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The Chicago organization Man Making a Difference (M.M.A.D) held its yearly Thanksgiving event on Tuesday. The event catered to those in need in the Lawndale community.
At the event, volunteers from multiple organizations served food to police officers and many people who stopped by. It took place in the Chicago Police Department’s 10th District station at 3315 W. Ogden Ave. People were served chicken, green beans, and cake, among other things.
The event was started by Robert “Rock” Calhoun Sr. and Willie “Bobo” Johnson, who began cooking food in their own two kitchens many years ago. Through word of mouth and donor support, they have served the homeless in North Lawndale for seven years.
Not just Thanksgiving
As the two founders put it, the Thanksgiving giveaway is meant to help anyone that needs it, and they intend to keep going until the food runs out. Then, if necessary, the organizers pack up the remaining food and travel all over Chicago, giving it out to others in need. Willie stated that “anybody that walk off the street can eat; we gone feed until we don’t have any more food.”
The group’s goal was to give back to the community in any way they could. They run events all year round. “We do this every year. We’ll be back again on Christmas.”
Members of St. Anthony Hospital also came to help out. Liz Zayas is a healthcare access manager for the hospital. St. Anthony partners with M.M.A.D to help people with mental health support and family therapy, sharing resources and services to put on events such as this giveaway. Audrey Pierce was another volunteer and is part of WECARD: Women Encouraging Men in Making a Difference. It was Jeri Budwick’s first time volunteering at this event, and she loved seeing all the people who came, saying, “they should continue to do this every year.” She is inspired to start an event of her own, just like this one.
The People Behind the Thanksgiving Giveaway
When asked what they were thankful for, many people talked about health and seeing each other after an extended quarantine. Audrey was grateful for being able to feed people in the community. She felt pride in seeing the many people who left with a meal they may not have had without the event.
Her daughter, Rosezena, was compelled to participate in the event since both her parents were involved. She is thankful for being present and being able to spend time with her extended family this Thanksgiving. Craig T. Carrington is a community organizer who was grateful for his stable well-being and being able to help out others.
Many people talked about the importance of being together as a family. As opposed to just the holidays, many emphasized meeting all year round. Rosezena is currently a lawyer in Atlanta. She makes an effort to get her family together no matter where they are. She was glad to see both sides of her family earlier this year and is looking forward to seeing them all again this Thanksgiving.
Carrington connected the stability of a family to curbing crime and mental health. Pastor Lisa of New Generation Church was happy to see people connect with their community instead of confined to their homes. “Getting a chance to see their neighbors that they haven’t seen for over a year” was essential to her.
2021 has been a tumultuous year that seemingly gets worse with every breaking piece of news. Even still, there is evidence of good being done amongst all the hardship. The giveaway was able to put some smiles on the people of Lawndale and do its part for the community at large. Everyone is grateful to Rock and the volunteers for bringing warmth to the holidays.
Written by Chiagozie Onyewuchi
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
M.M.A.D: Thanksgiving Dinner, November 23, 2021
Images Courtesy of Chiagozie Onyewuchi