Formerly homeless Navy veteran receives $80K to expand healthy food delivery

ByRachelle R. Sowell

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Project Dream Fridge, an outside public refrigerator with fresh vegetables, fruits and bottles of water, in the 5600 block of south Racine in Chicago, April 26, 2022.

Job Desire Fridge, an exterior public fridge with contemporary veggies, fruits and bottles of water, in the 5600 block of south Racine in Chicago, April 26, 2022. (Antonio Perez, Chicago Tribune/TNS)

(Tribune News Company) — Dion Dawson’s early daily life may perhaps have been filled with poverty, hardship and bouts with homelessness, but his past two several years have been nothing at all shorter of meteoric.

In early 2020, Dawson was residing in his car and operating overnights at an Amazon facility to assist several relatives users pay out costs in the midst of a pandemic. But by the finish of 2021, pursuing the demise of George Floyd, he experienced commenced a nonprofit aimed at removing food insecurity and acquired public recognition in his attempts to offer an oasis in a food desert.

This month, Dawson, 34, was just one of 18 people from about the world to be picked for the really coveted Echoing Eco-friendly fellowship, which will support fund his initiatives: Venture Aspiration Fridge, a local community fridge in the coronary heart of Englewood where inhabitants accessibility refreshing fruit and veggies stocked day by day, and Aspiration Deliveries, which delivers totally free foods to households across the city and suburbs.

“I’ve been blessed to be capable to are living presently in the moment,” Dawson advised the Tribune. “When you occur from a track record in which your family members has struggled, the place you have to worry about in which your upcoming meal will come from, it feels fantastic to basically live in that second and be in a position to relish in the simple fact that working day-to-day operations are safe.”

Echoing Environmentally friendly is a company backed nonprofit that identifies long term leaders who have proven bold or impressive problem solving in subjects ranging from well being, human rights, poverty and racial justice. Previous Initially Lady Michelle Obama was a fellow in 1991.

Eco-friendly fellows acquire an $80,000 stipend more than 18 months and Dawson claimed he would use his new funding to increase his foodstuff delivery provider, which has achieved as much north as Evanston and west as Schiller Park. He strategies to expand throughout Cook County. He’s hunting toward better targets, with every single million pounds lifted remaining utilised to feed 1,000 people in a 50-mile radius.

“Echoing Eco-friendly listened to me, listened to my thoughts on exactly where I imagine we have the best impression in altering the narrative in food insecurity,” he claimed, “and this is about having to the root of the challenge and in which food insecurity is anywhere, not just in Englewood.”

The subject of foodstuff insecurity has a deep own resonance for Dawson, the youngest of 4 sons lifted on the streets of Englewood by their single mom. He lived significantly of his youthful lifestyle in homelessness as his mother struggled with material abuse. Nonetheless, homelessness did not prevent Dawson from ending faculty, graduating from Holmes Elementary and Gage Park High schools.

Following returning from a 6-yr stint in the U.S. Navy, Dawson observed himself homeless all over again, dwelling in his motor vehicle, expressing he experienced a tricky changeover again to civilian lifestyle.

Dawson’s everyday living took an sudden detour in May 2020 following the loss of life of George Floyd. A local community member questioned Dawson to do a thing for his community in recognition of Juneteenth, an African-American holiday that attained common guidance adhering to Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police. “I claimed I’m going to feed 100 people,” Dawson recalled.

What adopted was a whirlwind that involved two productive crowdfunding strategies to get clean fruits and veggies for households and the get started of his very own nonprofit, Dion’s Chicago Desire. That very same yr, Dawson and his wife had been surprised by communicate show Ellen DeGeneres with a $25,000 verify on her demonstrate for his local community work.

Dawson stated a genuine issue of pleasure is that his method has grown from 30 homes to 250 and that his business of five owns its shipping and delivery autos and pays the crew a dwelling wage.

Dawson stated he continues to be committed to feeding people today “no subject wherever they are. No subject if they are in Streeterville, Englewood, West Pullman. Foods insecurity doesn’t appear like a specific human being and it doesn’t arrive in a specified community.”

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