ENTERPRISE, Ala. (WDHN) — Jennifer Nichols lives in a nice house, in a nice community, and has plenty to eat, but it has not always been that way.
“People often ask me, what do you know about hunger,” Hand Up Enterprise Founder and Remarkable Women finalist Jennifer Nichols explained.
However, her reality today is shockingly different than that of her childhood.
“My older sister was pretty resourceful and she used to sneak us in to the local movie theater in between matinees and we would eat popcorn off the floor,” Nichols said. “That was hard. But that was food.”
Growing up with an alcoholic mother, Jennifer said her childhood wasn’t easy. But when she was three years old, her mother made the tough decision to turn her life around.
“She was able to work better jobs and become a counselor herself,” Jennifer said. “Our life changed.”
Years later, Jennifer moved back to the Wiregrass. It was then that she came face to face with poverty again.
“I was very naive,” Jennifer told WDHN. “I would look at these trailers and things and I would say, ‘God people used to live in these?’ and I quickly found out that they were actually occupied.”
That’s when her secret mission started.
“I went home, I emptied out my pantry, I even used my laundry baskets and I started filling them with food and I would sneak up on people’s on people’s porches, on their trailers, and drop food off,” Jennifer said.
Word quickly got out about Jennifer’s secret food deliveries.
“People were saying we want to help, we want to help, how do we help,” Jennifer said.
And so Hand Up Enterprise Alabama was born. Jennifer, along with nearly 800 members and 25 volunteers, now work to help families in need. Oftentimes, Hand Up receives referrals from local agencies such as police and fire departments, hospice, hospitals, and even random callers. As soon as Jennifer determines there’s a need, Hand Up springs into action.
“I immediately start going through a checklist as if I was stranded in a motel with nothing, what would I need” Jennifer explained.
Today, Hand Up provides food, clothes, and other basic necessities for families in need. Jennifer says she’s simply paying it forward.
“It never occurred to me that what I do was that important,” Jennifer said.
However, the rest of the Wiregrass knows she’s a remarkable woman.
One woman will be named the Wiregrass area’s woman of the year and win a trip to New York City to attend the Mel Robbins show. From the more than 100 local winners, one woman will be selected and named Nexstar Media Group’s Woman of the Year.
On Tuesday, February 25, we will introduce you to our third Remarkable Women Contest finalist.