Actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley wasn’t pleased with her boys. Thanksgiving was drawing near and she was determined the youngsters would appreciate their privilege.
“In the words of my wife, they needed to understand that there are people who are hungry, like right now,” recalled Williams-Paisley’s husband, country singer Brad Paisley.
The Nashville-based family splits its time between Music City and Los Angeles. They were on the West Coast when the couple called a local friend in search of a gentle dose of reality for their sons.
They found their answer in Santa Barbara’s Unity Shoppe: a free clothing and grocery store that allows the area’s needy to pick up necessities while maintaining their dignity. Paisley was awestruck. As their children helped scoop dry beans into bags and clicked the scanner at checkout stations, the multiplatinum-selling singer wondered: “Why isn’t this everywhere?”
When the family returned to Nashville, the couple got to work. The Paisleys teamed with Belmont University, the singer’s alma mater, to open The Store, a modern version of a food pantry that is set up like a free grocery store. The Paisleys broke ground on The Store in April, and it is scheduled to open in the winter of 2020. The estimated cost of the building is $1.5 million for 4,000 square feet.
The Store, in Nashville’s bustling 12South neighborhood, isn’t meant to be a permanent solution but instead a “temporary Band-Aid on the road to self-sufficiency,” 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,” the “Darrow & Darrow” actress explained.
The Store will partner with Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee and other organizations to provide both fresh and nonperishable groceries to individuals and families in need for one year. Customers will be referred by nonprofit and government agencies. The nonprofit has an initial goal to serve 3,000 people per year.
“It’s that Billy Hill song, ‘There’s Too Much Month at the End of the Money,’ ” said Pete Fisher, co-chair of The Store’s board of trustees. “A lot of times when people fall on tough times, they don’t need a lifeline for a lifetime, they just need a bridge, and The Store affords those families a dignified way to cross that bridge.”
In addition to groceries, The Store also plans to set up a toy aisle over the holidays. Throughout the year, it will accept donations of new, unopened toys. At Christmas, families can shop from those items to ensure children receive the toys on their wish list.
Nashville-based architectural firm ESa (Earl Swensson Associates) donated its services to design The Store. The charity’s “Brick By Brick Campaign” to raise funds for construction of the storefront and establish funding to meet the operational needs for food is underway. The Store partnered with New Era Co. to offer exclusive The Store caps with a donation of $100, which is enough to feed a family of four for one month. With a donation of $500 or more, donors will receive a personalized 4-by-8 brick in the sidewalk in front of The Store. To donate, visit www.thestore.org.
“This is a grocery store with dignity for people who have fallen on hard times,” said Paisley, who is president of The Store’s board of trustees. He made sure The Store even has a mechanical horse in the front for children. “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. I’ll know this is successful … when a kid is riding the horse in the front and their parents are shopping.”
The Paisleys’ efforts are part of a longstanding philanthropic tradition within country music. Here are just some of the ways the genre’s luminaries give back to their communities.
With encouragement from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital founder Danny Thomas, Alabama’s Randy Owen started the radiothon Country Cares for St. Jude Kids in 1989, which has gone on to raise more than $800 million in the last three decades.
Dolly Parton,back in 1995, founded Imagination Library, a book gifting program that mails free books to children ages birth to 5 years old. The “9 to 5” singer was inspired to create the charity for the children in her native Sevier County, Tennessee, by her father, who couldn’t read. In the last 24 years, Imagination Library has mailed out more than 120 million books to children in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Republic of Ireland at rate of more than a million books each month.
Garth Brooks co-founded Teammates for Kids in 1999 with Bo Mitchell. Their mission was to give children worldwide an even start. In the last two decades, Teammates for Kids has paired with professional athletes, corporations, foundations, celebrities and individual teammates to raise more than $100 million for children in more than 60 countries. The foundation fundsplay spaces and supporting programs in pediatric hospitals, brings sports and recreation to inner-city children and provides educational opportunities for disadvantaged children.
