Formerly homeless Navy vet and Englewood native receives $80K to expand healthy food delivery

Dion Dawson’s early lifetime may possibly have been stuffed with poverty, hardship and bouts of homelessness, but his last two several years have been absolutely nothing limited of meteoric.

In early 2020, Dawson was functioning overnights at an Amazon facility to help quite a few relatives users spend payments in the midst of a pandemic. But by the conclude of 2021, subsequent the death of George Floyd, he experienced started off a nonprofit aimed at doing away with meals insecurity and earned public recognition for his endeavours to give an oasis in a meals desert.

This month, Dawson, 34, was one particular of 18 folks from close to the world selected for the very coveted Echoing Environmentally friendly fellowship, which will assist fund his initiatives: Venture Dream Fridge, a group refrigerator in the heart of Englewood where people obtain new fruit and greens stocked day-to-day, and Aspiration Deliveries, which provides totally free foods to homes across the metropolis and suburbs.

“I’ve been blessed to be able to stay presently in the moment,” Dawson explained to the Tribune. “When you come from a track record exactly where your family members has struggled, in which you have to worry about exactly where your future meal will occur from, it feels very good to in fact are living in that minute and be equipped to relish in the truth that day-to-working day operations are secure.”

Echoing Environmentally friendly is a company backed nonprofit that identifies long run leaders who have proven bold or modern problem resolving in subjects ranging from well being, human rights, poverty and racial justice. Former to start with woman Michelle Obama was a fellow in 1991.

Inexperienced fellows get an $80,000 stipend above 18 months and Dawson reported he would use the money to broaden his meals supply provider, which has arrived at as significantly north as Evanston and west to Schiller Park. He strategies to grow all through Cook County. He’s wanting towards loftier goals, with every single $1 million lifted currently being used to feed 1,000 family members in a 50-mile radius.

“Echoing Green listened to me, listened to my thoughts on where I consider we have the ideal impression in transforming the narrative in food insecurity,” he claimed, “and this is about receiving to the root of the difficulty and exactly where food items insecurity is any where, not just in Englewood.”

The matter of food items insecurity has a deep individual resonance for Dawson, the youngest of four sons lifted on the streets of Englewood by a single mom. He lived a great deal of his youthful daily life in homelessness as his mother struggled with substance abuse. Nonetheless, homelessness did not cease Dawson from ending college, graduating from Holmes Elementary and Gage Park Large faculties.

Right after returning from a six-year stint in the Navy, Dawson found himself homeless once more, residing in his car or truck, expressing he had a complicated transition back again to civilian daily life.

Dawson’s life took an unanticipated detour in May well 2020 subsequent Floyd’s loss of life. A neighborhood member asked Dawson to do anything for his neighborhood in recognition of Juneteenth, an African American holiday getaway that attained common guidance pursuing Floyd’s death at the palms of Minneapolis police. “I reported I’m likely to feed 100 family members,” Dawson recalled.

What adopted was a whirlwind that incorporated two prosperous crowdfunding campaigns to acquire fresh new fruits and greens for families and the get started of his possess nonprofit, Dion’s Chicago Dream. That exact yr, Dawson and his wife were being stunned by talk display host Ellen DeGeneres with a $25,000 check on her demonstrate for his group do the job.

Dawson explained a true position of delight is that his program has grown from 30 households to 250 and that his firm of five owns its shipping and delivery automobiles and pays the crew a dwelling wage.

Dawson mentioned he remains dedicated to feeding persons “no make a difference the place they are. No subject if they are in Streeterville, Englewood, West Pullman. Foodstuff insecurity doesn’t look like a sure man or woman and it doesn’t appear in a selected community.”

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