Cleveland’s ‘Walls of Love’ has helped nearly 85K people in need; honoring Alianna DeFreeze with 500th wall

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) — A once-homeless woman made it her mission two years ago to help others in need, one person at a time.

Now, Holly Jackson, along with help from volunteers and donors, has helped nearly 85,000 people not just in Cleveland but all over the country through Walls of Love.

She’s getting ready to assemble her 500th wall Friday, honoring Alianna DeFreeze, a teen who was kidnapped and murdered in 2017.

“Walls of Love is our way of pouring out love into the community,” she said. “It originally started as a project for the homeless. It’s kind of grown to just love for everybody, just anyone in need…especially now in the times we’re living.”

There are walls in seven states, including Alaska and Colorado.

There are seven permanent walls in the Cleveland area, and many others are assembled based on need. The group places items like hygiene products, winter essentials, hats, gloves, non-perishable food on the wall. The selection changes based on the season.

A wall currently located at West 25th Street and Pearl is assembled with school supplies, mousepads and even pillows.

Each wall has a sign explaining the project and directing people to take what they need and pay it forward when they can.

Jackson said her own experience encouraged her to create the project. She was homeless and also pregnant after leaving a domestic abuse situation. She always had jobs, she said, so she wasn’t able to get much assistance.

“The hard thing for me was to have to humble myself to ask for help and not be able to get it,” she said. “I know what that feels like. I know what it’s like for people to judge you and think you’re homeless because you’re a drug addict or an alcoholic or irresponsible with your money. Sometimes it’s not that. Some people have mental health issues, sometimes they’re down on their luck or they lost a job.”

“I just made it my mission,” she said, “that I don’t want people to feel like that again.”

Jackson uses the walls for other purposes, too.

The wall dedicated to DeFreeze will be the group’s 500th. It will be unveiled Friday at 10 am. at the corner of East 105th Street and Cedar in Cleveland. Everything will be purple, DeFreeze’s favorite color.

“There was so much tragedy behind this and so much pain, and part of giving love back to the community is I want to help her mom and dad heal, but I wanted people to know there are ongoing things with mom and dad and their (Alianna DeFreeze) foundation,” she said.

Because of the pandemic, it’s been harder to get donations to fund the group’s work. But there is also more need.

“We’ve always known people are a paycheck away from being homeless,” she said. “Now, we’re finding more that people who originally thought they had things under control, something like this happens…and we’re finding a lot more people need help.”

Walls of Love currently has a Queen of Hearts fundraiser that’s up to more than $2,000. And they’re searching for sponsors for an event Nov. 7. It’s the group’s second anniversary, and they plan to erect 50 walls in the same day.

“It just fulfills me,” said Jackson. “It makes me feel so wonderful knowing we’re able to help people.”

Anyone who is interested in becoming a sponsor or volunteering on Nov. 7 should email wallsoflove216@gmail.com or call 216-882-9395.

For more on Walls of Love, including how to donate and volunteer, click here.
For more on the Queen of Hearts fundraiser, click here.

The year 2020 is going to be remembered as a year of drastic change, from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic to rallies and sometimes rioting in the streets protesting racial injustice. With that in mind, we here at Fox 8 News are striving to find uplifting stories of togetherness as part of our Voices of Unity project.

If you know of people or organizations working together to make our world a better place in which to live, send your ideas to tips@fox8.com. Please use the subject line “Voices of Unity.”

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