Nashville’s Free Toy Store Offers Dignity of Choice for Families During the Holiday Season

by Lucas Garcia
Holiday Empowerment

When country music sensation Brad Paisley and his wife, acclaimed actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley, collaborated to establish a no-cost grocery store in the heart of Nashville, Tennessee, their noble aim was to grant struggling families the autonomy to select their own groceries in an environment that resembled a typical store. Now, during this holiday season, The Store is extending this empowering sense of choice to parents seeking gifts for their loved ones. Over the course of a two-day event commencing on Friday, 400 families will have the opportunity to shop at a complimentary toy store brimming with a delightful array of new toys, video games, stuffed animals, scooters, clothing, cosmetics, and musical instruments.

Paisley eloquently articulates the significance of this endeavor, stating, “The emotional aspect of being able to give your child something your child wanted versus just something to sort of get you through the holidays, that’s such a load off the minds of somebody who maybe didn’t think they were going to be able to do that.”

Stephanie Brodie, a Nashville resident, found solace in The Store when she was caring for her mother, enabling them to shop for dietary essentials. Now, with the responsibility of caring for five grandchildren, including four under the age of 15, the assistance from The Store is a timely blessing. On Friday, Brodie and her granddaughter La’Delegant Hartsfield chose a trove of toys, musical instruments, beauty products, and clothing for the family, a valuable respite as she strives to save money for a stove replacement this year. Brodie aptly sums up the experience, remarking, “It’s a very much dignified process and it gives you the freedom of choice.”

The Paisleys, who were granted an exclusive preview of the free toy store, expressed awe at the abundance of gifts, a dedicated wrapping station, festooned Christmas trees, and festive decorations. A devoted team of volunteers and staff from Belmont University and The Store worked diligently to unpack and organize the donated toys, all while basking in the melodies of Christmas music.

This philanthropic initiative was inspired by the Paisleys’ visit to the Unity Shoppe in Santa Barbara, California, where they encountered a similar concept. The Store’s inception in early 2020 coincided with a tornado striking the city and the onset of the global pandemic, intensifying the urgency of food access. Consequently, The Store swiftly adapted, transitioning into a food delivery service for elderly residents and distributing a staggering one million meals in its inaugural year. Eligibility for enrollment is determined by an annual household income threshold set at 200% or below the federal poverty line. Beyond the provision of free groceries, Belmont University, from which Paisley graduated, extends additional services to low-income families, including financial literacy programs, music therapy, and medicine management.

Kimberly Williams-Paisley underscores the inclusive nature of The Store, stating, “People come on hard times and we want this to be a safe, welcoming place for everybody, whether you’re volunteering or whether you’re needing the services. It’s just a community and we’re all in it together.”

For Brodie, The Store and Belmont University have been lifelines to essential resources, be it through cooking classes or academic support. These resources have become increasingly vital in light of challenges such as taxes, inflation, and rising real estate prices that threaten to displace residents from Nashville. Brodie reflects, “I love Nashville. I don’t want to get pushed out. And this has afforded me to be able to stay here for another year.”

The Store has been the recipient of approximately 2,000 donated items, with contributions split evenly between local Nashville donors and the First Responder’s Children’s Foundation, in addition to raising $20,000 in funds. To facilitate the shopping experience for parents, a nearby church offers childcare services and warm beverages for children while adults shop for gifts and enjoy professional gift-wrapping services.

The future holds promise for the free toy store, with plans for it to become a recurring event. However, sustaining this initiative year-round necessitates ongoing donations to continue feeding those in need. Williams-Paisley emphasizes the urgency of their mission, citing recent statistics from the USDA that indicate a rising trend of food insecurity in the United States. She states, “There’s so much we want to do. And really like the toy store has shown us that we can keep going and we can keep expanding and growing.”

As the holiday season unfolds, Brad Paisley, ever the enthusiast, hints at the possibility of donning a Santa costume for a visit to the toy store, reiterating his deep affection for this time of year, a sentiment shared by many as they come together to make a difference in their community.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Holiday Empowerment

What is The Store in Nashville, Tennessee?

The Store in Nashville, Tennessee, is a free grocery store established by country music star Brad Paisley and actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley. It provides an opportunity for families in need to select their own groceries in a dignified, store-like environment.

What is the special initiative during the holiday season at The Store?

During the holiday season, The Store extends its mission of providing dignity through choice by offering a free toy store. This initiative allows 400 families to shop for brand new toys, video games, stuffed animals, scooters, clothing, makeup, and musical instruments.

How does The Store benefit families in need?

The Store benefits families by giving them the freedom to choose the items they need for their households, whether it’s groceries during the year or holiday gifts for their children. It aims to alleviate the financial burden and stress that often comes with the holiday season.

Who can enroll at The Store, and what are the eligibility criteria?

To enroll at The Store, a household’s total annual income must be at 200% or below the federal poverty line. This ensures that the services are directed towards those who genuinely need assistance.

What additional services does The Store provide, apart from groceries and the holiday toy store?

Belmont University, in collaboration with The Store, offers various additional services to low-income families, including financial literacy events, music therapy, and medicine management. These services aim to support families in multiple aspects of their lives.

Are there plans for the toy store to continue as a recurring event?

Yes, there are plans for the toy store to become a recurring event. However, sustaining this initiative year-round requires ongoing donations to ensure that it can continue to serve the community.

How can people contribute to The Store’s mission?

People can contribute to The Store’s mission by making donations, whether in the form of items or funds. This support is essential to continue providing food and gifts to families in need, especially during times of rising food insecurity.

More about Holiday Empowerment

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NashvilleNative December 11, 2023 - 3:20 am

I’m from Nashville, n’ it’s great 2 c dis support 4 our community. Keep it up, y’all! #NashvilleStrong #CommunityMatters

Reader83 December 11, 2023 - 10:50 am

wow, dis store sounds amazin’! kudos 2 Brad Paisley & Kimberly Williams-Paisley 4 doin’ sumthin’ gud 4 da community. dese ppl r really helpin’ those in need. #Respect

Journalist4Real December 11, 2023 - 1:16 pm

A heartwarming story ’bout celebs givin’ back. Dignity of choice’s so important, specially durin’ holidays. Hopin’ dis toy store keeps growin’!


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