CHICAGO — He plays a hero cop on on television, but in real life Chicago native LaRoyce Hawkins may be just as heroic in person.
If you meet Hawkins, odds are he will tell you he’s living the dream.
“It was like I was blessed with a bag that had a lot of tricks in it," he said. "I just do my best.”
Born and raised in south suburban Harvey, the poet, comedian and actor may be best known for his role on the hit TV series "Chicago P.D." where he plays Officer Kevin Atwater.
But it’s his charity work behind the scenes that is also capturing an audience.
For the second year in a row, Hawkins has held the title of Celebrity Kettle Ambassador for the Salvation Army.
“He has a following and there is a community we may not have reached before, so he’s bringing a whole new audience to the Salvation Army,” Salvation Army's Jackie Rachev said.
Hawkins's Salvation Army publicity campaign was so successful it garnered him an Emmy.
But his work with the Salvation Army is just one drop in the kettle when it comes to giving back. He has plans to work on the aesthetics of his hometown community in Harvey with cleanup and eventually sculptures. He says Harvey is often portrayed in a negative light.
“It’s my assignment, in my humble opinion, to counter as much of that as I can," he said. "That's what 'Be Powerful' is here for - to add rhythm and relief to spaces that need it."
“Be Powerful!” It’s a term he coined to inspire people to do their best and overcome adversity. He credits his grandfather John with supplying that wisdom.
“He wrote me this letter that said at 211 degrees water gets extremely hot, but it doesn’t’ boil until 212 degrees," Hawkins said. "And that extra degree allows water to create steam and that steam is powerful enough to move a locomotive. So don’t be afraid to go that extra degree.”
Hawkins spreads his “Be Powerful” message anywhere he can. With permission from local municipalities, he has left his inspirational signage on garbage cans and billboards throughout the south suburbs. He even managed to have it displayed on the gymnasium wall at Dwight D. Eisenhower School in Blue Island where he mentors his niece’s basketball team.
Hawkins said he doesn’t take his success for granted and credits those who supported him.
“It’s a direct result of the way I make sure I reciprocate and pour back in the same community that makes me," he said. "The same friends and family that planted seeds in me, I take those people very seriously and I take moments seriously.”
The poet puts it another way.
“You know, if you don’t pour into a vessel or a vibe naturally, it doesn’t pour back in to you.”
LaRoyce Hawkins. One of Chicago’s Very Own.