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

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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.

Challenge Dream Fridge, an outside the house general public refrigerator with fresh greens, fruits and bottles of water, in the 5600 block of south Racine in Chicago, April 26, 2022. (Antonio Perez, Chicago Tribune/TNS)

(Tribune Information Services) — Dion Dawson’s early everyday living might have been filled with poverty, hardship and bouts with homelessness, but his very last two years have been almost nothing short of meteoric.

In early 2020, Dawson was dwelling in his automobile and working overnights at an Amazon facility to support quite a few relatives customers fork out payments in the midst of a pandemic. But by the end of 2021, next the death of George Floyd, he experienced started out a nonprofit aimed at doing away with food items insecurity and earned community recognition in his endeavours to give an oasis in a food desert.

This month, Dawson, 34, was 1 of 18 persons from about the globe to be chosen for the hugely coveted Echoing Environmentally friendly fellowship, which will assist fund his initiatives: Task Desire Fridge, a community refrigerator in the heart of Englewood where people access new fruit and greens stocked every day, and Aspiration Deliveries, which delivers no cost foods to properties throughout the town and suburbs.

“I’ve been blessed to be in a position to are living presently in the minute,” Dawson explained to the Tribune. “When you occur from a qualifications exactly where your family members has struggled, the place you have to worry about the place your future food will come from, it feels very good to actually live in that moment and be ready to relish in the fact that day-to-working day operations are protected.”

Echoing Eco-friendly is a company backed nonprofit that identifies future leaders who have shown bold or revolutionary difficulty fixing in subjects ranging from wellness, human rights, poverty and racial justice. Previous Very first Lady Michelle Obama was a fellow in 1991.

Environmentally friendly fellows receive an $80,000 stipend about 18 months and Dawson said he would use his new funding to extend his foodstuff shipping and delivery services, which has achieved as considerably north as Evanston and west as Schiller Park. He ideas to expand throughout Cook County. He’s on the lookout toward better objectives, with just about every million pounds elevated remaining applied to feed 1,000 families in a 50-mile radius.

“Echoing Environmentally friendly listened to me, listened to my concepts on the place I think we have the ideal influence in changing the narrative in meals insecurity,” he said, “and this is about finding to the root of the difficulty and where by foodstuff insecurity is everywhere, not just in Englewood.”

The topic of food stuff insecurity has a deep personalized resonance for Dawson, the youngest of 4 sons elevated on the streets of Englewood by their one mom. He lived significantly of his young everyday living in homelessness as his mother struggled with substance abuse. Even now, homelessness didn’t quit Dawson from ending faculty, graduating from Holmes Elementary and Gage Park High schools.

Following returning from a six-calendar year stint in the U.S. Navy, Dawson located himself homeless yet again, dwelling in his automobile, saying he experienced a challenging changeover back again to civilian lifetime.

Dawson’s everyday living took an unexpected detour in May 2020 following the loss of life of George Floyd. A local community member asked Dawson to do one thing for his neighborhood in recognition of Juneteenth, an African-American holiday that gained popular support pursuing Floyd’s death at the arms of Minneapolis police. “I reported I’m heading to feed 100 family members,” Dawson recalled.

What adopted was a whirlwind that incorporated two productive crowdfunding campaigns to invest in contemporary fruits and vegetables for family members and the commence of his individual nonprofit, Dion’s Chicago Aspiration. That exact same calendar year, Dawson and his wife have been stunned by discuss show Ellen DeGeneres with a $25,000 check on her clearly show for his neighborhood get the job done.

Dawson reported a authentic stage of pleasure is that his application has grown from 30 households to 250 and that his group of five owns its shipping and delivery automobiles and pays the crew a residing wage.

Dawson stated he stays dedicated to feeding people “no make a difference where they are. No make any difference if they’re in Streeterville, Englewood, West Pullman. Foods insecurity does not search like a specific human being and it does not appear in a particular neighborhood.”

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