Jermaine Jordan had already accomplished more than most could ever dream of, even if recent developments weren’t going in his favor.
Already a successful business owner of both a car wash and dealership, he was looking to expand his horizons by opening a seafood restaurant.
Unfortunately, however, all his best-laid plans fell through, leaving him to contemplate his next move. He didn’t have to wait long.
At 12:00 in the morning, God spoke to him.
“I was asleep by then, and in my dream I was in the restaurant supply store picking up food for it. Then God spoke to me and told me that I was going to open up a restaurant, and the meals were all going to be absolutely free,” said Jermaine. “And my first thought was, ‘Man, absolutely free!?’ I had no idea what I was supposed to do.”
He didn’t waste any time. “I first tried an online GoFundMe, and that didn’t really work well right away. So I had to open it by using my own money, along with a bit of help from donations through a cash app and Venmo.”
Free Hot Meals Was Born
Jermaine christened his new restaurant, what else, Healthy Hot Free Meals. The name says it all. Currently, they produce approximately 700 meals a day, and true to God’s will, they’re all completely free.
For Jermaine, the desire to give back comes naturally.
“Even before the restaurant I always wanted to help others,” he said. “My dad was a chef so I learned how to cook a few things, and even at nine and 10 years old I made it a point to go feed the homeless, the seniors. I knew they didn’t have microwaves or anything to warm it up, I so I wanted my meals to be hot. I felt good to think that the seniors and the homeless knew, no matter what, I was going to be there to feed them.”
Today, that Healthy Hot Free Meals is open seven days a week and employs 14 people — but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. They also pass out gift cards, shoes, socks, clothes, pizza, groceries, anything that might be of use.
Hotels for the Homeless
In extreme cases, Jermaine also offers to put the homeless up in hotels around the area, completely free, while keeping them fed with three hot meals a day.
“Last year, just as I was starting really get into this, I was going to feed the homeless about three or four times a week. One day during the Polar Vortex saw this guy freezing. Forty-eight hours later, when I went back to feed him, the police and ambulance were there. They told me he froze to death. I told myself then that the next time I see something like that, I want to put them in a hotel where they won’t have to deal with something like that.”
This act of giving has become particularly valuable in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen several homeless shelters in the Chicago area shut their door for fear of outbreaks. Seeing the trouble, Jermaine even rented two buses to pick the homeless up and chauffeur them to their lodgings.
Jermaine’s generosity even extends to his dealership, where he has given around 15 vehicles to those who were the victims of a carjacking.
His efforts have had an incredible effect on his Chicago community, and many have also been inspired to help out his cause. A few even decided to become a part of Jermaine’s team after being homeless themselves.
“One guy, Jerome, he’s been with me since I first opened,” he said, citing one example. “He was homeless, and after feeding him I said that I was going to hire him, and he’s been with me ever since. I also helped him get a studio apartment and help him pay the bills.”
With Healthy Hot Free Meals vans a regular site at the local homeless encampments, the number of lives that Jermaine and his team has saved is nearly incalculable, but undeniably significant. In some cases their actions meant, quite literally, life or death.
In one particular instance, Jermaine pulled a homeless man on the brink of death from his frozen, snow-covered tent and carried him on his back to his van, where he drove him to the hospital.
“I tried to talk to the guy in the tent to see if he wanted to come out, if he needed anything, and I could her him inside. The way he was talking, he sounded like he was delirious. So I pulled him out. All he said was, ‘Don’t leave me,’ so I didn’t. I told him I was right there with him.”
Eye on the Future
With both Healthy Hot Free Meals and his hotel being such a resounding success, Jermaine is wasting no time trying to expand his operation. His current plan is to acquire a local 14-unit building and renovate it to accommodate as many people in need as it can comfortably hold.
“Each apartment, I could put maybe two bunks beds in each room, where families might be able to have spaces by themselves. If I could raise some money and fix it up, I’d keep it running eight days a week!’” To date, his GoFundMe has raised over $255,000.
“Man, it makes me feel good,” said Jermaine when asked how looking at all the good he’s done makes him feel.
“I know what it’s like to be poor, to grow up in the Projects. I grew up with Mom, Dad, and 19 siblings in our house, and with all us living together we had to put beds in our closets. So I know what it really means to share.”
While Jermaine has accomplished so much in such a short time, he remains humble, thankful for all that God does, and insists that anyone can help make the world better.
“When you open yourself up to it, open yourself to giving,” he said, “you want to do it every day.”
To donate to Healthy Hot Free Meals, visit their website or Jermaine’s GoFundMe page.
You can also donate using these apps. CashAPP $freefood4100. ZELLE/ Venmo 773-575-1745.
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