a Facebook page for them as well.
“I don’t wish this on anybody. When you’ve got one missing, I’m sure that is horrific. When you’ve got two, it’s devastating,” Bradley-Smith said. “It’s just been a nightmare. But in the meantime, I just have to keep believing; be hopeful.”
Hope for Others
Bradley-Smith channels her pain into purpose and the hope into her pages. She and her admins run the page for free and she emphasizes that they are not registered as a nonprofit.
She said she pays attention to every name that crosses her page.
“This is everybody’s issue,” Bradley-Smith said. “You know, missing people have no color. There is no color restriction, no race restrictions, no income restrictions. One thing about being missing: It don’t discriminate.”
The page gives her a purpose behind the screen. It also gets her out the door. She encourages others to do the same, and look outside. She says you never know what you will see.
“You’ve got to put boots on the ground. Especially here in Minnesota,” Bradley-Smith said.
Bradley-Smith said she helped mobilize some people in the search for Barway Collins in 2015. The results of the search were devastating.
Bradley-Smith said she still keeps going.
“It’s people within the community finding these people,” Bradley-Smith said. “I do this with my own time. And it’s worth every second.”