By Ashley Benkarski

NASHVILLE, TN — These days, it seems hard times are getting harder.

That’s why Dr. Jacqueline Butler-Mitchell found herself praying to God to help her be a conduit of good in the community this weekend.

With gas prices soaring and inflation bearing down upon consumers she knew she could help meet a need for some in the community, so she prayed about how she’d proceed.

She got her answer and purchased $6000 total in gift cards from the Kroger located on 8th and Monroe in downtown North Nashville.

Though she’d budgeted a few hours into her Saturday morning for it, Dr. Butler- Mitchell ran out of gift cards to give away in less than an hour.

Reggie Miller, right, witnesses the impact of goodwill as a woman joyfully accepts one of the 200 gift cards given out by Dr. Jacqueline Butler-Mitchell at Kroger on Saturday. Recipients could use the gift cards to purchase gas or groceries. Photos by Russell T. Rivers, Jr.

Dr. Butler-Mitchell is a 1995 Meharry graduate, and she’s been holding the course of her alma mater’s vision of giving back to the community for some time now.

She sees herself as a pitcher full of bless- ings and feels the need to pour those bless- ings back out to those around her, and, when she can, the community at-large.

She’s hoping these works of goodwill will cause others with abundant blessings to give back, too.

Of course, this wasn’t her first foray into philanthropy; when 2020’s twin crises of tornadoes and the novel coronavirus pan- demic emerged, she was organizing food drives and was on the ground in Nashville helping to pass out boxes and spread kindness.

She quickly pointed out that she wasn’t alone in her endeavor, having had help from Reggie Miller, President of the Nashville Chapter of the National Black Police Association and other supporters.

In fact, she was eager to make it clear that she relies on her circle to keep her sharpened in her faith and assist her with the work, which she in turn reciprocates and spreads to others. It’s a fine-tuned cycle of service kept alive by the Word of God, she said.

For all of her impact, she’s been impacted, too — She recalled a woman who came back to the gas station because she thought Dr. Butler-Mitchell accidentally gave her too much money.

Shown l-r; Vanessa Pugh, Edgar Saakov, Mildred Weeks  Ana Padilla, Dr. Jacqueline Butler-Mitchell, and Reggie Miller

“We were out of the gift cards and this lady needed food. I gave her a $50 bill and she came back because she thought I meant to give her a $20 bill and had made a mistake, and she left crying and shouting when I told her it was no mistake,” she recalled.

The woman said her friends knocked on her door and told her to come down to the Kroger to get one of the gift cards; she’d been going through an extremely difficult time but made it to the pumps before the gift cards were gone.

Said Dr. Butler-Mitchell, “You see how God orders your steps?”

Among the more than 200 people she helped was a family who’d been living in their car and had just started jobs in the city but hadn’t made enough money to get on their feet.

Though the cards were gone she asked Miller to fill their tank. Some have asked her why she didn’t give more money, as $30 isn’t going far in a lot of people’s gas tanks. If she had, she said, it would have meant less people receiving help. She’s also only one person, she said, and she pulled from her personal funds to buy the cards.

She also has a message to others whose pitchers are full: pour your blessings out to the world rather than let them stagnate. And don’t worry— Your pitcher will be full again.