CHICAGO (WLS) -- Jermaine Jordan opened the Free Hot Meals restaurant three months ago, using money from his car wash business down the street to start cooking and distributing free food in Garfield Park.
"We just providing now a new model of empathy, of kindness to give back on the West Side of Chicago," Jordan said.
Over the past few months, word has spread about Free Hot Meals, where hundreds of people gathered outside on New Years Eve. Inside the restaurant, Jordan's staff prepared hundreds more meals to hand out, along with groceries, clothing, and gas cards.
Jordan opened the space just 3 months ago, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. He plans to keep the restaurant open for as long as he can, citing the food insecurity in his community.
"We don't have fresh fruits or vegetables here, and it's a food desert around here, they closed down the big grocery stores," Jordan said.
Jordan is also fundraising for the restaurant through a GoFundMe, which has already raised nearly $50,000 toward a total goal of $250,000.
According to one of the managers, Tracy Johnson, Free Hot Meals has distributed nearly 800 meals a day - driving them to homeless shelters, encampments, senior homes, and even bringing them onto buses to hand out.
Several staff members have experienced homelessness and met Jordan while he was handing out food where they lived.
"They actually gave me a job and helped me out and actually helped me live in a hotel without me putting up no expenses," said cook Sunni Noble.
Jerome King was living in the same tent city as Noble when he heard about the potential restaurant opening.
"Mr. Jordan used to come and feed us a lot. And he promised us a job. Kept his word and he took us along with him," said King, who works as a floater, helping out wherever he's needed.
"I just love seeing people smiling. It's been a passion of mine my whole life, to help people. To me, it's like a high. I'm geeked just to see the crowd," King said.