Kenny Chesney remains largely quiet about the charitable work that he does and has never attached a dollar amount. However, he’s been known to step up during times Americans were at their lowest. The country singer founded the Spread the Love Foundation after the Boston Marathon bombing to help amputee victims. More recently in the wake of Hurricane Irma, Chesney wrote and recorded his album “Songs for the Saints,” which was inspired by the Virgin Islands. He donated all the proceeds to his Love for Love City Foundation, which funds rescue and rebuilding in St. John. He toiled behind the scenes to ensure those left on the island had much-needed food, water and medicine, sent a construction crew and rescued displaced pets.
Miranda Lambert leads the MuttNation March to kick off CMA Fest on Thursday morning. Lambert started the foundation to help shelter dogs.
Ayrika L Whitney, The Tennessean
Miranda Lambert founded her dog rescue MuttNation in 2009 with her mother, Bev. With a mission to promote the adoption of shelter pets, advance spay and neuter programs and educate the public, MuttNation has rescued thousands in the last decade. The nonprofit also works with transport partners to assist and relocate animals facing euthanasia and during times of natural disaster, hosts adoption events and provides positive reinforcement for the shelter adoption experience. MuttNation’s ultimate goal: Find a home for every shelter pet.
Rascal Flattshas raised more than $4 million for Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. The hospital’s surgical wing is named after the group.
Luke Bryan’s farm tour is in its 11th year and helps fund college scholarships to students from farming families at colleges or universities near the tour stops. Bryan has extended 60 scholarships, and the number is growing.
Keith Urban and Vince Gill
Keith Urban and Vince Gill joined forces to create the all-star All for the Hall concerts at Bridgestone Arena that, over the course of several years, raised more than $3 million to benefit the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
Gill isn’t picky, though. He shows up at everything. If a fellow country singer is sick and has a benefit concert for a financial boost, Gill is there. Nashville flood? Gill is there. The Tennessean honored Gill and his wife, Amy Grant, as 2011’s Tennesseans of the Year for their collective years of work on behalf of various charities across the state, including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the American Red Cross and the Mental Health Association of Middle Tennessee.
Darius Rucker has donated more than $2 million toSt. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in the last 10 years thanks to benefit concerts and golf tournaments.
Charlie Daniels teamed with his manager David Corlew in 2014 to create The Journey Home Project, a nonprofit organization that assists other nonprofits to secure funds to help causes that benefit veterans of the United States Armed Forces.
Charlie Worsham’s Follow Your Heart Foundation provides musical instruments and education to kids in his hometown of Grenada, Mississippi.
In honor of his late granddaughter Haley Bell, Collin Raye started the Haley Bell Blessed Chair Foundation, which provides wheelchairs to children in need.
Dierks Bentley has raised more than $4 million for children’s hospitals across the country with his Miles & Music for Kids motorcycle ride and concert.
Reba McEntire opened Reba’s Ranch House in Denison, Texas, more than 25 years ago to ensure families of hospital patients in North Texas and southern Oklahoma had an inviting, home-like place to stay. The House is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, and incorporates holistic care by providing a calm setting, warm meals and sensitive staff.
Emmylou Harris founded Bonaparte’s Retreat in 2004 and named it after one of her most cherished pets that had recently died. The nonprofit’s mission is to rescue shelter dogs and adopt them into forever homes with a focus on dogs that face euthanasia at Metro Nashville Animal Care and Control.
Brandi Carlile started the Looking Out Foundation with frequent collaborators and fellow Grammy winners Tim and Phil Hanseroth. The charity’s goal is to amplify the impact of music by empowering those without a voice. Carlile donates $1 from every concert ticket sold to the foundation.
Chris Young announced his annual Chris Young Scholarship in Recording Industry for students at his alma mater, MTSU, in 2016. Young’s dedication to music education has endured. This year, through a donation by Young, the university renovated an old building into a cutting-edge shared-use learning lab and event space. Dubbed The Chris Young Cafe, the new area will be a teaching and practice place for student performers and technicians by day. At night it will transform into a performance venue for music, radio broadcasts, comedy and other entertainment.
Dubbed Project Meet Me Halfway, country singer Jimmy Wayne walked from Nashville to Arizona to raise awareness of at-risk and homeless teens who were in danger of aging out of the foster care system in 2010. Since then, Wayne has workedalongside legislators to change the laws in California, Tennessee, Ohio and North Carolina, extending foster care to age 21.
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