Behind the Scenes: JCPenney Supports Opal Lee, Grandmother of Juneteenth

Welcome Home, Dr. Lee

On Friday, June 14, Dr. Opal Lee was welcomed home at the historic site where her family’s home once stood. Surrounded by family, friends, civic leaders and supporters including many JCPenney associates, the “Grandmother of Juneteenth” was gifted the keys to her new home in Fort Worth in a dedication ceremony just days before Juneteenth. When Dr. Lee was only 12 years old, her family was run out of the neighborhood by a racist mob, and now 85 years later, she finally was given the opportunity to return home thanks to the generosity of HistoryMaker Homes, Texas Capital and Trinity Habitat for Humanity.

When JCPenney heard about this incredible project, our philanthropy team immediately connected with Lee’s granddaughter, Dione Sims, president and founder of Unity Unlimited, Inc., to see how JCPenney could help. Merchants worked with Dr. Lee’s team to understand her design preferences and donated bedding, curtains, towels, small kitchen appliances, dinnerware, pillows, throw blankets and more, and associates volunteered to move these items into the home ahead of the dedication.

In the video above, hear more about this project from Michelle Sing, VP of Corporate Communications and Philanthropy and President of the JCPenney Communities Foundation, Karen Wertz Chadwick, a senior design director in the home division, and Brandi Wallace, a senior design director for the kids division, who also serves as co-leader of the Mosaic Business Resource Team and is a designer for our Hope & Wonder collections.

Opal’s Walk for Freedom

On June 19, associates, senior leaders and their family members came together to celebrate Juneteenth at Opal’s Walk for Freedom for the fourth year in a row, our third as a national sponsor.

Opal’s Walk for Freedom began in 2016 as an initiative led by Dr. Lee to bring attention to the campaign for Juneteenth to be named a federally recognized national holiday. With support from millions across the country, Dr. Lee’s dream became a reality when President Joe Biden invited her to the White House in 2021 to make it official. The annual 2.5-mile walk, in honor of the 2.5 years it took for the news of freedom to reach the enslaved people in Texas, continues to raise awareness and education for the significance of the holiday.

Opal Visits JCPenney’s Home Office

On June 12, nearly 200 associates and their children had the opportunity of a lifetime to hear directly from Dr. Opal Lee and her granddaughter Dione Sims.

They visited JCPenney’s Home Office to share reflections on Dr. Lee’s life, her drive to make Juneteenth a national holiday and the annual Opal’s Walk for Freedom event. Dr. Lee also hosted a special story time session with the children in attendance, reading her children’s book, “Juneteenth: A Children’s Story,” and held a meet and greet session.

Sims shared how JCPenney’s Hope & Wonder partnership with Unity Unlimited, Inc. helps drive the nonprofit’s mission to provide resources that foster unity and harmony within the community, regardless of race. Dr. Lee shared her gratitude for JCPenney’s continued support for her annual walk and encouraged all associates to serve as a “committee of one” and dedicate time every day to educate others on the importance of understanding that freedom is for everyone.

Share the Post:

Recent Posts

Sign up to receive updates from the JCPenney Newsroom to your inbox.

View our privacy policy or, for California residents, our California privacy notice.
Scroll to Top