By Alexis Jones-Herron
“Do not prophecy what is not…prophecy what will be.” Those were the words Oprah Winfrey spoke as she stood on stage at the 10thAnnual Minnie’s Food Pantry “Feed Just One” Gala this passed Tuesday. Such advice was closely followed by Cheryl “Action” Jackson, philanthropist and founder of Minnie’s Food Pantry– a nationwide non-profit organization that has fed approximately 7.3million people in a fight to reduce hunger. The organization has garnered the attention from celebrities such as Rihanna, Jim Parsons, Mark Cuban, Emmitt and Pat Smith… and The BIG O.
After 8 years of Cheryl Jackson phoning, sending DM’s on Instagram and attending Oprah’s events… in hopes that she would one day keynote her event… she finally received a resounding…“yes.”
It’s all because “she did the work,” says Oprah. “I’m not here because Cheryl is a dreamer, I’m here because she did the work.”
Not only is Cheryl Jackson doing the work, but she and Oprah had something in common.They both knew what it felt like to be hungry. Cheryl would experience hunger while being homeless living in her car. Oprah would experience hunger as a young girl…leading her to knock on her neighbor’s door to help feed her siblings while her mother was out working.
Because of a difficult experience, it would eventually lead Cheryl to birthing a cause bigger than what she could imagine. Starting with just two cans of corn in 2008, Jackson created what is now known as Minnie’s Food Pantry named after her mother, the late Dr. Minnie Hawthorne-Ewing. Their mission is to provide healthy meals to low-income, food insecure households. The distribution of the meals is done in a way that serves clients with dignity and honor. Jackson and her volunteers provide red carpet treatment to those in need when delivering resources.
The great thing about Minnie’s is that the “government has nothing to do with us,” stated Lynette Shofner, sister of Cheryl Jackson. The organization is fully supported by generous donations and the 60,000 plus volunteers who give their time to sustain its mission. After Oprah pledged $250,000 of her own money, she challenged the room to match the gift. Like an offering familiar to the COGIC church, generous donations were received at the “Feed One Gala” on April 3rdin Dallas, TX. Attendees and supporters came onto the stage with Oprah, one-by-one, to state their name and how much they would be giving during the night. Pastor Sheryl Brady of The Potter’s House of North Dallas contributed $15,000, Houstonians Pastor John and Aventer Gray donated $22,000, while Emmy Nominated actress Roma Downey and her husband producer Mark Burnett gave $100,000 …and the line just kept on moving. By the time the night was over, Minnie’s Food Pantry raised 1.3 million dollars.
It was a sold-out crowd of 760 people in support of the cause to reduce and tackle hunger. Other notable celebrities present at the gala were gospel artists Donnie McClurkin, Israel Houghton and Tasha Cobbs-Leonard, Lakewood Pastors Joel & Victoria Osteen, R&B Singer Kenny Lattimore, and boxing legend Floyd Mayweather to name a few. The event was emceed by Kevin Frazier of Entertainment Tonight.
As the night progressed, Founder Cheryl Jackson’s sincere gratitude was displayed over and over through her sea of tears, as she terms it “The ugly cry.” Yet, her magnetic personality and humorous nature reminded all that Oprah is here…but “when Oprah is gone…I will still be at Minnie’s Food Pantry.”
For more information on Minnie’s Food Pantry and to volunteer or donate, visit: MinniesFoodPantry.org
Photo Credit: Cat Williams/La Diiva Kreations