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

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.

Venture Desire Fridge, an outdoors public refrigerator with fresh vegetables, fruits and bottles of water, in the 5600 block of south Racine in Chicago, April 26, 2022. (Antonio Perez, Chicago Tribune/TNS)

(Tribune Information Company) — Dion Dawson’s early existence might have been crammed with poverty, hardship and bouts with homelessness, but his last two many years have been very little shorter of meteoric.

In early 2020, Dawson was living in his auto and doing the job overnights at an Amazon facility to enable several relatives users pay back costs in the midst of a pandemic. But by the conclusion of 2021, subsequent the loss of life of George Floyd, he experienced began a nonprofit aimed at getting rid of meals insecurity and acquired general public recognition in his endeavours to deliver an oasis in a food desert.

This thirty day period, Dawson, 34, was a person of 18 folks from all-around the globe to be chosen for the highly coveted Echoing Environmentally friendly fellowship, which will assistance fund his initiatives: Job Dream Fridge, a local community fridge in the heart of Englewood where inhabitants accessibility new fruit and veggies stocked day-to-day, and Desire Deliveries, which delivers cost-free foodstuff to households across the town and suburbs.

“I’ve been blessed to be able to live presently in the second,” Dawson instructed the Tribune. “When you come from a track record where by your spouse and children has struggled, in which you have to worry about wherever your next food will come from, it feels great to really live in that second and be in a position to relish in the simple fact that working day-to-working day operations are safe.”

Echoing Environmentally friendly is a corporate backed nonprofit that identifies long term leaders who have proven daring or progressive difficulty fixing in topics ranging from health and fitness, human rights, poverty and racial justice. Former Initial Lady Michelle Obama was a fellow in 1991.

Environmentally friendly fellows obtain an $80,000 stipend around 18 months and Dawson explained he would use his new funding to increase his meals delivery service, which has arrived at as significantly north as Evanston and west as Schiller Park. He options to increase throughout Cook County. He’s looking towards bigger ambitions, with every million dollars elevated currently being utilized to feed 1,000 households in a 50-mile radius.

“Echoing Eco-friendly listened to me, listened to my thoughts on where I think we have the finest influence in changing the narrative in food insecurity,” he explained, “and this is about finding to the root of the problem and where food stuff insecurity is any where, not just in Englewood.”

The subject of food items insecurity has a deep private resonance for Dawson, the youngest of four sons raised on the streets of Englewood by their solitary mother. He lived significantly of his youthful life in homelessness as his mom struggled with material abuse. Nevertheless, homelessness didn’t end Dawson from finishing university, graduating from Holmes Elementary and Gage Park High schools.

Following returning from a 6-yr stint in the U.S. Navy, Dawson identified himself homeless once again, dwelling in his car, declaring he had a tough changeover back again to civilian lifetime.

Dawson’s everyday living took an unpredicted detour in May 2020 following the dying of George Floyd. A local community member asked Dawson to do anything for his neighborhood in recognition of Juneteenth, an African-American holiday that obtained widespread guidance pursuing Floyd’s dying at the arms of Minneapolis police. “I stated I’m heading to feed 100 households,” Dawson recalled.

What followed was a whirlwind that integrated two effective crowdfunding strategies to invest in contemporary fruits and vegetables for families and the start of his personal nonprofit, Dion’s Chicago Aspiration. That exact 12 months, Dawson and his wife were being surprised by discuss show Ellen DeGeneres with a $25,000 look at on her display for his community perform.

Dawson claimed a genuine level of delight is that his plan has developed from 30 households to 250 and that his corporation of 5 owns its delivery motor vehicles and pays the crew a living wage.

Dawson said he remains dedicated to feeding persons “no make a difference exactly where they are. No matter if they are in Streeterville, Englewood, West Pullman. Meals insecurity does not look like a sure particular person and it doesn’t occur in a specific neighborhood.”

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