Anyone who has come upon hard times knows that even a small bit of kindness and generosity can go a long, long way. Enter, country music singer Brad Paisley and his wife, actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley, who have taken it upon themselves to “give back” to families in need in exactly this kind of open-hearted, impactful way.
The famous couple, who are the proud parents of two boys, Huck, 11, and Jasper, 9, have partnered up with Paisley’s alma mater Belmont University to open a “free referral-based grocery store” in Nashville, Tennessee. It’s called, simply, The Store.
The establishment, which is set to open in 2019 once sufficient funds are raised, will operate like a food bank, offering free non-perishables and fresh food items to people in need for up to one year.
“We want The Store to be a cheerful, safe place for volunteers as well as for people who are struggling,” said Brad, in a press release obtained by Babble. “We want those who are referred to our program to show up and feel dignity.”
Honestly, I can’t applaud this enough — it’s precisely the kind of thing that this world needs more of. Families who are struggling need far less judgment and whole lot more support. Everyone deserves the ability to have their basic needs met while striving to better their lives.
The Paisleys were first inspired to open The Store after an experience last year that changed all of them. As the couple recently told The Tennessean, their boys had been going through a period of “acting spoiled” — so they decided to take them to a local food bank in Santa Barbara, California, called Unity Shoppe, and teach them a lesson about what it truly means to be privileged.
The lesson seems to have worked; the whole family was profoundly moved by the experience, and Brad and Kimberly soon felt compelled to bring the truths they’d learned that day to a wider audience.
“It was inspiring because these people have dignity,” Brad told the newspaper. “It’s not a scene from Oliver Twist.’ These people are able to sit there and feel very, very normal in the eyes of their kids. I remember … thinking, ‘Why isn’t this everywhere?’ Essentially, we got this idea that it could be a very effective thing in Nashville.”
“We loved seeing parents making choices for their own families,” Kimberly added, “rather than receiving a bag of food they might not necessarily want or need. We got very excited about bringing the concept of a free grocery store back home to our Nashville community.”
The Store will be partnering with Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, as well as other local establishments, to provide the food and other items. In addition, all of the food offered will follow dietary guidelines set by Second Harvest.
There will be some oversight, as well: Only individuals and families who have been referred by nonprofits and government agencies will be allowed to partake. Each family or individual will be allowed to participate for one year each, and the goal is to reach about 3,000 families per year.
If your heart isn’t swelling enough just thinking about all the families whose lives will be better because of this, there’s more. In addition to groceries, the plan is to have a free toy aisle set up during the holiday season so that kids will receive as many items on their wish list as possible. The Store will be taking on-going toy donations throughout the year.
The Store also plans to provide on-the-job training year-round as part of an effort to help participants achieve self-sufficiency and get back on their feet — a top priority for Brad and Kimberly.
As Kimberly told The Tennessean, The Store is not meant to be a complete solution to the problems that so many low-income families face, but rather a “temporary Band-Aid on the road to self-sufficiency.”
“So many people are making great choices in their lives,” she said. “It’s not like they’ve made major mistakes, they just need a little extra help and we want to be a resource for those people.”
As someone who has come upon hard times myself, I can say without a doubt that initiatives like these really do make a difference. “Hand-outs” don’t stop people from getting out of poverty; in fact, they do just the opposite. They empower them and give them the security and peace of mind to secure work and increase their income.
Think about it: How can you have the energy and tenacity to go out and get a good job when your basic needs aren’t even being met?
Fundraising for The Store is already underway, but the Paisleys are still looking to reach their groundbreaking goal of $500,000 (a final goal of $1.2 million is needed for total construction).
Judging by the positive response to their venture so far, something tells me it won’t be a hard goal to meet.