DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — In an area considered a food desert, one organization—that typically helps people in recovery—is helping feed the community.
“This is the forgotten side of town right here,” says Jermaine Hawkins, president of the Westside Club.
Known for helping people struggling with addiction and substance abuse, the Westside Club, a nonprofit on West Second Street, is serving the community in a new way.
“Not only are we here for those with other problems like substance abuse and alcohol abuse, but we want to be here for families they represent as well,” states Hawkins.
Every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Westside Club is opening its doors, and inviting people in for a free meal. They’re working in collaboration with House of Bread to provide lunch for the community.
Hawkins has faced his own struggles with addiction. He’s now 12 years sober.
“I’ve had a pretty gloomy past,” admits Hawkins. “Got mixed up with the wrong crowd. Started doing things that caused me to end up going to prison. I’ve been to treatment centers, but the Lord has restored me. I’ve found peace, a new way to live.”
Giving a meal to those in need, Hawkins says the taste is bittersweet.
“It’s sad, but I’m glad we could provide you know a meal for the day. You know, because I know a lot of them are doing really, really bad. And you know, just can’t afford with the prices of everything going up,” states Hawkins.
Marsha Moore is one of the members of the Westside Club and is helping serve up lunch. She is celebrating more than two decades of sobriety.
“When I was in treatment, they brought us here to the Westside Club for meetings. So, when I was in treatment, I said to myself, I’m going to be one of them people that keep coming back,” says Moore.
And here she is now, giving back to her community.
“People made a difference in my life, and when I was ready to accept some help, God did for me what I couldn’t even do for myself,” states Moore.
Keith Trammell is the treasurer for the Westside Club and a representative of RAMCO, the Recovery Alliance of Montgomery County, Ohio.
“Being of service is the greatest thing that ever happened to me. Because I really, really—I’m trying not to cry. People helped me when I didn’t deserve it, and that’s what I want to do for other people,” says Trammell, tearing up. “Now I understand why they were helping me, to teach me to pass it on. And that’s what’s important to me.”
The weekly free meals are part of a recipe to help turn things around in an area that needs it the most.
“We don’t have a store, real store. We have a dollar store. And we have McDonald’s and Burger King, and Church’s,” states Trammell.
“Whatever you might be suffering or struggling with, come on down. There is a way out. There is hope. Hope is found here. This is where I found it, and I do know that it is true,” says Hawkins.