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North Lawndale Church Feeding People With Food, Life Skills, Educational Opportunities And Legal Help

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The latest census data available online shows nearly half of North Lawndale residents live in poverty.

But as Morning Insider Marissa Parra showed us Friday, one church is working to arm residents with both food and life tools.

They say you need to walk a mile in someone else's shoes to understand them. But here, all you need to do is walk inside. What people were feeling when they showed up to Jesus Word Center Church in North Lawndale was hunger.

"We offer what we call 'felt needs', what the community feels," said Pastor Maddie Phillips.

So every Thursday, the church gives away bags of food.

"It's hard to find vegetables in this neighborhood," said participant Dion Jackson. "I was actually homeless for some years."

There was also hunger for some change. Ronald Wilson was hungry for a new life.

"I was on the streets of Chicago. I was on drugs. I was using every drug you could think of," Wilson said. "They helped me get my high school diploma."

Now full in every way. Wilson is married, housed and a volunteer himself. From fulfilling dreams to filling pantries, it's one part of the mosaic of filling needs.

"We have a after school program, we also assist with rental programs ," Phillips said. "They're going to start a garden planted in the spring."

She's already planting seeds for a new house across the street. It's one that would offer help for young mothers caught in the prison cycle. Because if there's one thing they've taught here, it's that cycles can be broken."

"We have a high school diploma program. We have a legal clinic that helps with civil matters. We also have a food pantry," Phillips said. "We have a after school program. We also assist with rental programs. We're going to start a garden planted in the spring, we were granted an award from AARP, we're planning collard greens, cabbage, cucumbers, tomatoes, and seniors in the community will help us plant it and one of our parishioners will teach classes how to cook."

The reentry house will be called Shammah House just across the street, and they're looking to offer parenting classes and financial literacy classes for mothers who are fresh from prison as well as housing for mother and child for 18-24 months. They're currently fundraising to meet their $400,000 goal.

"She helps kids, the homeless, drug addicts," said participant Dion Jackson. "I'm looking where I can start donating and helping them help other people, just like they helped me."

Jesus Word Center Church gives out food every Thursday and fundraising for their next reentry house has already begun. Click here for more information on how to help. Jesus Word Center is at the corner of Tripp Avenue and 13th Street.

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