As the long, lazy days of a Texas summer, school breaks and family vacations come to a close, Dr. Cheryl “Action” Jackson would like to remind us that many people in Plano are still suffering from hunger. September is Hunger Action Month, and Minnie’s Food Pantry, a jewel among Plano’s non-profit community, continues its work of loving and serving the working poor of our region. To date, the Plano food pantry has provided more than four million meals in a place where founder Cheryl was once told, “Nobody is hungry here.”
Not a stranger to hunger herself, Cheryl started Minnie’s Food Pantry in 2008 to honor her parents. Minnie’s is named for her mother, Minnie Ewing, who passed away in 2015, and every day Cheryl shows up to work wearing her mother’s tennis shoes. “I walk a mile in my mother’s shoes every day,” she says, recalling Minnie’s inspiring words: “Cheryl, you never stop. Do you want to help me change a life? I’m doing all I can for as long as I can.”
As a young wife and mother, Cheryl and her husband pieced together odd jobs and struggled to take care of their young family. They experienced hunger and, in desperation, applied for food stamps, where Cheryl felt they were treated without much warmth and simply as a number in a line. When Minnie’s opened, Cheryl vowed that the people she helped would have a different experience. “How we make people feel is what sets us apart. We are here to love and serve.”
Minnie’s has a lot to teach our city and our region. Cheryl wants the people of Plano to “look through all eyes, not just wealthy eyes. Step into your neighbor’s shoes. Step outside and get to know your neighbor.” She would like to see legislation enacted that would require restaurants and grocery stores to donate perishable goods that would otherwise be thrown out to those in need.
When asked what words of advice she has for women in a similar role, Cheryl replied with her characteristic wisdom, “Go back to the place of the most pain in your life. There, you will find your passion and your purpose. Be bold, be radical and ask. Always ask. If you don’t ask, the answer is always ‘no.’ If you do ask, often the answer is ‘yes.’”See all of the women in our Girl Boss 2016 feature >