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Chaos in Cairo | 1962
U.S. Rep. John Lewis, an American icon of the Civil Rights Movement, reflects on the 1962 summer he spent in Cairo

CAIRO — In the summer of 1962, a 22-year-old John Lewis and other young African-Americans knelt in prayer on the sidewalk in front of a “whites only” recreational facility as part of a peaceful demonstration effort aimed at integrating businesses and other public places in Cairo.

Danny Lyon, a Brooklyn native and then-University of Chicago student who hitchhiked to Cairo that summer, captured the poignant moment with Lewis, who would go on to become a longtime U.S. congressman from Georgia and American hero and icon of the Civil Rights Movement.

The image of the spiritual protest was shared around the nation throughout the 1960s as a poster with the words “Come let us build a new world together” inscribed at the bottom.

It came to symbolize a movement for racial reconciliation rooted in Christian brotherhood and Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence — the principles upon which the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. founded a movement and inspired countless people to action. That includes Lewis, who became a close friend to King and influential leader of the Civil Rights Movement in his own right.

Recently, that photo circulated widely again, this time on Twitter, as it was originally posted by Lewis, and then shared thousands of times by the congressman’s social media followers. Though, with the countless retweets, there was little mention of Cairo, where it was taken — and where decades of civil rights violations against black residents of two public housing complexes has culminated in a current-day housing crisis. But more on that later.

After meeting Lewis in Cairo, and the two becoming friends, Lyon would go on to capture on film some of the most harrowing moments of the Civil Rights Movement with Lewis making sure Lyon, a white man, had the access he needed to do his job. In doing so, Lyon also played a part in helping to fortify a movement by gaining the nation’s attention as his photographs spread.

For this and many other reasons, Cairo served a larger role in the Civil Rights Movement than just the historical footnote it often receives suggests.

In Southern Illinois, many seem to have forgotten, or perhaps never knew, of the pivotal role Lewis played in Cairo in the summer of 1962. As field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, he and other SNCC workers successfully integrated numerous businesses and facilities including a swimming pool, roller rink, barber shop, restaurants and other businesses.

Last week, Lewis reflected on the 1962 summer he spent in Cairo in a brief interview with The Southern Illinoisan.

U.S. Rep. John Lewis says HUD 'should lend a helping hand' to rebuild public housing in Cairo

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. John Lewis, one of the “Big Six” organizers of the Civil Rights Movement and an American icon, said this past week that he was troubled to hear of the housing crisis in Cairo, where he spent the summer of 1962 organizing young people to integrate businesses and a recreational center as a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

“Cairo takes me back. I believe that’s where the Ohio and Mississippi meets,” Lewis said. “It reminded me of some old Southern communities.” Lewis said he particularly remembers his time there with a young activist named Charles Koen, who went on to lead nationally noted integration campaigns in Southern Illinois.

Lewis recalled spending that 1962 summer working alongside other SNCC workers to help organize students and local community and religious leaders. “There was this recreational center that didn’t allow African-Americans to come in and so we had a kneel-in there,” Lewis recalled specifically of the moment captured in the above-mentioned photo. He said that by the end of the summer, the organizers had been successful in integrating most businesses and recreational facilities.

He also recalled SNCC workers helping to organize rallies and nonviolence training sessions, during which SNCC workers taught young organizers how to peacefully respond to hatred and violence with compassion. Koen, who worked alongside Lewis as a teenager, said those training sessions took place in the basement of the Ward Chapel AME Church in Cairo.

“It was orderly and peaceful,” Lewis said of that summer campaign SNCC helped wage, which also served to spark a much longer battle for equality in this downstate Illinois town.

According to author and international history professor Kerry Pimblott, who has extensively studied Cairo’s role in the Civil Rights Movement, the more significant aspect of Lewis’ time in Cairo is that he helped train a generation of young activists who would spend the next decade working to achieve equality for Cairo’s black citizens, particularly where it concerned access to employment opportunities. These young leaders faced extreme pushback and violence by white business owners and town officials who waged a resistance effort that was as bad, and perhaps worse, than what black activists faced in any city in the south, she said.

‘#Goodtrouble’

Two weeks ago — and about 55 years after photographer Lyon captured the iconic moment — the congressman shared the image of the spiritual protest in Cairo on his Twitter page accompanied by the words: “The young people kneeling today are following a long tradition. #TakeAKnee #Goodtrouble.”

