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Helping Hands: A grassroots effort in Cleveland's Glenville neighborhood

One woman's effort to give back through donations to her neighbors is a true labor of love.

CLEVELAND — Around the corner from my childhood home, Anjenette Whitted is changing the way my community helps one another.

"We face a lot of challenges," she explained. "We face a lot of things that other communities don't."

Whitted saw that her neighbors in Glenville were struggling. The neighborhood is a food desert—with only one grocery store nearby. So, she decided to take action to help others easily access food.

"My grandson and some other little children, we started by recycling some cans," she remembered. "Our first meal, we fed 198 on a Sunday."

That was the start of pop-up events that Whitted came to call "Helping Hands." By opening up her front yard to the community, she provided free food resources to people in need. Her house soon became a beacon throughout the Glenville neighborhood, but as her pantry grew, the world's problems did as well.

"When COVID came, it was a greater need," she said. "Then I'm like, 'God, what I do now?' But you have a passion for something, and he provides the way to get it. I get it."

"A lot of times, a lot of people in the community are really shocked that she's giving stuff away for free," one of Helping Hands' volunteers added. "A lot of times we have to say, 'Yes, it's nothing.'"

Through kind neighbors and donations, Whitted has been able to continue helping hands bi-weekly. This one-woman effort from her own time, money and dedication is a labor of love, and as she prays for a physical space to expand her mission, one thing we all can be certain of is the space that she fills in the hearts of her neighbors.

"It isn't without difficulty, but if I want to stop, I couldn't stop," she said. God made sure I didn't stop, because he provided a way."