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In the week before and after her birthday on March 25, the phone of 42-year-old Shana Jones rang nonstop with devastating news.
First, she was notified that her aunt and uncle had passed away. Not long after, four of her cousins died. And then, a close family friend and a church member who was like a second mother to her also passed away.
In total, eight of her friends and relatives have died, all due to complications from the coronavirus.
“I cried and I felt weak,” Jones told CNN. “It just became so overwhelming that I became numb.”
But instead of falling into depression, Jones decided to focus her energy on helping others – because that’s what those who she lost to the virus would have wanted her to do, she said.
Now, every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Jones sets out two tables filled with canned goods, cereal, fresh fruit, cleaning supplies, and yes, even toilet paper, outside her home in St. Louis, Missouri.
Dozens of families and individuals struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic have showed up to grab what they need from the tables.
“I’m seeing people from all over St. Louis, not just in my neighborhood, stopping by the house,” Jones said.
In the beginning, Jones kept the tables stocked by paying for everything out of her own pocket, costing her hundreds of dollars. It wasn’t an easy thing to do, Jones said, as she has been unable to work during the pandemic.
“I’m an inspector at a company called Production Castings,” Jones said. “But I can’t work right now because I have lupus…My doctor said I’m too high risk and they took me out of work for that.”
But as word spread around her community, people started dropping off their own donations of food, as well as books and games for children to enjoy while stuck at home.
“It’s great because we have so many kids in this neighborhood and they get so stir crazy (at home),” one community member told CNN affiliate KTVI. “So it’s amazing,”
Jones, who has an 18-year-old son and is also in the process of adopting two other children, admitted that some mornings it’s difficult to bring out the tables when she considers her own situation.
But whenever she receives a thank you note from someone who is grateful for her efforts, she said it pushes her to keep going.
“Every time I get a note,” Jones said, “I feel that the angel of one of my family members or friends is saying, ‘Well done.’”