Brad Paisley and Kimberly Williams-Paisley are having “a lot of fun” together as they prepare to open The Store, a charity grocery store in Nashville where all of the food is free.
“It’s great doing something where we can both lead and work toward a cause we care about,” Paisley tells PEOPLE of working with his wife. “This is not a trivial thing; it’s something that’s very important to us and the community.”
The Store, which broke ground on Wednesday with Paisley wielding a backhoe, is modeled after Unity Shoppe grocery store in Santa Barbara, California, where the couple took their sons — Huck, 12, and Jasper, 9 — one Thanksgiving. “We were looking for a place to teach the children about how spoiled they are,” says Paisley. “Kim had decided they needed to know there were hungry people in the world. They went in and they immediately started packing rice in bags and checking people out at the counter and working with the staff there.”
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The Paisleys loved the concept so much, they decided to take it to their city. “We want people to feel like they’re going to the store, and to tell their kids they’re going to the store,” says Williams-Paisley. “That’s why we named it something so simple like that, to add to the normalcy of what they’re doing.”
The country star says customers will qualify for the program through referrals from churches and unemployment agencies, with the ultimate goal being self-sufficiency. “One of the beautiful things about this charity is that it helps people rise. It’s very redemptive in the sense, because it’s not a permanent situation,” he says. “You don’t just get to go there and get that food indefinitely. There’s a limit you’re supposed to work towards being self-sufficient.”
Belmont University, Paisley’s alma mater, is their partner in the endeavor, providing them the location and volunteer workers. “We’re going to have a staff of students who were like me at one time, trying to get ahead in some sort of business field or in life,” says Paisley. “I needed to know that this is an important aspect of life. And they’re going to learn that.”
Paisley says he hopes to see The Store open its doors by the end of 2019.
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