The post came three days after President Donald Trump reportedly said — at a campaign rally for Alabama Republican Senate candidate Luther Strange — that NFL owners should respond to the players taking a knee during the national anthem by saying, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired.”

Some professional football players have chosen to silently protest racism and oppression against black Americans, and in particular their concerns about fatal police shootings, by taking a knee or locking arms during the national anthem, a movement that began in 2016 with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

The spreading of the movement to other players on teams at the professional, collegiate and high school levels has touched off a national debate with numerous politicians weighing in. Some of them, including Lewis, have defended the players kneeling or locking arms during the Star-Spangled Banner as a peaceful but visible way to send a powerful message that takes a page from the past. Others, such as Trump, and Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, argued that it is disrespectful to service members who have risked their lives to defend America. Trump also has called for fans to boycott games unless NFL owners stop the protests.

Asked why he chose this particular photo of him in Cairo to make his statement in support of the NFL players taking a knee, Lewis said, "We've made progress since 1962, but we still have a great distance to go. The scars, the stains of racism are still deeply embedded in American society."

It received more than 35,000 likes, and was retweeted more than 12,000 times.

Another crisis in Cairo

But few in the vast world of social media — or in the region, if they noticed at all — seemed to realize that the photograph was of Lewis in Cairo.

The image generated numerous comments about the NFL take-a-knee protests and ensuing debate, but none about the housing crisis that threatens to bring this forgotten city to its knees — or about how several hundred low-income families in Cairo have been living for years with rampant infestation, uncontrollable mold, plumbing problems leading to unsanitary conditions, and unacceptable lead levels in residents’ drinking water in their public housing complexes. In total, recent inspections of the public housing properties known as Elmwood and McBride found 1,376 health and safety deficiencies, according to Housing and Urban Development.

HUD officials are helping residents move by providing emergency relocation vouchers. But with few affordable housing options available to allow people who want to remain in the city, the planned razing of the 75-year-old Elmwood and McBride complexes threatens to further decimate this strife-battered but resilient little city that sits at the confluence of two major rivers. About 15 percent of the city’s residents live in these two complexes, and about 40 percent of the schoolchildren.

Lewis said he only recently learned of the housing crisis in Cairo, when his office was contacted by The Southern Illinoisan. Though he did not post the photo for that reason, Lewis said, upon learning of the housing situation, and that there are no plans to rebuild in Cairo, “It bothers me very much.” He said the federal government must help rebuild public housing in the city, given that it played an apparent role in its demise by failing in its oversight role.

As Pimblott writes in her book, “Faith in Black Power: Religion, Race and Resistance in Cairo, Illinois” the work of SNCC in Cairo led to many short-term gains, but lasting racial harmony in Cairo proved elusive. In many ways, that continues to be the case today. 

© Danny Lyon/MAGNUM PHOTOS 

SNCC field secretaries Chico Neblett and Mary Salynn McCollum (who had been a Freedom Rider) demonstrate in 1962 at the Cairo pool.

In one of many examples, this was evidenced in the 1960s by the closure of the pool two summers after Lewis led efforts to help integrate it — because white families refused to let their children swim with African-Americans.

When the Cairo Natatorium and Recreation Club reopened the following summer, in 1963, on an integrated basis, the majority of white members refused to go — causing the pool to shut down for the season for economic reasons, according to Pimblott’s book. Another entity made a go of it in the summer of 1964, but closed it down two weeks after reopening it because of the ongoing opposition as well. “After the closure, the property was sold to a third party who filled the pool with cement, a powerful symbol of the intractability of local white residents to racial change,” Pimblott writes in her book.

That lasting change has proved elusive also is evidenced today by the fact that families have been living for years in derelict public housing conditions while officials at the local level spent generously on their own benefits and neglected upkeep of the properties, and federal officials charged with oversight looked the other way. Federal housing officials say they cannot rebuild in Cairo because the community is so economically destitute that it cannot attract a private developer to partner in the venture.

Part of the reason that Cairo is a near economic desert today is rooted in the racial strife of the late 1960s and 1970s, as many white businesses closed up shop and left town in the face of an economic boycott waged by black activists. After successfully integrating businesses, they set about demanding that black citizens have equal opportunity to jobs. Rather than find a way for the city to move forward together, many white city leaders and business owners apparently conspired to quietly create a limited fief, once they could no longer wage these battles in open.

