Holly Jackson remembers all too well the pain and struggle that comes with asking for help. When she was pregnant with her first child, 28 years ago, she walked away from an abusive relationship. But she was soon dismayed to learn that, because she was employed, she didn’t qualify for financial assistance; Jackson ended up being temporarily homeless.
“When you’re brave enough to finally leave a toxic situation, the last thing you want to hear is ‘Sorry we can’t help you,’” Jackson told Guideposts.org. “I never want anyone to feel the way I did.”
To that end, the Cleveland, Ohio, resident created Walls of Love, an organization that provides basic necessities—think toiletries and hats and gloves—to the homeless by assembling the items into tagged bags that are hung on both permanent and pop-up walls located in easily accessible, safe places, often outside a police station or a school. The items are up for the taking by anyone who needs them—no questions asked.
The idea first came to Jackson in November 2018 when she saw a group of people walking down the street in weather inappropriate clothing—no hats, gloves, or scarves. “I instantly thought: ‘I wish there was a magic wall that offered basic necessities that people could take with no judgment,” she says.
Jackson got to work making that wall a reality. She purchased and collected items such as hats and gloves, placed them in Ziploc bags and hung them up outside of the police department in Lorain, Ohio.
Jackson had found her mission. More than one year later, Walls of Love has built more than 200 walls and helped an estimated 37,000 people in cities across the U.S., from Denver, Colorado to Richmond, Virginia. Jackson, who says that she works on the non-profit at least 30 hours a week, on top of her full-time job, has assembled a team of volunteers and continues to partner with local businesses.
As Walls of Love continues to expand, Jackson hopes that it will teach others the impact that even one simple act of kindness can have. She says: “Whether it’s smiling to someone across the street or helping someone with their groceries, you can pay it forward one person at a time.”