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9 Who Care: Bridgette Williams-Robinson continues mission to feed those in need following derecho

Published: Mar. 22, 2021 at 9:01 AM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Bridgette Williams Robinson and her husband, Jonvontae, spend their days now under the 8th Street Bridge, cooking meals and serving thousands across eastern Iowa.

“It’s awesome,” said Williams-Robinson.

It all started back in August on a day many eastern Iowans are still recovering from today.

“We’re actually in our car,” she said. “By the time we got home, there was no street left it was just destruction.”

Their home survived but all their neighbors suffered extensive damage. In the days following with many dealing with no power or place to live, the Robinsons sprang into action, using their own food and grill to do what they could to help.

“The first two or three days was really slow because people didn’t know why we were actually doing what we were doing, so we had our kids hanging with free food signs,” she added.

Soon, people on foot, bikes, and in cars started showing up, and the community even stepped in to help with donations.

“Just knowing that it’s that many people that actually depend on those hot meals, it makes us feel like what we’re doing is worth while,” Williams-Robinson said.

However, it’s more than just that. She knows what it’s like firsthand to need. Before moving to Iowa, they were homeless themselves.

“Our kids were hungry before, and it’s not a good feeling to know that you have to choose between feeding your family or paying a bill, or having a place to stay or paying your insurance deductible. That’s not a choice that no one should have to make,” she said.

Annette Nucaro has been through hardships. Her family met the Robinsons when they moved here. They bought a car from a local shop that Annette and her husband owned. She shared how one Christmas they were blessed by them.

“My husband was talking to the kids. It was a time when we just closed our dealership and he was talking to the kids and telling them we don’t know what you guys are going to get for Christmas because we just don’t have a lot of money this year,” said Annette. “So he was giving an example to them about how he didn’t get a lot for Christmas when he was younger, and how he had always told his family he just wanted pajamas and slippers when he was a kid for Christmas.”

Minutes later, she says Bridgette and her husband were knocking on their door with a bag of gifts.

“When tony got his present it was slippers. It was the neatest thing and he was almost in tears thinking after all these years I get my slippers and who brings them to me Bridgette,” she said.

That’s why she says she and her son Justice Nucaro weren’t surprised when they heard what Bridgette was doing after the derecho.

“That sounds like Bridgette,” said Justice. “She can’t help herself but to help. She’s helped us. She helped so many people.”

Throughout the Summer, they helped hand out meals, and saw the impact, including one day when they were handing out free burgers.

“There happened to be a pregnant lady that said, I just really want something mustard and Bridgette ran to that car and gave her mustard, and that woman was in tears and said, I just can’t believe you are here for not just the community, but for me. I wouldn’t have even got a meal today,” said Annette. “She shows up it seems exactly when people need her.”

“It’s that she cheerfully gives, where it’s not because you are under pressure or you are going to benefit in any sort of way from giving to people,” said Justice.

And she’s given to more than just eastern Iowans. Recently, the family traveled to Texas to help feed people recovering from the winter storm there.

She says what keeps her going is simple.

“People need something to believe in. They need something that’s consistent,” said Bridgette.

She says she plans to be that. She’s already planning this Summer with their new food trailer to travel to people who can’t come to them, because the need will always be there, and for as long as she can, so will she.

“Being someone that has stepped up to show how people need to treat each other, I think that’s the biggest take away for me,” Bridgette said.

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