The sins of the past have come home to roost.

Cairo has continued to shrink in population and slide backward economically, while struggling to shed an image of racial strife and political graft. But while Cairo can hardly seem to catch its breath between crises both natural and man-made, it carries on anyway, producing both adversity and beauty in abundance — the way only a place this intimate and battle-tested could.

That few in the region seemed concerned enough to sound alarm bells concerning events that led to the most recent housing crisis speaks to the attitude of indifference toward Cairo that has settled in since the Civil Rights Movement brought Lewis to town.

Asked about this situation, Lewis called upon a phrase he often uses, saying it applies here as well. “If you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to say something, to do something.”

The South in a Northern state

Pimblott, who earned her doctoral degree in 2012 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and is presently a professor of international history at the University of Manchester in England, said Lewis’ visit to Cairo in 1962 represented the first integration campaign for SNCC north of the Ohio River.

Illinois is generally viewed as a Northern state, and has produced some of the country’s most progressive political leaders — from Abraham Lincoln to Barack Obama, state residents who assumed the presidency in 1861 and 2009, respectively. The former signed the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing 3.1 million slaves. The other became the first black president of the United States.

But, it’s also a long state with a wide chasm. Somewhere along the drive down Interstate 57 from Chicago to Cairo, one crosses into the metaphysical South. While it’s more about a feeling and shifting culture than geographic exactness, Egypt, as Southern Illinois is affectionately known, comes into view as the flat, central miles of farmland give way to the low rolling foothills of the Shawnee, which then slowly melt away into the soggy bottomlands of southernmost Southern Illinois into the headwaters of the Mississippi Delta.

Of the iconic photo of Lewis kneeling in prayer in Cairo, Pimblott said many viewed it as an image of a Southern integration campaign — and did not realize it was taken in Illinois during a movement that was known as “Operation Open City” in Cairo. The campaign was modeled on earlier efforts of Lewis and the SNCC in Nashville to overturn segregation in all areas of civic life, she said.

According to Pimblott, when Lewis arrived in Cairo, he had just returned from the Freedom Rides and was invited by Cairo AME minister Blaine Ramsey, a progressive young minister who saw the church as a platform to achieve racial harmony, to help organize the nonviolent action campaign aimed at integrating public accommodations.

Lewis is an American hero, icon

The only one of the “Big Six” African-American leaders of the Civil Rights Movement who is still alive, Lewis, now 77, was one of the original 13 Freedom Riders in 1961 who challenged the lack of enforcement of Supreme Court rulings making segregated interstate buses unconstitutional. In 1963, he helped King and others organize the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. He was the youngest person to speak at the Aug. 28, 1963, rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during which King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

In 1965, a then-25-year-old Lewis, while attempting to lead some 600 voting rights activists across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama as they made their way from Selma to Montgomery, was beaten in the head by a state trooper with a nightstick so severely that it fractured his skull. The march was intended to bring attention to failed efforts to register black citizens to vote in Selma, and the shooting death by law enforcement of a civil rights activist in a neighboring city. That day, state troopers, local law enforcement officers and deputized white citizens violently attacked Lewis and many others who were hospitalized with various injuries.

The day that became known as “Bloody Sunday” proved a pivotal moment in securing new rights for African-Americans, and further cemented Lewis’ stature as a hero of the Civil Rights Movement. It took two more attempts for protesters to cross the bridge. They finally did, alongside King, and under federal protection, on March 21. The Voting Rights Act was signed into law five months later.

It was in between these other more highly publicized events, in the summer of 1962, that Lewis worked in Cairo. According to Pimblott’s book, Lewis arrived with fieldworkers Mary McCollum, James Peake and Joy Reagon from Nashville in June. Upon arrival, Pimblott said, they found that a then-16-year-old Koen had already formed the Cairo Non-Violent Freedom Committee (CNVFC) and organized 70 high school students to join with SNCC’s efforts.

