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

(Tribune Information Support) — Dion Dawson’s early life might have been filled with poverty, hardship and bouts with homelessness, but his last two decades have been practically nothing quick of meteoric.

In early 2020, Dawson was dwelling in his vehicle and operating overnights at an Amazon facility to assist various family members members fork out costs in the midst of a pandemic. But by the finish of 2021, subsequent the demise of George Floyd, he had commenced a nonprofit aimed at reducing foodstuff insecurity and acquired community recognition in his endeavours to provide an oasis in a meals desert.

This thirty day period, Dawson, 34, was one particular of 18 men and women from all around the world to be chosen for the really coveted Echoing Inexperienced fellowship, which will assistance fund his initiatives: Challenge Dream Fridge, a community refrigerator in the heart of Englewood where citizens obtain new fruit and veggies stocked everyday, and Dream Deliveries, which provides free of charge food items to households throughout the town and suburbs.

“I’ve been blessed to be able to are living presently in the second,” Dawson advised the Tribune. “When you occur from a background exactly where your household has struggled, in which you have to get worried about exactly where your subsequent food will occur from, it feels great to really live in that second and be capable to relish in the simple fact that working day-to-working day functions are safe.”

Echoing Inexperienced is a company backed nonprofit that identifies long run leaders who have proven daring or ground breaking trouble resolving in subjects ranging from health, human rights, poverty and racial justice. Former Very first Lady Michelle Obama was a fellow in 1991.

Inexperienced fellows get an $80,000 stipend in excess of 18 months and Dawson explained he would use his new funding to broaden his foods supply assistance, which has attained as much north as Evanston and west as Schiller Park. He designs to extend throughout Cook County. He’s on the lookout toward increased plans, with each million bucks raised currently being utilized to feed 1,000 families in a 50-mile radius.

“Echoing Eco-friendly listened to me, listened to my concepts on in which I assume we have the greatest impact in changing the narrative in food insecurity,” he said, “and this is about acquiring to the root of the issue and where food stuff insecurity is everywhere, not just in Englewood.”

The topic of foodstuff insecurity has a deep individual resonance for Dawson, the youngest of 4 sons lifted on the streets of Englewood by their one mom. He lived significantly of his younger lifetime in homelessness as his mom struggled with compound abuse. Nevertheless, homelessness didn’t quit Dawson from finishing college, graduating from Holmes Elementary and Gage Park High schools.

Right after returning from a 6-year stint in the U.S. Navy, Dawson observed himself homeless yet again, living in his motor vehicle, indicating he experienced a tough changeover again to civilian lifestyle.

Dawson’s everyday living took an unanticipated detour in May 2020 following the death of George Floyd. A neighborhood member asked Dawson to do some thing for his community in recognition of Juneteenth, an African-American holiday that acquired popular help subsequent Floyd’s death at the fingers of Minneapolis police. “I claimed I’m likely to feed 100 people,” Dawson recalled.

What followed was a whirlwind that bundled two productive crowdfunding strategies to get refreshing fruits and vegetables for families and the begin of his own nonprofit, Dion’s Chicago Desire. That similar yr, Dawson and his spouse were surprised by chat show Ellen DeGeneres with a $25,000 check out on her exhibit for his neighborhood function.

Dawson claimed a serious position of satisfaction is that his application has grown from 30 households to 250 and that his firm of five owns its delivery cars and pays the crew a living wage.

Dawson stated he continues to be fully commited to feeding people today “no subject exactly where they are. No make a difference if they’re in Streeterville, Englewood, West Pullman. Meals insecurity doesn’t glance like a certain individual and it does not come in a certain neighborhood.”

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