Local mom who lost son to gun violence bakes birthday cakes for families of other victims

BRADDOCK, Pa. — On Wednesdays, a building in Braddock fills with the sounds of mixer beaters as one by one, Oneka Jones Miles fills her bowl with ingredients and just a touch of love.

“It’s my therapy. You have good days and bad days, and when I know I am about to represent a cake I try to have a good day because I pour the love from my heart into these cakes,” Jones Miles said.

The cakes are a representation of her son, Willis Brooks, 29. He was gunned down working security on the South Side two years ago this week and Jones Miles said it doesn’t get easier.

“I fight to breathe because I believe my son should still be here but because he’s not I live through him I try to do things I feel he would be proud of,” Jones Miles said.

That’s why she bakes, but these cakes aren’t just a typical celebration.

“This is the saddest part when you have to look at the name of the person and know it’s for a not-so-happy reason but at the end I’m going to make someone smile,” Jones Miles said.

Each cake is a gift to family members who lost someone to gun violence as a way to remember their birthday.

“It’s not an event, it’s a must. I must do this because if I don’t, who will? Who is going to show someone like me you aren’t the only one out there? There is always going to be somebody out there to care for you even if you don’t know them,” Jones Miles said.

There are 118 families in the Woodland Hills School District connected by tragedy, but they are never alone.

“It gives me time to talk to my son and hope that his response would be, ‘Mom it’s okay to not be okay, but you got to fight a little harder,’” Jones Miles said.

Now Jones finds her own way to grieve, honor and support with just one simple gesture.

“I feel like he’s helping me every time I hand a cake over. ‘Stand strong Mom, don’t cry,’ I feel like he’s right there and that’s what helps me,” Jones Miles said.

If you want to learn more about the H.O.O.P group that supports these families or Jones Miles’ foundation for her son, visit these links:

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