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West Michigan teen using online storefront to help unhoused people in Kalamazoo

West Michigan teen using online storefront to help unhoused people in Kalamazoo
Posted at 9:10 PM, Jun 13, 2021

KALAMAZOO, Mich. - — One meal at a time, Ella Johnson is working to keep her community fed.

On Sunday, next to family and friends, Johnson handed out breakfast to the people living at a homeless encampment along Sherwood Avenue in Kalamazoo.

“They’re always so thankful, respectful,” said Johnson when describing the people she meets.

The meals were paid for by Johnson herself.

“At the start of quarantine, I decided to list some of my art and old clothes because I heard about some apps after I had lost my job of babysitting,” Johnson said.

Last year, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, Ella posted her art and thrifted clothing online. The sales were almost instant and now total more than 500 transactions.

“It was kind of the combination of people looking more towards small business and more towards Poshmark and Depop to buy stuff from people during the pandemic,” said Lisa Johnson, Ella’s mom.

With the revenue coming in, Johnson wanted to put the funds to good use. She says her family always prioritized giving back and she periodically donated to Generous Hands, an organization in Vicksburg.

However, Johnson decided to join the efforts of local homeless advocates and in December, she started using a portion of the money she made through the online sales to pay for meals.

So far, she’s paid for five trips, but she hopes it’s not her last. The high school junior says after college, she wants to open a brick-and-mortar shop to expand the outreach.

“I hope they are able to live that day with a happy, full belly and able to not worry about where their next meal comes from,” Johnson said.