ABOVE PHOTO: Rodney and Erika McLeod during their Fill-A-Cart campaign. Photo courtesy: McLeods Fill-A-Cart campaign-Facebook
By Kharisma McIlwaine
Change Our Future founders Rodney and Erika McLeod have been dedicated to giving back to the community in a myriad of ways. In this spirit, the organization kicked off their annual 12 Days of Christmas campaign on December 6 with their Fill-A-Cart giveaway at the Target located at 2001 Pennsylvania Ave. in Philadelphia.
The goal of Fill-A-Cart is to help families that are experiencing hard times during the holiday season. In addition to the Fill-a-Cart initiative, Change Our Future’s 12 Days of Christmas will also hold a coat drive, offer scholarships, and feed homeless members of the community.
Rodney and Erika McLeod spoke with the SUN about what inspired them to start their 12 Days of Christmas campaign and the importance of giving back, especially during the holiday season.
The campaign was birthed from their love for family and the holidays.
“We are extremely excited because this is our third 12 Days of Christmas for the foundation,” Erika said. “It was sparked because Rod and I both have this love for the holidays and being around family. There is something so special about being able to serve the community and give back to others that are not able to provide for their families to have toys, gifts, or coats on their table. We took this opportunity to put 12 days together to just do different acts of kindness.”
The McLeods created the Fill-a-Cart campaign as a way to spread kindness and cheer, making it easier for families in need during the holiday season.
“For our kickoff this year, we did our Fill-a-Cart, which is our 3rd Fill-a-Cart as well,” Erika said. “We brought 17 families and close to 40 children to Target to shop. They got a cart to fill on us and with the help of other donations, toys, and gifts just to bring light to the holiday season. With the pandemic, when we first started Change Our Future, we were acknowledging that a lot of families were without. They lost their jobs, they lost healthcare, [and] they lost any kind of security for basic necessities. We wanted to make the biggest change by filling that void and giving them this opportunity to shop stress-free on us.”
There are many families in need especially during the holiday season. With the help of the Chester School District, the McLeods were able to help some of those families.
“The really exciting part is that we worked with Chester School District, who we’ve worked with over the last three years” Erika said. “They’ve pulled students and families that they’ve worked with knowing that they’ve struggled in any kind of capacity. This year we also included Turning Points For Children, a foster care foundation. That was incredible as well… filling that void of some children that have been both adopted into families and that have a need for basic necessity as they find their home and they can feel a little bit warmer for the holiday.”
“We’re also doing a coat drive in Indianapolis, we’re giving out scholarships to students here in Philadelphia, we are helping feed the homeless, we will be donating to two different schools to help fill their libraries with books,” she added.
Although Change Our Future is a new foundation — founded in the midst of the pandemic — the reach and impact they have had in the Philadelphia community and communities across the country is extraordinary.
“It’s remarkable to see the amount of work we’ve been able to do in a short span of time,” Rodney said. “We still are building out our staff and our programs. We’re really a baby organization, but the impact that we’ve had feels like we’ve been doing this for a larger amount of time. It’s really a credit to the support we have within our team. They allow us to be able to do these sorts of acts that are benefiting the community, and also the support of others. Others with just as big hearts as Erika and I have contributed to our mission and cause and they’re truly the reason why we’re able to do what we’re doing and be a blessing to so many people particularly the youth but adults as well. Initiatives like 12 Days of Christmas allow us to look at families as a whole, and not only impact the kids, but the parents as well. There are adults who might just be going through a tough patch right now in their lives and we’re just looking to be a gift during a special time for us all.”
Now that Rodney McLeod is a member of the Indianapolis Colts, he and Erika are doing their part to give back to the Indianapolis community as well. Their second Fill-a-Cart took place at the Meijer in Indianapolis on December 12.
“We’re going through Meijer, a store in Indianapolis,” Erika said. “We worked with an amazing center in Indianapolis previously for our Thanksgiving giveaway. They had families that are through their women’s program called The Mom and Power of Woman Program that would also really benefit from it. The most amazing part of it is that we are able to reach out to another community — a community that we’re now living in and serve others that are in need.”
As Change Our Future continues to grow, they continue to welcome the support of the public.
“We would love the support,” Erika said. “We’re just getting started towards our 12 Days of Christmas initiative. This is going to go through until Christmas. We do have a campaign going up on our site now specifically for Fill-a-Cart for people to feel involved and a part and know that their money is going towards something that’s very meaningful.”
To find out more about Change Our Future, their programs and the 12 Days of Christmas campaign, be sure to visit: www.changeourfuture.org. There is a section on the site that allows individuals and organizations to join in on the Fill-a-Cart initiative through the Fill-a-Cart portal and a tiered system of donations which include: Stocking Stuffer, Silver Bell, Yuletide Magic, and Holiday Hero.
Additionally, Change Our Future will donate catered meals through the Chosen 300 Shelter in Philadelphia and will be holding a coat drive through Meijer to donate a significant number of coats to Indianapolis Public Schools. Follow Change Our Future on IG @changeourfuturefund for recaps and to stay up to date on how you can support these programs.