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1.3 million things we learned from Oprah Winfrey at the Feed Just One Gala

Oprah Winfrey Minnie's Food Pantry Cheryl Action Jackson Plano food pantry Plano Profile Feed just One Gala

All photography by Cori Baker

Oprah Winfrey came to Plano last night for the 10th Annual Feed Just One Gala presented by Minnie’s Food Pantry. Everyone who attended walked away with clear skin, five years added to their lives and better fashion sense.

Just kidding.

It was a star-studded night geared toward feeding the hungry and celebrating the legacy of Minnie Ewing, the namesake of Minnie’s Food Pantry which has distributed more than seven million meals in 10 years to our community. Overall, donations included $1.3 million, countless volunteer hours, a house renovation, a full scholarship for Cheryl and much, much more.

Read more about Cheryl “Action” Jackson

First, a recap on how this miracle happened: Cheryl “Action” Jackson has long cited Oprah as one of her main sources of inspiration. She appeared on Oprah’s show, but kept up a friendship with the persistence only Cheryl “Action” Jackson has. To hear Oprah tell it, Cheryl direct messaged her nonstop for eight years.

In the words of Mark Burnett, also in attendance with his wife and Touched by an Angel star Roma Downey, “Cheryl is a woman of action.” This year, Burnett and Downey were honored with the Minnie Ewing Legacy Award for their support of the pantry.

Guests also included boxing legend Floyd Mayweather, NFL hall of famer Emmitt Smith with his wife, Pat, actress Brely Evans and talented artists like Israel Houghton, Donnie McClurkin and Kenny Lattimore. 

“We spent a lot of days standing at the food pantry trying to get a hot meal. So it’s something that’s very near and dear to my heart and Lord bless me to be a blessing to others,” former Major League baseball player Torii Hunter said, attending with his wife Victoria.

“I am here because Cheryl makes a resounding sound that you must answer the call,” Hollywood actress Brely Evans said. “I want to be a part of the give. We’re going to raise a lot of money tonight. Everyone is here to feed someone.”

But everyone was really there for Oprah. Cheryl called us out on it. “I know you’re here for Oprah because you weren’t here last year!”

Oprah Winfrey Minnie's Food Pantry Cheryl Action Jackson Plano food pantry Plano Profile Feed just One Gala

Cheryl “Action” Jackson at the 10th Annual Minnie’s food Pantry Feed Just One Gala

Cheryl prefers to speak what’s in her heart at the moment, and captivated the audience with her energy and passion, discussing the legacy of giving in her family, passed down from her mother and grandmother. She talked about the families she has fed and her policy of the red carpet treatment for everyone who walks into the pantry.

Then she turned to Oprah. For the past eight years, Cheryl has asked Oprah to attend the gala. She’s probably told everyone who’s ever asked about the gala that one day, Oprah would come. Her faith was unwavering and even a little mischievous because Cheryl doesn’t take no for an answer. Cheryl described herself as Noah predicting the flood–every year she predicted Oprah. But it took 10 years to get her here.

And then she brought Oprah onstage and we learned 1.3 million things.

Oprah Winfrey Minnie's Food Pantry Cheryl Action Jackson Plano food pantry Plano Profile Feed just One Gala

Oprah Winfrey at the 10th Annual Feed Just One Gala presented by Minnie’s Food Pantry

1. What true freedom is

“Girl, you can talk,” Oprah said of Cheryl before turning to the audience. She began to speak about freedom. “I don’t leave home unless I have to or I want to,” she explained. “That’s true freedom.” When Oprah says she doesn’t want to do something, she means it.

“I say no and I mean no,” she affirmed and paused. “Except if it’s Cheryl ‘Action’ Jackson.”

2. How to get Oprah to pay attention to your dream

“You can’t help somebody that just has a dream because a lot of people have dreams. It’s the people who know how to execute the dream and how to sustain the dream. So the first eight times, I said ‘no.’ Why? Because I’m waiting to see what you’re going to do … whether or not the organization has the ability to sustain itself. How many times can you hear no and keep getting up?

3. Where real power comes from

“Real power comes from building strength. You don’t get strong unless you’re told no enough times to develop the strength … strength times strength times strength times strength times strength times strength equals power,” Oprah said.

Cheryl has that power. She’s certainly been told her dreams are impossible enough times.

“That’s somebody worth lifting up. That’s why I chose to be here tonight and say ‘yes’ to Cheryl,” Oprah said. “She’s earned it. And it is no easy thing to start as one and build to 16,000 volunteers.”

4. No one should be humiliated for being hungry

“This is what I love Cheryl Jackson for. She understood that nobody should be humiliated because they’re hungry. You shouldn’t have to feel ashamed to say you know, I just can’t make enough to get food on the table this week … she knew to put them on a red carpet and put people in the room who understood that everyone who has pulled themselves up by their bootstraps had somebody to help them with the straps,” Oprah said.

5. Why Oprah said yes to Cheryl

“I had no intention of saying yes,” Oprah assured us. “I had just gotten DM-ed so many times it was aggravating me … I gave her $250,000 because I thought it would relieve me of the DMs … What happened was, I called Cheryl and was gonna say, Cheryl, you’ve got to stop. Then I got on the phone and I heard myself saying, ‘I’ll give you $250,000.’

“And then she said, ‘But will you come?’

“I said, ‘Cheryl, I just gave you a quarter-million dollars in four minutes. That’s not gonna do it?’

“And she said, ‘No, girl.’

“Okay, I guess I’m coming to Texas.”

6. Jesus is Oprah’s brother

Watch the video. You’ll get it.

Finally, Oprah donated another $250,000 on the spot and then asked the rest of the room to match that donation. She invited everyone to come up onstage and pledge there, in front of everyone–and Cheryl–how much they’d like to donate. Eventually the line got so long, they had to cut it off and our phone died while trying to record it. So we won’t spoil the rest of the video. Some of these moments, you just have to see for yourself.

Minnie’s Food Pantry | 3033 W. Parker Rd., #116 Plano | 972.596.0253 | minniesfoodpantry.org

Alexandra Cronin
Alexandra Cronin is the senior editor at Plano Profile. She has a Bachelor's in English (with a concentration in Creative Writing) from Rhodes College in Memphis, TN. After graduation she wrote for The Resident magazine in London, before returning to home. She loves great coffee, good food and average wine.

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