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August 28, 2020
Date of Event:


Pro Athletes And Local Teens Replace Liquor Store WithFresh Food, Flowers, And Hope.

Duringlife’s difficult moments, many people find that helping others is the only wayto alleviate their own fear and anxiety.In the wake of George Floyd’s death andat the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Austin, Chicago-based youth group ByThe Hand Club reached out to NFL linebacker Sam Acho to help form “healingcircles” for local teens.Sam agreed, plus he took his participation a stepfurther by recruiting other players and alumni from the Chicago Bears, ChicagoBlackhawks, Chicago Bulls, Chicago Cubs, and Northwestern University. On June4th, the professional athletes met with dozens of Chicago teenagers to discusscurrent events and create a plan for a brighter future.The teens were intent ongiving back to their communities and contributing to the well being of theirneighbors in a meaningful way. During their discussion they noted how difficultit is to access fresh foods in their section of the city. While there aredozens of liquor stores in the area, grocery stores and farmer’s markets arehard to find.

Thebuilding right next door to the By The Hand Club housed a now-vacant liquorstore. The store had been looted by rioters and was closed, so Sam and his NFLfriends reached out to the owner and raised $500,000 to purchase the lot. Theydemolished the store and turned it into a youth-led open-air marketplace calledAustin Harvest.Austin Harvest is a 12-week entrepreneurship program thatprovides local high school students with work and on-the-job experience whilealso providing their community with fresh produce, locally-sourced flowers, andother healthy products. “Ten students are participating in a 12-weekentrepreneurship program where they are learning everything about starting abusiness from architectural design to customer service,” By The Hand Club wroteon Facebook. “The students are receiving an educational stipend for theirparticipation and are also learning banking, money management, and budgetingskills.”

The open-air marketplace aims to become more than aplace to buy fruits and vegetables. They erected a wooden stage and hope tohost local musicians, spoken-word poetry nights, and cooking demonstrations.Most importantly, the teens involved are getting to see the real-world resultsof turning their idea into a reality. They’ve also gotten to see firsthand howcrucial it is to bring hope to people who are struggling.

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