Dayana Hernandez and her daughter, Daymar, share a moment at the Sheridan Market. (All photos by Alyssa Schukar for Nourishing Hope.)
On any given day, hundreds of people turn to Nourishing Hope’s food programs for assistance.
Each one of them has a unique story of courage, hope and resilience.
An athlete who is also a gunshot wound survivor. An addiction recovery coach who’s helping others through the same hell that she experienced. Two families of immigrants who have bonded in their new home of Chicago. A cancer survivor. A young spiritual seeker who helps others.
Those are just a few of the people who opened up in recent interviews for our blog.
We are so grateful for them — and inspired by their stories.
‘It’s still going to be a good day’
Angelo Perez was just 23 years old when he was shot in the stomach in 1991 on Chicago’s Lower West Side, an incident that would alter but not define his life. The bullet damaged his spinal cord, making it impossible for him to use his legs.
Now 55, Perez is an avid “sports enthusiast,” in his own words, a triathlete who also plays basketball, surfs and scuba dives.
“When we’re underwater, we’re all equal,” said Perez, who uses a wheelchair to get around.
Perez recently competed in the Chicago Triathlon, after training with an organization called Dare2tri, which specializes in empowering athletes of all abilities to compete in swimming, biking and racing. (Watch this inspiring WGN TV story about his training.)
Despite such accomplishments, Perez acknowledged that he still suffers from chronic pain. Some days, he doesn’t leave his basement-level apartment. But he always bounces back.
And he keeps moving.
“Being happy is a choice,” Perez said. “You can get up and stub your toe and decide it’s going to be a terrible day. Or you can stub your toe and say, OK, it’s still going to be a good day.”
Since 2018, Perez has turned to Nourishing Hope for food assistance. He enjoys the experience at Sheridan Market and has come to know some of the staff and volunteers. The healthy food that he receives — such as chicken, fish, oatmeal and fresh produce — helps him to stay in good physical condition for his athletic pursuits.
“I boast about it,” Perez said of Sheridan Market, “and I bet 90% of the people who come in will tell someone else.”
Two families from two different countries — Venezuela and Colombia — met each other along the way to Chicago, just a few months ago.
Quickly, they’ve forged a friendship and have relied on each other as they learn to navigate a new life in a new country.
“Solo tenemos tres meses aca, somos imigrantes,” said Dayana Hernandez of Venezuela, mother of three young children.
We’ve only been here three months, we’re immigrants.
As they waited to select their groceries at Nourishing Hope’s Sheridan Market, their five children laughed and posed for photos. They clambered over each other, looking at a small collection of children’s books at the pantry. They grinned at the sight of fresh fruits and vegetables — and even some sweet treats.
The parents were both excited and nervous to enroll their children in school this fall.
“We heard about this place from a neighbor,” said Dayana Hernadez of Venezuela, mother of three young children. “They said to come here for help, for food and for information.”
Johana Gonzalez and her daughter Isabella, 7, joined the Hernandez family in their journey from Falcón, Venezuela. (Johana and Dayana are cousins.) Along the way, they met Leidy Bermudez and her 11-year-old daughter Luz, who are from Colombia.
“Estamos solos, vamos con dios,” Gonzalez said of their journey to the United States.
We’re alone, we’re in God’s hands.
They all look out for each other now. It hasn’t been easy. They left behind loved ones and the familiarity of their homelands in search of a better life in Chicago.
Abdiel Hernandez, the pensive 11-year-old son of Dayana, reflected on the journey.
“For me it was hard,” the boy said. “I was crying. But today is a good day.”
‘This place is pretty much a godsend’
Richard Brudniak knows a little something about overcoming challenges.
For the past three years, he hasn’t been able to ply his trade as a tool and die maker. Instead, he’s been beset by a litany of medical challenges, including kidney cancer, blood clots and rheumatoid arthritis.
But Brudniak was all smiles on a recent late afternoon at the Hub, Nourishing Hope’s facility in Ravenswood, as he picked up his groceries through the online market distribution. He received a healthy assortment of fresh produce, dairy, meat and other groceries.
“This place is pretty much a godsend,” said Brudniak, 57, of Rogers Park.
“Look at that — it’s probably about $300 worth of groceries,” he said, gesturing to his food. “I probably wouldn’t be able to get by or pay rent without this.”
Not being able to work has been difficult for Brudniak. But as his health allows, he’s tried to stay active and take advantage of the city’s free offerings — concerts in the park, free museum days, walks along the lakefront.
He also loves to cook with the groceries he receives from Nourishing Hope. In particular, he likes making stews and baking desserts.
Before he left, he stood for a moment by the flowers, making one last important decision. He decided on some yellow roses for his girlfriend, Patrice.
‘A willingness to change’
In her own words, Lynda Moree is “from the streets.”
She knows what it’s like to struggle with crack cocaine addiction and experience homelessness. She’s served time for crimes committed, she said.
But now, at age 58, she’s been sober for 12 years. And she’s helping others get clean as a part-time recovery coach for the Campaign for a Drug-Free West Side, a nonprofit based in the South Austin neighborhood.
“There has to be a willingness to change,” Moree said. “It’s hard when you have to start over from nothing.”
With the rise in food prices and a limited income, Moree has struggled to consistently afford food. Recently, she visited Nourishing Hope’s Sheridan Market for the first time and she was impressed by what she experienced: Smiling staff and volunteers, upbeat music and robust food selection.
Good vibes all around.
She also appreciated being able to receive fresh fruit and vegetables, Moree said, because she’s working on eating healthier.
“It’s amazing,” Moree said. “Y’all’s pantry has everything. It’s the first time I’ve seen butter in a pantry in years.”
‘I want to give back’
Like many people who receive food from Nourishing Hope, Jonathain Banks also dedicates his time to helping others.
He pays it forward, volunteering with Catholic Charities to serve hot meals to people in need.
“I think it’s important to feed the poor and the hungry,” said Banks, 24. “I don’t really have an income but I want to give back.”
His spirituality informs his worldview. He is both Jewish and Catholic, he said, and is studying theology someday in hopes of someday becoming a priest or a deacon.
For now, he helps out at his family’s leather goods and fragrances store in Roger Park. At the Sheridan Market, he picked up groceries to make his favorite meal — chicken soup.
“Everyone is so sweet and kind and generous,” Banks said of the Sheridan Market. “They make sure that you get what you want.”