When Shekesha Andrews moved to Las Vegas, Nevada two years ago, she and her 5-year-old daughter had only the clothes on their backs. She needed help to put food on the table, find housing and more but without support from family, Shekesha says she didn’t know where to turn for help.
“I was escaping a bad relationship and I wanted a better life,” Shekesha said. “I up and left one city and came to this city. I was at the federal assistance office signing up for benefits and I saw the heart on the door across the street. Something told me to walk in.”
The heart logo on the door belonged to The Just One Project, a nonprofit that aims to fight food insecurity for low-income families in southern Nevada. The organization recently opened a no-cost community market to help families, like Shekesha and her daughter, access healthier food options, thanks to a $300,000 UnitedHealthcare grant.
The market provides meats, fruits, vegetables and shelf-stable foods to those who would likely go without nutritious food, without their support. In Nevada, more than 370,000 people are currently facing hunger.
“The UnitedHealthcare grant has absolutely changed shopping here at our Community Market because it simply wouldn't exist otherwise,” said Brooke Neubauer, the founder and CEO of The Just One Project. “It is a wonderful, safe, welcoming space with access to all of the important foods that families need to have a healthy life.”
The market also includes wrap-around services for families who need extra support. Nellie Vega, a case manager at The Just One Project, completes a needs assessment with each client to help them locate and apply for resources such as housing, transportation, daycare and employment.
“I love being able to make small and big differences in people's lives every day,” Nellie said. “I walk them through the process or take the extra time to help them apply – even helping to make phone calls. Sometimes people don't feel comfortable advocating for themselves. I follow up with them maybe once or twice a month, depending on the need, to see if there's any additional support I can provide.”
Beyond support, the nonprofit also helps restore hope for those like Shekesha and her daughter – at a time when they needed it the most. She says the support she continues to receive from The Just One Project has made a world of difference — helping her get back on her feet and start a new chapter.
“My life has changed so much because of the organization,” Shekesha said. “I'm not the same Shekesha that walked in with my head all down and feeling sad. The only tears I cry now are joy because there's hope. There's hope at this place.”
For more information about The Just One Project, their programs or to volunteer, visit their website.