If you look up the word “selfless” in the dictionary, the definition should simply read Mandi Evans.
Evans, 38, the co-owner of Elk Meadow Eatery and Market in Bergen Park, was a bright spirit with a smile and hugs for everyone she encountered. Customers at her restaurant — who quickly became her friends — said she would do anything for anyone.
Evans’ vehicle swerved off the road close to her house on Dec. 19, and she died from her injuries on Dec. 22. As her last selfless act, she was an organ donor, donating a kidney and her heart. Her family will host a celebration of life in the spring in Evergreen.
Evans had a degree in psychology from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and her sister, Cassondra, said Mandi was planning to return to school to become a licensed counselor because she saw how great the need was.
Mandi was fiery and full of life, Cassondra said, living up to her red hair. She loved her sons Levi and Noah, nature, and the Spartan Races, which are grueling obstacle-course races. She also had worked as a personal trainer and at the Evergreen Christian Outreach resale store, was a woman of faith, a night owl and was her genuine self with everyone, a precious treasure as some called her.
“She was always giving no matter how much she had,” Cassondra said. “If she had more, she gave more. If she had nothing, she still gave something.”
Those who knew Mandi said while she made great food and was great at any job she took on, it was her personality, giving heart and unceasing willingness to help that made her stand out and the loss so much more painful.
As friend Missy Roberts put it: “She was a little superwoman — all 110 pounds of her.”
Friend Ed Mills added: “They broke the mold after they made her.”
People Mandi met had an instant connection with her, Roberts recalled.
“She paid attention to detail, remembering kids’ names and things about them,” Roberts said. “There were a lot of regulars who came into the Eatery to talk to her. She was always a people person. I don’t know a single soul who didn’t like her. It made you feel good to be around her.”
Friend Elisabeth Marcus added: “She was somebody who wasn’t scared to love and put everything into her relationships. Everyone she met, they felt like she was their best friend. Her heart was really in serving others. She was not someone you wanted to miss out on.”
Brian DeBaets, who worked with Mandi in 2010, called her an “Energizer bunny.”
“She worked nonstop, and it came from a place of love,” he said. “She was always asking what more she could do.”
Stories of selflessness
Those who knew Mandi had stories about how she went above and beyond for friends and strangers alike.
Friend Julia Sewell recalled: “When I first moved to Evergreen in November 2019, I was eight months pregnant with twins and stopped into the Eatery to grab dinner. Mandi … shared some great info about bone broth and its nutritional qualities for babies in utero with me. I told her that my favorite bone broth was in pho soup.
“Fast forward a month, and I stop by again to pick up dinner, and Mandi sees me and gets so excited. As it turns out, after I came in that first time, she made me some pho broth and froze it just in case I came back in. She insisted that she give it to me as a gift for my babies.”
Friend Bec Lo, who brought flowers to sit outside the Eatery when she heard about Mandi’s death, shared this memory: “One day, I went there, and she saw I was feeling really bad. She told me to straighten my crown and wear it proudly and shake off the dust. It made me smile. That was just like her to always say something that made you smile.”
Marcus, the art teacher at Wilmot Elementary and The Bergens, said Mandi swooped in to help as Marcus was orchestrating the children’s mural in the walkway in downtown Evergreen in the fall of 2019.
“She was one of the people who responded immediately when I needed help,” Marcus said. “She was getting ready to start her own restaurant, yet she gave so much time.”
Marcus said when she was almost ready to have her second son, a drain backed up in the laundry room in her house. Mandi came over and scrubbed the floor on hands and knees, noting that someone nine months pregnant should not be doing such work.
Mandi encountered a woman at King Soopers whose car engine was smoking, so Mandi crawled under the car and figured out it needed oil. She purchased some oil, fixed the problem, and the woman was on her way.
When Mills’ wife had a major stroke in June 2020, Mandi was quick to jump in and organize a drive-thru chicken barbecue that raised $27,000 in one day to help pay for medical expenses.
“All the success of that fundraiser was 100% her,” Mills said. “She made it happen.”
Leaving a legacy
Nowadays, it’s hard to go near her shop, Roberts said.
“I feel a really heavy sadness, and there are a lot of things that don’t make sense,” Roberts said. “She thrived on hugs. Her love language was definitely gift-giving.”
Lo said she still stops outside the Eatery to feel closer to Mandi.
“Maybe that sounds odd, but it helps me find peace,” Lo said.
Marcus has adopted a motto: What would Mandi do?
“I don’t want her to die in vain,” Marcus said. “I really want to be more like her — open to love and not judgmental. I am going to try to live more like her, so the energy she put out in the world will live with us.”