Alone with three children amidst a divorce, an Ohio mom once forewent most of her own meals to feed her kids.
She’d even been rejected by her local food bank, a hardship which would inspire her to start her own free grocery store 16 years later.
In late 2020, mom Nicole Adkins started With God’s Grace out of a previously disused building in Northridge, Ohio. The store and mobile food pantry business offer relief nourishment for community members in need—without discrimination.
They also offer job training and childcare to people who need it.
Adkins’s philanthropic endeavor began in 2015, just after she and her children got in a better position; a local church needed help for Thanksgiving, and Nicole’s coupon group stepped up, supplying food for the celebration, and Christmas following.
“When a child is going hungry, I know how that feels,” the mom of three told WHIO-TV. “I don’t want a child or human being in our community going without food.”
She recalled of her lowest ebb back in 1999, as her family van was being repossessed amidst the divorce, “I went eight months eating one meal every third day.” Nor would her local food bank help, as it looked as though she had a brand-new vehicle.
With God’s Grace volunteer Betty Harmon witnessed how far Adkins has come and how hard she works for others. Wanting to see her rewarded, Harmon and her colleagues nominated Adkins for Jeff’s Heroes award, run by local family-owned business Jeff Schmitt Auto Group.
Out of all the nominees, they chose Adkins as their first recipient. The group’s president, Jay Schmitt, brought to the store an oversized check for $10,000—and an invitation to choose a brand-new car.
The flabbergasted food bank boss could hardly believe her eyes.
“I am still in shock … I don’t consider myself a hero, I only follow my heart,” she later posted of the moment on Facebook. The new car, she explained, “will be used to drive to mobile locations and pick up donations.”
Adkins didn’t expect With God’s Grace to grow to reach so many. She said she was touched by a 74-year-old customer who told her he’d “live to see 150” because of the affordable, healthy food she provided.
Next up, With God’s Grace is starting a community garden offering fresh food to stem food insecurity for locals. Volunteers have already plotted eight raised beds on land provided by Vandalia Church, and planted tomatoes, squash, hot peppers, and broccoli.
“The food that we are getting right now is going off the shelves as fast as we get it,” Nicole said. “Next year we want to grow under the land, and not just in the raised beds … so the community can plant their own garden and take their own food home.”