Chicago Help Initiative feeds more than hunger - FOX 35 News Orlando

Chicago Help Initiative feeds more than hunger

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The Chicago Help Initiative has been going strong for 14 years.

The holidays are tough for the people they reach out to, but this warm meal isn't just about feeding an empty stomach.

The Chicago Help Initiative was started by Jacqueline Hayes, a real estate broker in downtown Chicago.

"I'd be showing spaces along Michigan Avenue, retail spaces on Michigan Avenue and I had to climb over the bodies or ask them to leave because I didn't want the out of state or out of country retailers to see what was going on, on the avenue. It dawned on me that I'm embarrassed about what's happening, but I should do something about it," Hayes explained.

The organization has been providing help since 1999, one part of which is the weekly dinners it provides, with help from local restaurants, hotels and businesses.

But this dinner isn't just about the food.

"To me it means being around people who are as close to me as family and friends," Vernon Esmond, a guest of the weekly dinner said.

Bryan Lanik, who has been attending the meals for over a year, echoed Esmond's thoughts saying, "This does become a second family to you. You know, all the volunteers, I mean it's just it makes you strive to be a better person."

Hearing that is gratifying for Hayes and the hundreds of volunteers."I'm so pleased that they realize that there are other people that care about them, that there are other people that are willing to help them if they help themselves."

The Chicago Help Initiative also provides its guests with things like a jobs list and even blood pressure screenings.

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