Anthony (left), a homeless veteran, handing papers out at the newsstand built through community donations in the Gladstone Park neighborhood. | Courtesy of John Garrido
What started with a rundown newsstand quickly turned into an outpouring of community support that John Garrido didn’t see coming.
Last year, Garrido noticed a dilapidated newsstand at the corner of Milwaukee and Central avenues in the Gladstone Park neighborhood in Jefferson Park and learned that it hadn’t been taken care of in more than 50 years. In the process, he met Anthony Johnson, a 59-year-old homeless veteran who sells papers at the stand and works another job, earning only $120 a week.
After learning that Johnson often had to sleep inside the newsstand because he couldn't afford a hotel room, Garrido’s focus shifted to helping both Johnson and the restoration of the newsstand.
Johnson served int he U.S. Air Force from 1979 to 1982, and Garrido said since Johnson served the country, it's the country’s turn to do the same for him.
“My desire to help Anthony is because it's the right thing to do,” Garrido said. “He is not standing on the corner asking for handouts. He is working hard to make ends meet and not asking for anything. Anthony has asked for nothing, absolutely nothing. While he is extremely grateful, he is not asking for help.”
Garrido said community response has been huge.
A local businessowner, Anthony Marino from Marino Jeep and Chrysler bought Johnson winter clothes and helped cover some of the material costs for the newsstand.
Some people donated shingles, True Value provided screws and nails, Harry’s Lumber dramatically reduced prices, Paulson Paint donated stain and brushes, Stop Leak Roofing helped put the roof on the stand — and the list goes on, Garrido said.
Organizations like the Gladstone Park Neighborhood Association andthe local chamber of commerce gave money to the cause as well.
As for Johnson, Garrido said he hopes to raise enough money through a GoFundMe account, gofundme.com/stepupforanthony, and bank account he set up at Wintrust Bank in Gladstone Park to secure Johnson living arrangements for a year.
The community has already raised enough money for a hotel room for the homeless vet for three weeks, and people have bought him groceries and clothes.
“Anthony is a really nice and humble guy,” Garrido said. “He just needs a little help to get him on his feet.”
A ribbon-cutting ceremony to unveil the newstand is scheduled for 5:30 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 16. Garrido said there will be an “art unveiling” at the ceremony, too, as the walls of the newsstand will display the works of local and student artists from now on.