When money is tight, people often times can’t afford to go to the grocery store for their basic needs, so, the Paisley family is building a free one!
Famous country singer and songwriter, Brad Paisley, along with his wife, actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley, decided that they want to play a major role in helping to empower their Nashville community, and that role starts with food security.
The power couple recognizes that no one is above hitting rock bottom, but they want the people in their community who have to know one important thing; they’re here for them.
The idea of opening a free grocery store to help support their community in an immediate way aptly came to them when they were on a family vacation for Thanksgiving in Santa Barbara.
Kimberly had noticed that her kids weren’t exactly displaying an “attitude of gratitude”, according to Brad, and decided to teach their kids a lesson about being thankful.
As a result, the famous couple decided to spend their Thanksgiving with their boys volunteering at the Unity Shoppe.
The Shoppe operates a free grocery and clothing store throughout the year based on a referral system.
Each year, over 18,000 people are referred to the Unity Shoppe through one of 300 varying nonprofits, including schools, churches, and hospitals.
The Shoppe provides over $2,000,000 worth of food and clothing to struggling families with the help of 1,700 volunteers and 15 staff members.
While the intention of volunteering that year was to teach their kids about the meaning of thankfulness, the takeaway impacted the whole family, Brad and Kim included.
In an interview with The Tennessean, Brad expounded on the fact that what made their volunteer experience so remarkable, was in how the Shoppe was helping people.
“It was inspiring because these people have dignity. 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.”
Helping people who have fallen on hard times doesn’t have to look like a handout; really, it’s more of a hand up.
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Some of you may have heard about the new charity we are launching in Nashville, called “The Store” @thestore_nashville. It’s in partnership with @belmontu, my college, and it’s in its early stages but I’m very excited about this concept. More to follow on how you can be a part of it going forward.
When the family returned home to Nashville with their hearts full of inspiration, they decided to get to work on planning a similar organization for their own community.
Modeled after the Unity Shoppe in Santa Barbara, the building would have the same layout as an actual grocery store, with different aisles, a produce section, and non-perishable food items.
People who are trying to get back on their feet would be able to shop there for free over the course of one year with a referral from one of the nonprofit organizations that they will be partnering with.
Brad expressed to The Tennessean that their charity is set up to treat people in a rough spot with dignity because everyone needs help once in a while.
“This is a grocery store with dignity for people who have fallen on hard times. All of us are one unforeseen disaster away from rock bottom. It’s nice to think about a place where when that happens to someone, they can use it to get back on their feet.”
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Kimberly shares wholeheartedly in her husband’s line of thinking.
In the same interview, she explains that their charity, which will be called The Store, is a temporary stepping stone for people who are trying to become self-sufficient but could use a little help. She refers to The Store as a “temporary Band-Aid on the road to self-sufficiency”
“So many people are making great choices in their lives. 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.”
The do-good duo is even putting their money where their mouth is…
While a free grocery store sounds fantastic in theory, it still takes money to build the store, operate it, and keep the shelves stocked with food.
The Store will rely on volunteers and donations of new toys from good Samaritans around the holidays, to also include a toy aisle so that people can make sure to have something to give their kids on Christmas morning, making this charity a class act.
While there are several funding phases to this enormous project, they are approaching them one by one. The first of these funding targets is to raise $500,000 to kick off construction.
To get the ball rolling, Brad and Kim donated an unspecified amount toward the 500k goal.
After they have broken ground, they estimate it will cost another $1.2 million to complete construction for the facility.
While the couple, along with their board of trustees, and the aid of Brad’s old college, the University of Belmont, is working overtime to raise donations for the construction of the store and get the word out, they aren’t stopping with money.
The two have also been working to gather not-for-profit organizations in the area to collaborate on the project, which aims to serve over 3,000 people in need each year, and they are off to a great start.
Earl Swensson Associates Inc, or ESa, is a leading architectural firm based in Nashville, and they have donated their services to come up with the design scheme for The Store, which would normally cost thousands of dollars.
They are set to “break ground” to build The Store in 2019, in conjunction with Belmont University’s attempt to spearhead two clinics. One of the clinics will be for the health care of families in need, and the other will be a legal aid ministry.
Both of the clinics will be set up to refer some of the clients to The Store to help them while they get back on their feet.
The Store will be located on 2005 12th Ave. S. Nashville, TN, on property donated to the charity by Belmont University.
In the meantime, The Store’s website is up and running. If you would like to learn more about the next steps in getting this project off the ground or make a donation to this wonderful cause, you can do so there.
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