They began integration efforts at a small number of restaurants and hotels, Pimblott said in an interview conducted by email. “SNCC and local schoolchildren staged protests at the Mark Twain Restaurant, which were successful,” she said. “But subsequently they were refused service and sprayed with hoses by the owner of Mack’s Barbecue.” In her book, Pimblott writes that waitresses locked the doors of the restaurant as an angry mob of white men, many of them intoxicated, descended on the business and the children in the parking lot.

SNCC field worker Mary McCollum recalls of that day, as quoted in Pimblott’s book: “As we were leaving a man who had threatened me earlier reached out and swung at one of the boys.” Trained in nonviolent methods, she quickly moved in between the two and was violently slashed across the thigh, Pimblott writes. But she declined to press charges, saying her purpose was to “change his (the perpetrator’s) attitude" rather than threaten him and she was “willing to suffer for that change.”

Over the next months, with Lewis and others, the CNVFC “Operation Open City" laid out a 11-point plan calling for, among other things, creation of a human relations council, de facto integration of the city’s school — and decent housing for all.

By the second week of protests in Cairo led by Lewis and the other SNCC workers, more than 40 demonstrators, one as young as 13, had been arrested on charges ranging from trespassing to breach of the peace and mob action. Lewis and Koen were among those arrested. They refused bail, and in the county’s segregated jail located in Cairo, they sang freedom songs, and staged a hunger strike to protest their conditions, Pimblott stated in her book, and Koen recalled in an interview.

Koen said he will never forget those days in jail with Lewis. “John taught me how to fast,” he said, describing the 10-day hunger strike they waged as both a form of protest and religious experience. Lewis served as a mentor and pillar of strength for the young people, most of whom had never gone through something like that before, Koen said.

Pimblott writes in her book of this time: “On July 18, Justice of the Peace Robert Williams, to the astonishment of a packed courtroom, handed down seventeen guilty verdicts on charges ranging from disorderly conduct to mob violence.

“Outside, more than two hundred protesters rallied, signing ‘The Truth Will Set Us Free,’ ‘God Is On Our Side’ and ‘Black and White Together.’ Rev. Ramsey addressed the crowd, saying, ‘We are fighting against an evil system, and we shall continue until that system is defeated.’”

King sends telegram to Cairo 

It was around this time that the CNVFC received a telegram from King, according to Pimblott’s book. The newspaper requested a copy of the telegram from the Library of Congress in Washington, which was able to locate a copy of King’s message included on the top of a CNVFC newsletter dated Wednesday, July 24, 1962. The newsletter discussed the arrests of the young activists and their pending court date. “Does justice wear a ‘white only’ sign in Cairo, Illinois? …all of America will be watching Cairo to see if there is any justice here.”

Foreman Papers

The telegram from King, which he sent from Albany, Georgia, stated: “Duress of situation here prevented us from contacting you before today. Please know that you have full support of Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Urgently need news of where case stands now. Pray for us here as we shall be praying for you. Faithfully yours, Martin Luther King Jr.”

King sent the memo to Cairo organizers on Tuesday, July 23, according to the Library of Congress. Four days later, King was jailed for a third time in Albany, where he was engaged in integration efforts at the time. Koen said he is certain that the telegram from King could have only been in response to communication from Lewis that was shared with the broader group in Cairo.

While speaking with the newspaper last week, Lewis said that although King did not protest in Cairo, the two had discussions about what was transpiring there. He said King was knowledgable of the situation in Cairo.

After working to integrate restaurants, the nonviolent activists moved their efforts toward recreational facilities, Pimblott writes, including the above-mentioned swimming pool, as well as a roller rink. After Illinois’ attorney general issued a legal opinion that the owner of the Roller Bowl could not exclude black youth, Koen, recently trained in nonviolent racial reconciliation tactics by Lewis, led a group of 38 students there on Aug. 17, 1962. Pimblott quotes local activist Hattie Kendrick in recalling the scene that afternoon: “All hell broke loose. They were knocked down and beaten like dogs. They were beaten over the heads with iron rods rapped in… (barbed) wire.”

The book goes on to say that Kendrick also vividly remembered local police standing by, some laughing as the children were attacked. A man attempted to pursue the children brandishing a bicycle chain as they fled to a nearby parking lot. A 12-year-old girl named Deborah Flowers was struck on the legs and fell to the ground, and others were chased by cars and threatened at gunpoint as they fled to the safety of the basement of the Ward Chapel AME church, Pimblott writes.

