Several small businesses are working together to pay people's rent during the pandemic.
It started after Transformation Church bought all the inventory at Silhouette Sneakers & Art and the owner wanted to pay it forward.
Owner Venita Cooper said it is society's responsibility to wrap its arms around the most vulnerable and lift them up in times of need.
“It's been a rough year for people,” said Cooper. “It's the responsibility of everybody to help their neighbors whenever they can… help the community whenever they can. The community rode with us throughout the year. They're the reason we're still standing."
She said after deciding to help out with rent many other businesses wanted in, too.
"These are not millionaires we're talking about, and some of those businesses just started during the pandemic,” said Cooper. “They're not giving out of excess. They're not thinking about it from their perspective. They're thinking about it from the needs of the community."
Cooper said any family can message the store's Instagram and Facebook, confidentially share a little of their story, and request rental assistance. She said she's received more than 100 requests and has been able to help a dozen families, so far.
"A community is only as strong as its most vulnerable member,” Cooper said.
TJ Woodberry is the owner of Poppi's Urban Spa and has joined Cooper's efforts.
"The pandemic has been difficult for everyone. Especially families that have been working and living paycheck to paycheck,” said Woodberry. “It's really important to us. We're really focused on community building."
Woodberry said she knows all too well what it's like living paycheck-to-paycheck.
"I've been in a homeless situation before, so it was really important to me,” Woodberry said.
Owner of Fulton Street Books & Coffee, Onikah Asamoa-Caesar, told News On 6 her business has also struggled, but said it's a community effort.
"As a business we also feel that we have a social responsibility. We are all about community and so this is just one small way that we're able to pay it forward for all the support the community has shown us,” said Asamoa-Caesar. “It doesn't matter how hard we were hit. We still exist in the community and so it's our responsibility to give back to that community."
Asamoa-Caesar believes black women have long been at the forefront of social change and said this is just one example.
"It's only fitting that you have a group of amazing black women, entrepreneurs here in the community setting an example for how businesses can also give back,” Asamoa-Caesar said.
Cooper said society places too much value on a person's ability to produce profit.
"It doesn't matter what their circumstances are. I think as a society, we place too much value on a person's ability to produce profit for a business,” said Cooper. “You know, are you a productive member of society? Okay, then you can get paid, and can afford rent and then you deserve housing. When, to me, we all deserve housing.”
Cooper said many other small businesses and anonymous donors are also contributing including Topeca Coffee, Artist Tyler Thrasher, The BluPrint Studio, Coffee with Casii, Hodges, Lowood, Saturn, and Open Container.
Cooper said everyone has been so grateful, and she hopes to inspire others to pay it forward.
You can message Silhouette Sneakers and Art to help them provide for more families in need by clicking here.