Girl Smarts How growing up hungry inspired this woman's life work

"The person that I feed today is the person I was 20 years ago."

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Businesswoman Cheryl Jackson's main inspiration throughout her life has been her parents.

"My parents were incredible people," she tells Women's Health. "They were warriors, they were pastors, they were community leaders." And she says that growing up, her family didn't have very much except each other. "There were a lot of times where we didn't have enough to eat," she says. 

As an adult, Cheryl was devastated by her father's unexpected death. The shock left her deeply depressed, but Cheryl credits her mother for pulling her back onto her feet. "She said, 'You have kids. You gotta get up...You have a race to run.'"

Inspired by both of her parents, as well as her own experience growing up, Cheryl decided that she would do something to help her community.

"I made a commitment to those in need so they wouldn't have to go through what my family did," Cheryl says. She founded Minnie's Food Pantry in 2008, which provides healthy meals to over 5,000 people in her community in Plano, Texas every month.

"The person that I feed today is the person I was 20 years ago," she says. 

And while she says she misses her parents every day (her mother passed away in 2015), her work with the pantry keeps her connected with them.

"It's like I'm continuing the legacy of Robert and Minnie Hawthorne," she says. "It's almost like the passing of the torch or the baton to say, 'Okay Mom, I did it for you. Now, let me show my kids what can be done."

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