According to Pimblott’s research, as word of the chaos in Cairo spread, civil rights leaders demanded that then-Gov. Otto Kerner intervene and deploy the National Guard. “Shocked and embarrassed” by what was transpiring in Cairo, Kerner agreed, Pimblott writes. “Despite the city council’s efforts, the violence and subsequent outcry signaled a turning point for SNCC and the CNVFC’s campaign just as it had in the Freedom Rides the previous year,” she writes.

Koen said he has maintained a friendship with Lewis through the years, and is proud of his rise through the political ranks. He said it is encouraging that Lewis has weighed in on the current situation in Cairo, however briefly. Koen said Lewis served an instrumental role in helping African-Americans secure rights long after he left town. He said Lewis’ remarks also help tell another story about the city that some of the young people of today may not know – one that may give them a sense of pride about their roots in a community that overcomes.

Asked to recall what impression struck him about Lewis when the two first met in Cairo, Koen said, “He was very strong, very enlightening and he was willing to take a risk.

“He believed in nonviolence completely, no doubt about that.”


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U.S. Rep. John Lewis says HUD 'should lend a helping hand' to rebuild public housing in Cairo

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. John Lewis, one of the “Big Six” organizers of the Civil Rights Movement and an American icon, said this past week that he was troubled to hear of the housing crisis in Cairo, where he spent the summer of 1962 organizing young people to integrate businesses and a recreational center as a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

“It bothers me very much,” Lewis, D-Ga., said of learning recently that Housing and Urban Development is relocating about 400 people from two failing public housing complexes, and that at least some families who want to remain in Cairo may have to move to other communities because the federal government does not plan to rebuild in the city.

Lewis said the government “must help” rebuild Cairo. Lewis said that as he sees it, that means HUD providing for replacement housing in the city.

The 77-year-old Georgia congressman said he recalls clearly the efforts he and others led in Cairo 55 years ago. He was 22 that summer, and had just participated as one of the 13 original members of the Freedom Rides challenging the segregation of interstate buses. 

“I think the government should lend a helping hand to rebuild the housing because they participated in the destruction of the housing,” Lewis said, in a brief interview with the newspaper last week. 

“People should have a clean, safe and decent place to live.”

The 75-year-old complexes known as Elmwood and McBride are no longer considered safe. Past local managers of the Alexander County Housing Authority have been accused of failing to perform even basic routine maintenance at the properties that house almost entirely black families while spending generously on their own benefits, excessive travel, and questionable contracts, legal settlements and retirement deals.

Though HUD officials knew about brewing problems with ACHA management practices dating back to at least 2010, according to records obtained by the newspaper, the federal agency continued to send millions of dollars to the local housing authority while doing little to hold officials accountable. 

HUD has been roundly criticized for abdicating its oversight responsibility, though the agency has never detailed what happened. The Southern Illinoisan has filed numerous Freedom of Information Act requests to HUD seeking information about why corrective action was not taken sooner. Those requests are pending.

Federal housing officials announced at an April 10 meeting in Cairo that they would begin moving people from Elmwood and McBride because they are no longer safe. HUD is providing every family with a tenant protection voucher, which subsidizes rent paid to a private landlord, but some people are upset that they cannot remain in Cairo because of a shortage of affordable housing. In response to past calls by citizens and city leaders that HUD rebuild housing in Cairo, federal housing officials have said they cannot because the economic conditions there make it impossible to attract a private developer to partner with the government. HUD says it is no longer in the business of developing public housing solely with federal taxpayer dollars. 

Asked about Lewis’ remarks, HUD spokesman Jereon Brown declined comment on behalf of the agency. 

The HUD Office of Inspector General is presently conducting a review, at the request of Illinois U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, of who knew what at HUD, when they knew it, and why they did not act sooner to protect the health and welfare of Cairo’s families.

In a statement, Duckworth said she is pleased to hear Lewis’ remarks of concern for the citizens of Cairo. “When John Lewis is on your side, it’s a pretty good sign you’re doing something right — Cairo’s residents should be proud," she said. 

“In my time in Congress, it’s been an honor to work with Congressman Lewis on several issues from gun violence to civilian national service and to call him a friend," her statement continued. “His knowledge of Cairo’s history and his work to secure civil rights for southern Illinoisans and all Americans will be invaluable as we continue pushing for solutions that help the residents of Elmwood and McBride, hold accountable those responsible as well as strengthen the local economy to help Cairo rebuild.”

