Dream, delivered: Navy veteran’s works to provide food security for Chicago neighborhood

Veterans Voices

A Chicago-area Navy veteran’s dream for food security in one of the city’s most food insecure neighborhoods is becoming very real.

WGN News first met Dawson a year ago. Back then, two-months in and a $30,000 dollar budget, mostly paid out of his own pocket. His wife and mom helped stock a single fridge outside a convenience store at the corner of 57th Street and South Racine Avenue.

 When he looks back on the last year, the reasons for his drive down an unknown path are coming into focus. His dream of a community center across from that convenience store, did not materialize like he thought.

But big things did.

Dawson was invited onto the Ellen Show.  The invite spawned new life and new money into his dream.

“It totally changed the trajectory of our organization and I was introduced to a few people. And we tried to get location and we didn’t,” he said. “And so when we didn’t get it, I had to sit back for a minute and just say ‘Okay. How can we have that impact but not wait years for a brick and mortar location?’ … And that’s when I said Dream Deliveries. We’ll have a model of Hello Fresh but we’ll have the efficiency of Amazon.”

 That is Dawson’s dream today. Dion’s Chicago Dream has a single van, making hundreds of deliveries a week, which launched in February.

“It wasn’t the goal initially but it feels different,” he said. “It feels a little more special because all of us who serve, you just want that impact, you want that effectiveness, you want your other veterans, brothers and sisters to look at you and say ‘This guy was on this ship. And now he’s doing this.’”

 Steve Serck from Jab Produce and Doug Weiss are now both investing and partnering in Dawson’s dream.

“I’ve been in the food business my whole life and I figured that’s something I could get involved with so,” Weiss said. “So I gave him a call and said ‘Hey I’d like to be able to help as opposed to just donating money. I’d like to help out .’ And he said absolutely, ‘When do you want to start?’”

“Dion has done an amazing job. He works 24-7. We talk all the time,” Sereck said. “And he has a lot of love for the community and he’s just doing great work. And the more we can support him, the more he’ll be able to get done. He’s a rock star and I think we’re super happy to get to know him and be a small part of his dream.”

It’s that support that is now Dawson’s driving force toward the future. His dream is not done. A new app allows real-time tracking of deliveries — right now, to 117 households a week with plans for upwards of 1,000. 

 While Dawson ultimate dream remains that center, the road taken with door to door deliveries may just be the cornerstone he needed.

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