One Good Thing: Theft leads to community giving in Miami

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Sherina Jones poses with one of her community refrigerators, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020, in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami. Jones offers free food for the community from a stocked community refrigerator called the Village Freedge. When one of the refrigerators was stolen just before Thanksgiving, the community and friends came together to help to purchase a new one. Jones also provides hot food and distributes numerous food pantry items. She has applied for non-profit status and is transitioning to become a food bank. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Two days before Thanksgiving, on the eve of a turkey giveaway for dozens of jobless residents in an impoverished Miami neighborhood, Sherina Jones got word that one of the free community refrigerators she'd been stocking was stolen.

It could have been a holiday disaster. But it turned into a Christmas miracle.

Jones had been helping to feed the poor in Miami for months. Early on in the coronavirus pandemic, she was forced to shut down her beauty salon. By scrimping she managed to get by, but she knew that many in her mostly Black, low-income neighborhood were still hurting.

Worried that children were missing meals after COVID-19 closed schools, the 36-year-old cancer survivor used her meager savings to buy her first community refrigerator in August.

“Take what you need, donate what you don’t," the sign on the fridge read.

Jones gets up at 5:30 every morning to serve hot breakfasts to residents in need. One homeless man who was a frequent visitor later told her proudly that he'd gained 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms).

With an online fundraising effort she named Village Freedge, Jones expanded to three refrigerators, which she placed in different neighborhoods of Miami. About half of her clients are homeless; others are day laborers who take to-go lunches or single moms who can’t feed their kids.

When one of the refrigerators was stolen just before the Thanksgiving Day turkey giveaway, it was more than a theft. It felt like an act against a community in need.