In 2007 Brian Anderson encountered the same homeless man each day at an expressway exit on his way to work. One morning as he was preparing his lunch, the Lord prompted him and he decided to prepare a lunch for the homeless person too. On the second day of giving him a lunch, he greeted him with “Good Morning,” and in return the man thanked him for the lunch. He then proceeded to rave about the tomatoes included in the lunch stating that they were the best he had ever eaten and concluded by saying, “tomorrow could you put a little more mayo on my tuna sandwich?” At that point they began to talk every morning. As the weather got colder Brian would take him out and buy him a cup of coffee and they would talk about his life. Brian asked him how he dealt with the cold winters. He said that on really cold days he would panhandle for enough money to ride the “L” day and night. He felt he had made a new friend, but one day about one and a half months later the man wasn’t in his usual spot. For the next few weeks Brian would get off at different exits looking for him, but he was never able to find him. In his quest to find him, he began to notice how many homeless people there were on the streets. He felt such a burden that he prayed to God for a plan. A month later the Lord asked him about a 1000 square foot bungalow he and his wife owned and rented in Englewood. The building stood vacant, having been wrecked by the previous renters. The Lord prompted him to rehabilitate the bungalow converting it into a food pantry. Shepherds HOPE Chicago opened in March, 2009 and served supplemental food to 60 families its first day.
When the doors to Shepherds HOPE opened in 2009, there were 3 drug houses on the street and violence was almost a daily occurrence; that is no longer the case. From the beginning Brian realized it was not just about the food, but about establishing relationships and trust that lead to personal and community transformation. The guests are treated with respect and dignity. Typically they will be greeted as they wait in line by one of our leaders whose primary goal is to hear their stories, build relationships, and share the hope Christ can bring to their lives. Over time incredible relationships have been built and people return not just for the food but to find help for the struggles they face every day. The pantry has become a safe haven and children regularly stop in after school to show homework, get a treat and simply feel loved. Shepherd’s HOPE has only two paid staff people. (Many of those volunteers were among the troublemakers when the pantry first opened.) An attitude of mutual respect and positive behavior is encouraged and now the volunteers and guests even monitor those qualities among themselves when someone forgets or a new person arrives. A specific example of change occurred on November 22, 2011 when the bags of food for Thanksgiving Dinner were distributed. People began to arrive at the pantry at 6:30 am and waited patiently in a line during a 40 degree rain storm. The line extended all the way to 57th street (about ¾ of a city block – more than 350 people) by the time the food distribution began at 9:00 am. Brian walked the line and greeted each neighbor with a Happy Thanksgiving, a hug and a blessing from God. Each person returned the hug with their own gratitude and blessing. This was an unbelievable transformation from previous years. Moreover, the servant hearts of the community volunteers who also warmly greeted their neighbors throughout the day in the challenging weather were an inspiration to all. Today the neighborhood around Shepherds HOPE is a safe and more compassionate community!
Brian and his wife Laura have made huge personal sacrifices to make Shepherd’s HOPE become a reality. When Brian first proposed the idea of creating a food pantry in the bungalow they owned, Laura wondered if Brian had lost his mind and pointed out that this was one of the poorest and most dangerous areas in the country! Brian’s response: “That is what makes it so appealing to the Lord.” After months of conversation and prayer, they decided to launch their ministry to feed people and rebuild lives. As the journey has progressed, Laura also has been amazed by the transformation that has occurred in the community. Brian and Laura’s dedication and hard work have resulted in a leadership team of volunteers who help guide the organization. They have inspired many individuals to come alongside and support the ministry financially. Perhaps the best testament to Brian’s character is that he (a white man from Inverness) has been accepted by the people of Englewood as someone they trust. A man of God who trusts God totally and puts his faith in action.
With grass roots support of family and friends, small businesses and church groups, Shepherd’s HOPE has been able to provide groceries to thousands of families. The food pantry is the catalyst and Step 1 of the 5-step program that will allow them to make the Lord’s vision of transforming lives, rebuilding communities, and creating HOPE through Christ a reality.
In March of 2016, Shepherd’s HOPE will have completed 6 years of serving their neighbors in Englewood. We will have gone from serving one homeless man a homemade lunch to touching the lives of over 8,000 people a month (providing them with over 1.4 million pounds of food annually) all out of that 1000 square foot bungalow. God gets the glory!
In 2010, we started a Saturday morning men’s bible study that is still going today.
In 2011, the Lord prompted Shepherd’s HOPE to create a collaborative of like-minded ministries and call it “The Way.”
“The Way” started church services in 2011 in a rented church and today “The Way” has 2 church services a week along with 3 bible studies. This was all done to make step 2 of the 5-step program – combating lack of spiritual awareness in this community – a reality.
For more information on the 10 collaborative partners in “The Way” ministry click here.