Community//

From Homeless to Oprah

How Hungry are You?

My name is Cheryl Jackson and I believe everyone has a story and for those who know me, they will tell you I have hundreds of them but, this is one of the biggest stories of my life. I literally watched the first Oprah show and she caught my attention because of her consistent message of being motivated and living your best life and helping others. I made up my mind that I would met her and almost 20 years ago that meeting happened. When I met Oprah she said one thing to me, she asked me what was my passion and I said I love to give. She challenged me to pursue that. I thought about it for awhile then I let the feeling die until my father passed away. I went into a three year depression and my mother said, Cheryl, you are going to die. It was then I decided to live… I remembered Oprah’s words and I looked at my mother. I realized there were two women on the earth that I loved dearly. My mother who birthed me and Oprah who’s words always gave me life. I decided to start a food pantry because I was once the face of hunger and nobody knew. My family and I would go to friends homes just to be invited to eat with them at dinner time. I remembered applying for food stamps and getting declined because we made $8 too much and what a terrible environment and experience it was. I remember being homeless and sleeping at friends houses before we finally told my parents. So on April Fools day, 2008 I started Minnie’s Food Pantry which is named after my mother In a very wealthy city.. I had two cans of corn and no blue print of what to do, just a heart print of wanting to treat people better with dignity and integrity. The road was tough. My husband funded the charity for almost three years . We finally decided to have a gala and every year I would put a place card at the table and tell people that one day Oprah was going to join my efforts. I really believed it, although everyone around me laughed. What I knew for sure was that I was living my best life although, it wasn’t the best life financially, I was able to receive a reward when I looked into the eyes of the family that received a meal from my pantry and that gave me a feeling that money couldn’t buy. I remember asking Oprah to come to the gala and she told me ” I will not be attending” and I said ok but I kept working. There were times when I wanted to give up but I knew that really wasn’t an option. I remember my mother asking me to close the pantry because donations were few and far between and I would reach back out to Oprah and ask for her to come help me and and she said NO her scheduled was too full. I didn’t understand it at the time but I definitely understand it now. Her consistent denial of my request actually made me work harder. Then it happened, Oprah called me one day and what a conversation it was. She asked me about the people that we serve at Minnie’s and I was able to explain to her what the face of hunger looks like. She was intrigued to say the least and then she asked me, what did I need from her and this time I asked her to attend the gala and she said YES. Needless to say, I was so elated and overwhelmed with gratitude and as the tears flowed I recalled all the other times she had declined my invitation and for some reason it was ok. When Oprah attended the gala there were media outlets everywhere as one would expect. Imagine a plain ole girl from Plano, Texas hosting Oprah Winfrey at her gala to raise money to feed the Hungry. Oprah Winfrey was extraordinary, she gave her time, her money and at the end of the day she raised 1.3 million dollars to help my charity continue feed the hungry. The timing was perfect, my mother had just passed away and my spirits were at an all time low. Once again her words gave me life. Oprah owed me nothing but on April 3, 2018 she gave me something money couldn’t buy, she gave me her time and her platform and since then we have opened a new food pantry in Houston and we moved to a new facility where we have an empowerment learning center as part of our programs. My question is How Hungry Are You? When someone tells no, it just means they don’t know!! We all have stories and as Oprah said in her message https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDtW_QjG4cM at my gala, you gotta do the work. So join me, in 2020, let’s do the work, live on purpose, and watch your dreams come true. I have more stories to share and if this motivates you please comment and share with others. We all need hope.

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