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Nonprofit Executive Director excited about future supermarket coming to north St. Louis County

"Fighting a food desert can be a tough issue. We are excited about bringing a much-needed supermarket to our area," said Erica Williams.

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — On a hot, Friday afternoon, Erica Williams, a few staff members and volunteers, spent two hours at their usual spot in the 4500 block of Hamilton Avenue in Pine Lawn.

"We're here every Friday from 3 p.m. until 5 p.m., " Williams said.

They didn't mind the summer heat because they were busy doing something that warms their hearts: passing out bags of free food to anyone who wanted it.

"There are tough times, even for people with jobs and transportation, so if there's a way that we can help alleviate that burden, we're happy to do so," said Williams.

A few years ago, Williams, a long-time paralegal, says she left corporate America after 15 years to go to work for her north St. Louis County community.

The Florissant mom and wife started a nonprofit called "A Red Circle."

"We call it Good Food Fridays because we believe everybody deserves good, healthy food," she said.

For the past two months, the group has devoted their Fridays to giving out fresh produce to people.

The fruits and vegetables are grown in a Pine Lawn community garden.

A Red Circle is now leading the way to turn a vacant building on Lewis and Clark Boulevard in north County into a brand, new community-owned grocery store.

Williams said currently the closest supermarket for many Pine Lawn residents is two miles away. She grew up in Pine Lawn.

"When you have to drive more than one mile to the grocery store, it creates a challenge. It creates a burden to getting fresh foods especially for some seniors and for people who don't have any transportation," said the nonprofit's executive director.

She said a new store would help dry up their so-called food desert.

So far, the nonprofit has raised $30,000 towards the $1 million supermarket project.

Williams said if all goes according to plan, they hope to buy the 46,000-square-foot site later this year. 

A ground-breaking would happen in 2023 and the new grocery store would open in 2024.

A Red Circle's office and other community services would also be located inside the building.

You might say they're "a small circle" determined to make a difference.

"Their food giveaway really helps me. The supermarket project is one of the biggest projects that I've ever heard of. I never thought nobody would have thought to do something like that for us. I'm excited about it," said resident, Mary Frost.

"St. Louis has some very generous people, generous companies and there's a lot of goodwill behind our project. I'm sure lots of donors will come though and help us make this happen, so I am very optimistic," said Erica Williams.

Residents will also be given an opportunity to suggest names for the future supermarket.

For more information on the future of the project and A Red Circle, you can visit the nonprofit's website.

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