Former opioid addict gives back through random acts of kindness

It took many twists and turns for Megan Cohen to find the grace she needed to bring her life back from the brink.

Former opioid addict gives back through random acts of kindness

“I’ve been in over 70 treatment centers. I’ve been homeless in different states,” she said.

Cohen says nothing compares to the time she spent homeless on the streets of Kensington, Philadelphia.

“There’s trash everywhere, there’s people everywhere, like, I was sleeping in abandoned buildings,” she said. “It’s so out of control that they can’t really get any law and order out there. So, it’s like a free-for-all.”

Cohen skated by with the lifelong support of her single mother, Jennifer Shablin. In fact, it was her mother’s tough decision that set Megan on a course to recovery.

“Her addiction was so bad that she should be dead,” said Shablin. “I had two choices. Either visit her grave or visit her in jail.”

After some time keeping her daughter out of the house, Shablin decided to turn her into the local Sheriff. Cohen spent time in prison and recovery programs before going clean in 2019.

“It was actually complete strangers that showed me kindness when I was out there and it, like, planted a seed of hope,” Cohen said. “I wish that the kindness my family showed me would have done that but it didn’t. It didn’t because I expected it.”

It was that spark of random acts of kindness that Cohen wanted to pay forward when she created The Grace Project. Started in August 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, Megan’s non-profit gives back to struggling addicts.

Every Thursday night, friends and family join Megan on a trip to Kensington. They distribute food, jackets, and toiletries in addition to sweeping the littered streets.

“There’s people openly using drugs. There’s people with serious medical issues being unattended to,” said Shane Williams, who became a volunteer following his own recovery. “It was shocking to see that a place like that not too far from where I live existed.”

Weekly visits will continue as long as the community continues to support The Grace Project with funds and donations. Cohen hopes that the non-profit will evolve into a resource to support entire families who struggle with similar circumstances.