“You see the homeless walk the street, and they want to be heard but no one is listening. You just have to open your heart, give, and love,” says Nellie Gaye, founder of nonprofit One Less Worry. Having experienced homelessness in Liberia when she was 11 years old, Gaye was motivated to make it her life mission to help others and now serves fresh, warm meals in Providence, operating out of Ebenezer Baptist Church.
One Less Worry has been running since October 2021, feeding up to 150 people every Tuesday. It all started when Gaye was working in the detox unit at Roger Williams Medical Center as a nursing specialist and found her patients in need of more care than ever. She started donating used clothes to patients to wear once they were discharged.
“I relate to them by looking at my life as an 11-year-old child, and I see them in me,” says Gaye. “They just want to be heard. When people aren’t given the opportunity to express themselves, you don’t know what is going on.”
Gaye is also motivated by a near-death experience she faced in 2019, when she became sick from a reaction to an antibiotic and was hospitalized at Our Lady of Fatima Hospital in North Providence. She recalls feeling “so weak I couldn’t take it,” but she heard a voice telling her, “your job on earth is not done yet.” Once she regained consciousness, Gaye suffered memory lapses and couldn’t recognize her kids or other visitors, but eventually made progress regaining memories. “From that day on, I knew I had a calling to save people.”
Always an entrepreneur, when Gaye moved to Rhode Island at age 18, she opened her own clothing boutique in Providence. Once she began finding her mission, she says, “I could feel a different energy that started to arise in me. I did not see [the unhoused] how other people saw them, and over the years, I told my kids that I would take care of them.”
Gaye approached her pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church with her plan to feed the homeless, setting the gears in motion for One Less Worry, which is partially supported by donations from the public, but is mostly funded by Gaye’s own retirement savings. Word traveled by handing out flyers in the street and posting on Facebook, and soon Gaye’s name was synonymous with the nourishing meals her organization serves on Cranston Street. More recently, she also worked directly with Mayor Brett Smiley and the City of Providence to help seek more ways to help the unhoused.
“It’s fresh food,” says Gaye. “It’s not canned. I put my all into it because food makes a difference in people’s lives.” Meals consist of fresh veggies, rice, and a protein, along with some extra fruit to create an overall balanced meal for those she serves. Whether giving out food on the street or serving plates at her church, Gaye doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon. She says, “The little help that I can do, I will do until God allows me to.”
Since 2012, nonprofit organizations have relied on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving for a boost to their fundraising efforts. Consider donating or volunteering your time to One Less Worry or other nonprofits around the city this year. Learn more at OneLessWorryOrg.com
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