This Thanksgiving Day, three young entrepreneurs will take to the corner of Madison and Pulaski to do what they’ve done since attending Southern Illinois University in Carbondale — help out those in need.
Austin natives Wesley Lofton, 25, and Kelvin Ison, 28, met South Sider VerShaunte King, 26, while working on a charity prom event in college. It was called Makeover My Prom and was designed to provide underprivileged female students with the prom experience of their dreams.
“I was so inspired to see them doing that, I approached Kelvin about collaboration on more things like that,” said Lofton, a rapper who goes by the name of Richie Wes. “Things went from there. This is something we wanted to do strictly for the people and our community, so we all decided not to look for sponsorships or crowdfunding. We’re doing this out of our own pockets.”
The three businesspeople started serving free Thanksgiving meals on the West Side in 2015, when they fed about 150 people. The next year, the number of people fed tripled. This year, they hope to feed up to 1,000 people with roughly two dozen volunteers. To the organizers, this is more than a charity—it’s a movement, the Everybody Eats movement to be precise.
“Our goal for next year is to hit the South Side as well,” said King, who owns her own boutique fashion company called V the Brand.
King and her two collaborators said that they want to be models to show young people that innovation doesn’t only apply to profit-making pursuits — they can also be entrepreneurial about higher pursuits, such as feeding those in need.
“We want to make our mark on the community and help people in the struggle and who need hot meals on Thanksgiving,” King said. “We thought this was a great way to serve the community and inspire people around us to get involved.”
Ison owns Telescope Entertainment, a talent management company, along with other businesses, including tax and fitness firms.
“It’s always been in me to be an entrepreneur and to do things on my own,” he said.
“Everybody is collectively bringing what they can to the table,” said Lofton. “This is power to the people. We’re just trying to do our part so that we can help those people who, on a daily basis, struggle with food and shelter.”
The Everybody Eats Thanksgiving Day meal will take place on the corner of Madison and Pulaski on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 23, 11 a.m.