It all started with a simple inquiry: What’s for dinner?
Early in the pandemic, like many other Americans, Charlie Garrido and Jason Mark Roberts found themselves cooking a lot more than before. They began posting humorous minute-long videos on social media about what they were having for dinner on any given night, often co-starring their daughter Ashley. The videos were an instant hit among their family, friends and acquaintances.
“It kind of exploded,” said Roberts, 49, a real estate agent. “People would stop me in the grocery store and ask, what’s for dinner? And they’d look in my cart and try to guess. I’m like, oh my lord, this is out of hand.”
They also realized that not everyone has the privilege of choosing what to eat for dinner.
After seeing national news reports about long lines at food pantries, the couple offered to match donations to food charities if their viewers felt inspired to give. They ended up matching about $2,500 in donations to hunger relief organizations across the country, including Nourishing Hope, formerly known as Lakeview Pantry.
This Pride Month, Garrido and Roberts are taking their philanthropic efforts to another level: They are offering a $30,000 match, in partnership with the ARVD Foundation, for donations made to Nourishing Hope in the month of June. Donations directly support our mission of providing free food, mental health counseling and other social services.
Any amount helps.
“Here’s the thing — I look at Pride a little differently,” Roberts said. “I always look at Pride month as how do I get involved in my community? How do I help?”
This August, Roberts and Garrido will celebrate their 20th anniversary of being together. They were married in 2014, when same-sex marriage was legalized in Illinois.
Roberts, a former Chicago Public Schools teacher, hails from a small town in northern Kentucky. Garrido was born in Havana, Cuba; his family immigrated to the United States when he was 3 years old.
Together, they’ve seen and experienced the progress made for LGBTQIA+ equality and rights. As Roberts noted, he came out at age 18 before debut of the sitcom “Will & Grace,” which featured gay characters — a watershed cultural moment at the time.
Progress can be fragile, though. Their call to action comes at a politically fraught time when the rights of the queer community are under attack in some states, such as the passage of the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law in the Florida state legislature. It also comes when many Americans, including a disproportionate number of LGBTQIA+ people, are still in need of food assistance.
These factors have further emboldened Garrido and Roberts to be more active in their community.
“The older I get, the more activism I feel I should do,” said Garrido, 65, a financial adviser. “I can’t believe we’re still talking about this stuff. I can’t believe we’re still talking about ‘don’t say gay.’”
Their two children — Ashley, 32, and James, 34 — are both “great ambassadors for the change that’s coming,” Garrido said. The family tradition of giving back can be traced back to Florinda Alvarez de Fernandez, Garrido’s Cuban grandmother, who taught him the importance of helping those who are less fortunate.
“I feel I have to speak up,” Garrido said. “And that actions speak louder than words. This is our way, these are the actions that we think give us momentum and leverage to do good.”
After their initial fundraiser in the summer of 2020, Garrido and Roberts visited Nourishing Hope’s Sheridan Market, our bustling food pantry where people can find food, social services, mental health counseling — and even flowers.
They were impressed by what they saw.
“When we were doing those videos during the shutdown, there was so much uncertainty in the country,” Roberts said. “And there was such a feeling of almost hopelessness at times. What we love about what you do at (Nourishing Hope) is that you’re offering that hope to people, you’re offering that things do get better and they are going to get better and that you’re not alone.”
In many ways, their 20th anniversary is a milestone that reflects that same hope.
To celebrate, they’ll likely have a special meal together.
They might even post a video to share it with the rest of us.