Gisele was born in Rio de Janeiro and immigrated to the U.S. at age eight with her mother and was undocumented for many years. Growing up in the cities, she was acutely aware of the vast inequalities between Brazil and the United States, and between the working-class community that she lived in and the more affluent communities where her mother secured work as a housekeeper.
These days, you can probably find her at the Free Store – a brightly painted converted storage container that Gisele Fetterman stocks with donated or surplus clothing and necessities for her neighbors in Braddock and nearby communities in Allegheny County. The concept was something she imagined as a kid and new immigrant in New York City. Gisele was frustrated by how easily people were willing to throw things away. Now, three years into the endeavor in Braddock, it’s a full-fledged enterprise run entirely by volunteers and serves 1,600 folks monthly.
In Braddock, Gisele is a force in her own right behind the good works and progressive change she and her husband, Mayor John, are sowing in their home town.
In addition to the Free Store, Gisele co-founded the 412 Food Rescue, which aims to fight hunger by collecting fresh, healthy food scheduled to be wastefully discarded and distributing it to community organizations that serve those in need.
Gisele’s Challenge; Connect in some small way with 5 strangers every day.
Connect with Gisele
If you liked this interview, check out episode 48 with her partner at 412 Food Rescue Leah Lizarondo where we discuss food deserts and community service.