When I first served next to Sandra Lee to prepare meals for the homebound in Los Angeles, I thought she was just another successful businesswoman who came to volunteer. I had no idea of her backstory -- the hard life she faced growing up. Sandra's parents were just teenagers, and Sandra learned all about secondhand clothes, stretching a dollar and applying for food stamps.
Her mother basically counted on her to raise her siblings.
For a while, they lived with Sandra's grandmother, Lorraine, who became a real role model for Sandra.
She was all about community services -- and charity. She ran the community services in her church for 40 years. She sewed quilts at night for families who, you know, couldn't afford to buy blankets.
Sandra herself asks the question, "What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?" She's made lots of bold moves to build her business, her TV shows, her magazine. But she has that same boldness when she volunteers with Share Our Strength, Citymeals, God's Love We Deliver, food banks and The Bowery Mission.
Sandra raised herself and four brothers and sisters on welfare and food stamps in a food insecure home, and understood instantly how fragile and afraid people would feel after Hurricane Sandy and jumped right in. She was determined to make sure no one fell through the cracks.
Sandra didn't have an easy beginning. But as she always says, "It doesn't matter how begin, it's how you end that matters."