HUD Secretary Ben Carson, whose tenure at the agency began in March, told the newspaper in August that there are lessons to be learned for the agency concerning what has transpired in Cairo. When he visited the city on Aug. 8, Carson also said it’s possible for there to be a new day for Cairo that would allow residents to return if the economy here rebounds, allowing for the development of affordable housing through a public-private partnership. 

In an interview with the newspaper that day, Carson committed to speaking to President Donald Trump and other cabinet-level members of a task force on rural communities on which Carson also sits. Carson said he would relay to them the economic potential he saw in the city to make use of its rivers, railways, airport and interstate access. Asked recently whether Carson had made good on that promise, Brown, of HUD, said he would get back to the newspaper once he is able to check with Carson.

Durbin and Duckworth also recently wrote a letter to Trump asking him to create a cabinet-level commission to address the economic, housing and health crises facing Cairo, saying the intervention of the president is called for given that HUD’s oversight neglect allowed the developments to fall into such disrepair that there’s no option but to tear them down.

Durbin, responding to Lewis’ comments, said: “Few people speak with the moral authority of John Lewis — his experience has given him a perspective that is unique in this Congress.

“He has seen injustice and lived injustice, and it’s an honor to work toward justice for the people of Cairo alongside him," Durbin continued. 

U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, whose district includes Cairo, and who alongside Durbin and Duckworth, both Democrats, has called upon HUD to find solutions for the public housing residents of Cairo, said of Lewis’ remarks: “Representative John Lewis is an absolute icon of the civil rights movement. I welcome his drawing attention to the plight of the residents of Cairo decades ago, as well as today.

“We’re all working towards the same goal: providing Cairo residents with clean, safe housing and a place they can call home.”


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1 person dead, suspect wanted in early morning shooting in Carbondale

CARBONDALE — One person is dead after an early morning shooting Saturday in Carbondale, and police are searching for a suspect.

Police found the person shot in the 700 block of East College Street, where officers had gone about 2:41 a.m. in response to a shooting.

The identity of the victim is not being released, pending notification of next of kin, according to a news release from the Carbondale Police Department.

The suspect is described as a heavy-set black male with a beard who was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and a hat.

The investigation is ongoing.

Anyone with information about the incident is encouraged to contact the Carbondale Police Department at 618-457-3200 or Crime Stoppers at 618-549-2677.


Carbondale
When Good Samaritan runs 'desperately low' on canned goods, community steps up to help

CARBONDALE — Early autumn is a tough time for Good Samaritan House.

The nonprofit organization, which provides food and emergency shelter to the needy, tends to deplete its supply of canned and boxed food at this time of the year.

“Basically, around this time every year before the holidays, we always run low … as it gets closer and closer to Thanksgiving we usually find ourselves running pretty short on everything, and this year it was even worse because we hadn’t had any food drives lately,” said Aaron Barnett, food coordinator for Good Samaritan House.

On Tuesday, the organization’s soup kitchen had almost completely run out of food. The kitchen offers meals three times a day, seven days a week; it served about 3,500 meals in the last month, according to Barnett.

“I’ve got certain requirements that I have to meet as far as meals for people, and when we don’t have good, nutritious vegetables and things like that, it’s hard for me to do what I do. So we were in a pretty big bind,” Barnett said.

Not knowing what else to do, Barnett took a photo of the empty shelves and posted it to Facebook along with a plea for donations.

He said the response was better than he ever could have imagined. The post was shared over 200 times and people turned up to help almost immediately.

“Within the first 20 minutes, I had people showing up with carloads full of canned goods, and that continued throughout yesterday and all today. I think there are people driving down from St. Louis just to bring us some canned goods,” Barnett said.

E. Claire Salon, located on South University Avenue, coordinated a large donation effort. The hair salon gathered 350 canned goods and $250 in donations in 12 hours, and then matched the funds and contributed double the number of cans. Jen’s Joe, the coffee shop next door to the salon, also matched those canned donations. All told, the effort raised 1,400 canned goods and $500.

“It’s just pretty amazing, really,” Barnett said.

He said the shelves are now fully stocked and E. Claire is keeping the remainder of the cans in storage until supplies run low again.