The following is the first in a series of stories which will run in conjunction with an exciting new weekly radio program by AARP Illinois. The weekly program, called "Creating the Good," showcases the stories of inspiring older adults in Illinois, and can be heard statewide on affiliates of the Illinois Radio Network.
When her Evanston-based restaurant, Found Kitchen and Social House, was ordered to close at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Amy Morton was left with a tough choice: hit pause and wait or use the opportunity to rethink everything.
“I’m a believer in trying something new every day,” Morton says.
Hearing news of farmers dealing with lessened demand for their crops due to COVID-19, Morton and her chef, Debbie Gold, a James Beard winner, decided to scrap their entire menu, reach out to farmers and buy what they couldn’t sell. From there, the two women began to craft a new menu of farm-fresh recipes that would be offered curbside, along with a juice bar from which 100% of profits would be donated to the Black Lives Matter movement.
“We knew we couldn’t just sit and watch from the sidelines with everything going on in the world,” she says. “Every week, Debbie and I would dream up new ways to be present and do good, not just in Evanston, but in our surrounding communities and beyond.”
This also meant scaling up their work with Connections for the Homeless, a non-profit in the north suburbs that delivers essential services to people facing homelessness and housing insecurity. Through her work with the non-profit, Morton has cooked breakfast at the Lake Street Church in Evanston once a week for the last five years. During the COVID-19 pandemic, her team is there making breakfast seven days a week and dinner once a week.
Morton’s commitment helping people struggling with homelessness is nothing new. Throughout her career, she has hired people from marginalized populations get back on their feet.
“There aren’t many industries where you can break in with zero experience,” says Morton, “so the idea of hiring a dishwasher who becomes a prep cook, who then becomes a line cook, who then all of a sudden is supporting his family with a really decent paycheck – it was a natural fit. And our restaurants and our teams have been better because of it.”
For more information on ways YOU can get involved in your local community visit aarp.org/nearyou or discover opportunities to give back nationwide by visiting Create the Good.
This story is provided by AARP Illinois. Visit the AARP Illinois page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.
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