CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio — You wouldn’t know it today, but Kimberly Stimmel was homeless nine years ago.
“Long story short, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and a lot of other weird chronic illnesses,” said Stimmel, founder and CEO of the nonprofit Closet of Caring. “And in a very short time, I was living in a travel trailer in somebody's yard in 12 inches of snow in the middle of Connecticut.”
She’s a prime example of how one’s life can change in an instant.
“I really honestly think most people are one paycheck away from homelessness, especially young people. Things are so expensive and so crazy nowadays, and most people just are not in a position to be able to save,” said Stimmel. “It really just takes one incident to turn your life around and that could send you into homelessness.”
Stimmel’s in a situation now where she can give back. She has a new purpose in life: To provide hope to people in need. Out of a room in the basement of her home she makes “blessing bags'' full of toiletry items and anything someone would need to get up and get ready for the day. She gives them to the homeless community in Summit County.
“Everybody gets a ChapStick, some masks because the homeless shelters do still require masks, a toothpaste — full size toothpaste — (and) a full-size bar of soap. Some hygiene wipes,” said Stimmel.
She launched her nonprofit, Closet of Caring, amid the pandemic in November of 2020 and in just a few months, she’s already helped thousands of people.
“A lot of these people don't have anybody. They don't have anywhere to go. They don't have any hope,” said Stimmel.
Every Sunday, she and her husband, J.R., pack their car full and head to Grace Park, which is located behind the homeless shelter Haven of Rest in Akron.
They set up shop and give away items many take for granted.
“When you have more than you need, build a longer table — not a higher fence,” said Stimmel.
“It's wonderful. It's a good thing,” said Donald Averiette, who is currently living in his friend's car.
"I'll be able to get my hygiene, get me some socks, underwear, T-shirts and shampoo, deodorant,” said Joseph Varner, who lives in apartments nearby Grace Park. “Thank you. Thank God, bless you all. Thank God.”
This is Stimmel’s full-time job. She doesn’t get a paycheck from it. Instead, she gets a sense of gratitude and fulfillment.
“It's a labor of love,” said Stimmel. “This means more to me than any paycheck.”
Many people ask her why she does it and her answer is simple. Nine years ago, she felt the pain many homeless people feel today, and she knows everyone is fighting their own battles. Therefore, she doesn’t judge. Instead, she gives more love and tries to be a good human.
“Even if it's just a smile or holding the door open for somebody, you know, we can all do something to make somebody else's day a little brighter and that random act of kindness, the domino effect keeps going," she said. "And eventually, the world might be a better place today than it is."
All money and items donated goes directly to the nonprofit. To learn more about Closet of Caring or how you can donate you can visit here.