Gisele wears Walter Baker Gold jacket and Sanctuary shirt. Cierra and mom wears Amer_ican t-shirt.
Gisele Fetterman Reflects on a Decade Since Launching a Nationally Recognized Free Store in Her Tiny Pennsylvania Town
John Fetterman has been a driving force towards socioeconomic change, serving more than a decade as mayor of Braddock, Penn. But his wife, Gisele Fetterman has consistently held her own as a well-respected activist, philanthropist and Good Samaritan in her area of residence and beyond. Her influence is so great that she made a direct impact on Braddock’s underprivileged town almost immediately with the launch of The Free Store 15104 10 years ago.
Ciara wears Sanctuary jacket.
Gisele’s humble upbringing as a Brazilian immigrant in New York meant living in a tiny one-bedroom apartment with her mom. This required her to view life from a different lens than the average New Yorker. Dumpster-diving and collecting furniture from bulk on garbage days as a youth instilled in her the importance of waste mindfulness. Gisele’s mother was employed as a domestic worker, leading the pair to “be resourceful and creative” with everything they owned. “It was difficult seeing the contrast between the country I had just left and this country of disposability I suddenly found myself in,” Gisele tells Reserved.
KeShawn wears Diplomacy shirt. Alfred wears Sanctuary jacket.
Genyah wears Sanctuary top and bottom. Ashley wears Sanctuary suit.
Reflecting on her past and the then-present predicament of her beloved Braddock, Gisele was inspired to launch The Free Store in 2012. Now, a decade since its development, the shop continues to flourish with donations coming from far and wide to support members of the small yet mighty Braddock community.
“The Braddock community is a very special one,” Gisele says. “It’s one that refused to give up even while facing every imaginable obstacle. The Free Store is there to show folks they are loved and cared for; that we are there to be a friend during challenging times. Whether they need formula or diapers, or food, good neighbors help each other.”
Jena wears BLM t shirt.
Yah’Arra wears Sanctuary top. Yahzra wears Diplomacy t-shirt and hat.
Gisele wears Sactuary top.
Gisele launched the first Free Store in the country, and the rules are quite simple: “Be kind, make a new friend, take only what you need, pay it forward,” she says. “I have an incredible team of 20 volunteers, many have been with me for 10 years!”
While the tiny town of Braddock is home to only approximately 2,000 residents, it has drawn notability from the rest of the country. Thanks to Gisele’s efforts and the strong community values this area represents, it’s made a bold statement on the map. In fact, national brands, ranging from Kate Spade and Coach, to Old Navy, Costco and Trader Joe’s have eagerly donated to the store, whether it be past season items or goods they planned to toss. “Now mostly, folks reach out directly,” Gisele says of the donation process.
Dayana wears Sanctuary jacket, sweater, RTA jeans, and Dior glasses.
Gisele wears ALC dress, Chloe glasses, and stylist’s own shawl and jacket. KeShawn wears Moose Knuckle jacket, Walter Baker shirt, Daily Paper pants, Ethika boxers, and Amer_ican ring.
The community aspect of Braddock doesn’t just come from complimentary offerings—there are year-’round celebrations everyone in town is invited to join. “We believe in celebrating everything!” Gisele says. “We make holidays very special for our families. We host a big Easter egg hunt with bunny pictures and toys. Christmas is another big holiday for us. We’ve also helped families ensure they have Thanksgiving supplies and more.”
Since launching, the Free Store movement has blossomed. “We’ve helped start 14 spinoff locations,” she says. “Our plan is to continue keeping our spaces small, serving tons of people and responding to community needs as they continue to arise.”
Danielle wears Sanctuary jacket, ALC dress, and Missoni hat.
Ciara wears Blvcksheep dress and hat and Amer_ican ring. KeShawn wears Walter Baker shirt, Daily Paper pants, Ethika boxers, and stylist’s own accessories.
Gisele, who has involved her and John’s own three children (Grace, Karl and August Fetterman) in building up the community, obviously keeps herself busy.
“I’m at the Free Store three days a week, and time not there is often spent fielding support calls,” she says. “The rest of my time is usually on the road as Second Lady or at our sister nonprofit, For Good PGH, where we run a women’s entrepreneur program for local Braddock residents. Kindness is contagious and it starts with each of us.”
Ciara wears Daily Paper jacket, Sanctuary hoodie, and stylist’s own pants and top.