Natalie's Everyday Heroes: Milwaukee teen, Crystal Russell, works to feed those in need
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) --- Since the pandemic started, there has been a lot of discussion about kids needing help with meals because schools are closed. That message was not lost on a Milwaukee teenager. She got two jobs in the past few months, and spent her first paycheck to feed others.
“This one is good,” said Crystal Russell, inspecting a brown bag, filled with snacks.
The 16-year-old is checking each bag twice, to make sure each has everything it needs.
“We're giving a hot dog, chips, fruit snacks, water, juice and bubble gum,” she said with a big, proud smile.
Russell’s family and friends are helping her get everything ready for her big food giveaway.
“It is a lot of work,” said her grandmother, Betty Russell. “There's a lot of shopping to buy all the food, then we got the hauling of the food. You have the cooking of the food.”
But Crystal was determined to make it happen.
“Young children depend on school lunches and since it's summer time, there's really no school going on,” she explained. “So, I just decided to pass out hot dog meals!”
She quickly got the support she needed.
“She said I see so many people that need help, so many people who are hungry,” said her Sunday school teacher, Connie Russell. “So, can I give out free hot dogs? I said yes, baby, I'll come down and help you, you just tell me when, and I'll come down.”
Connie Russell did more than come to help. She stood outside the Little Community Church at 21st and Hampton, announcing the free lunch with enthusiasm.
“You haven't had a hot dog until you've had this hot dog,” she called out over a loud speaker.
While she called out to passing cars, other volunteers waved signs in the street. They passed out 200 lunches on a recent Saturday afternoon.
“Say thank you,” one parent prompted a little boy.
This effort started weeks ago, when Crystal got the idea to sell baked goods during the pandemic.
“It's called CC's bakery, and basically right now, I sell cookies, rice krispies, brownies, and cupcakes,” Crystal explained.
Connie Russell said the items were a hit from the beginning.
“When she opened it up, I mean, she got so many orders, she had to start turning people away,” Russell said.
Her grandmother did give her some advice.
“I learned to cook by looking at my grandma and mom and aunts. Just take little recipes and whatever and she did the same thing. So she's making those recipes her own,” Betty Russell said.
“Shame the devil, tell the truth, I asked her grandmother, did you help her? She said, no, she did it all by herself,” Connie Russell said with a laugh.
But Crystal’s entrepreneurship didn’t end there. She also got a job at Nino’s Southern Sides and used the money to buy supplies. She spent about $300.
Connie said it’s not necessarily what you’d expect from a teenager.
“They're going shopping, to the mall, get their nails done, their hair done,” she said. “Get clothes they don't need. Go to the movies.”
But, she said Crystal wanted to help kids like herself.
“She's been there and she knows how they feel. She knows the hurt,” Connie said.
Her grandmother couldn’t be more proud.
“I just want to support her because I want her to know, whatever you desire to do, as long as it's positive, granny supports you,” Betty said.
Crystal sees it as her responsibility to give back, and someday, she plans on having a bakery of her own. She hasn’t ruled out attending MATC’s culinary program.
“Eventually, I'd love to open up my own bakery and then maybe my own restaurant and bakery,” she said.
If you’d like to nominate someone for Natalie’s Everyday Heroes, just send Natalie a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.