Providing charity to the needy is a tricky business. On the one hand, we like to think that reaching out to the least of these will always help lift them out of dire circumstances.
However, it can do just the opposite. Poorly considered altruism often leads to dependency.
Sometimes, it leads to something even worse: undermining confidence and destroying dignity. Those are the very things that the poor need to succeed.
Country superstar Brad Paisley and his wife, actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley, think they’ve come up with a way to aid the needy in The Volunteer State without bruising their spirit. They plan to open a special free grocery store called (appropriately enough) The Store.
The Tennessean reported that the couple got the idea when they took their children to Santa Barbara, California.
Instead of simply vacationing, the Paisley kids went to volunteer at the Unity Shoppe, a nonprofit with a similar focus and a similar store. “If we help with ‘basic needs,’ we can prevent ‘welfare dependency,’” the nonprofit’s website said.
“No progress is possible without shelter, food and clothing. By supplementing these basic necessities, people have the ability to pay their rent and utilities.”
Paisley was amazed, saying, “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.”
That’s how the idea for The Store was conceived. The Paisleys partnered with Belmont University, a nondenominational Christian liberal arts school, in starting the cost-free retail establishment.
In truth, The Store is actually a food bank, but it doesn’t look like it from the outside — or the inside, either. The Store’s constituents can freely roam its aisles, selecting goods just like the rest of us.
But having a full cupboard isn’t the only thing The Store offers. It also will provide on-the-job training, providing a much needed professional boost.
Additionally, the Paisleys’ partnership with Belmont opens up other possibilities. The University is in the process of establishing health-care clinics and legal-aid offices.
These various charities plan to partner together, each serving to fill a need in the local community. Yet, it’s not designed to have a permanent place in recipients’ lives.
“So many people are making great choices in their lives,” Kimberly Williams-Paisley 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.” It looks like that’s exactly what The Store will do, becoming a charity that heals rather than hurts.
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