When it comes to making it through a global pandemic, Sherina Jones of Miami, Florida, knows “it takes a village.”
Sherina is a hairstylist who had to close her salon at the beginning of the novel coronavirus lockdowns. With extra time on her hands, she started looking for ways to help her neighbors who were struggling to make ends meet.
She was particularly worried about the kids who might not have enough to eat with schools being closed. So in August, she used her savings to buy a refrigerator, which she placed in an impoverished neighborhood in Miami. A sign on the fridge urged people to “take what they need, donate what you don’t.”
The fridge was popular from the start! Encouraged, Sherina started an online fundraiser called Village Freedge, and with the help of donations, she was able to purchase two more refrigerators to place around the city. Soon, everyone from people experiencing homelessness to struggling parents began to rely on the Village Freedge for their next meal.
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“People come by and stock the fridge during the evenings or buy a bulk of things and drop it off. I’m so appreciative,” Sherina said. “We’ve all come together to take care of each other.”
More and more neighbors began donating what they could, often bringing their kids along to help stock the pantry for those who would otherwise go without. But when one of the fridges was stolen just before Thanksgiving, Sherina said she cried for days.
“I was devastated that someone would do something to hurt the community,” she explained. “You hurt the 80-something people I feed a day.”
The painful moment turned into a blessing in disguise, however. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, the community rallied around Sherina and the Village Freedge in a big way!
Classmates Sherina hadn’t heard from in years saw her plea for help on Facebook and donated refrigerators, food, and much-needed cash. A local minister saw the story of the stolen fridge on the news and used previously collected funds to buy an even bigger fridge with a built-in cabinet so it couldn’t be stolen again. Meanwhile, local artists designed T-shirts and donated the proceeds, while local businesses curtailed their holiday parties and donated boxes of food instead.
After raising over $23,000 on GoFundMe, Sherina realized they could help their community more than she had imagined before the fridge was stolen. Talk about a silver lining! Encouraged, she held a toy drive and provided a happy Christmas morning for 400 families in her area.
Today, Sherina runs three free community refrigerators with her mom and aunt and plans to expand Village Freedge into a nonprofit food bank. What an incredible way to turn a bad situation into a blessing for so many people!
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