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Johnson made a hundred dollars a week selling the daily news. He spent most of his work days at a train platform, but every
Sunday he’d sell from the stand. This proved to be quite the endurance test in the frigid mornings of winter – the paper-thin
walls lacked any kind of insolation.
After speaking with Johnson’s boss, who agreed the over 40-year-old stand was in dire need of renovation, Garrido spent the
better part of 2017 attempting to track down the owner and get the ball rolling on fixing the place up. He didn’t have much luck in
either endeavor. So in late October, he took to Facebook Live and asked for the help of the community to give Johnson a better
place to work and make the newsstand a symbol of the neighborhood’s pride.
In the 15 years he’s spent in Gladstone Park, Garrido has found the tight-knit community is always willing to come together to do
good. They’ve helped him with many CPD initiatives, like sending care packages to the troops. And they’ve helped him with the
good work he does off duty, like the Garrido Stray Rescue Foundation – an organization he started a few years ago that
reunites lost dogs with their owners or finds new homes for the abused or abandoned. Despite this, he was surprised and
slightly overwhelmed by the avalanche of support he received after posting the Facebook video.
“It took off like crazy,” Garrido said. “All of the sudden I got messages from a bunch of people who really wanted to volunteer.”
Nearly everything required for the job – shingles, screws, nails, paint – was donated. A carpenter volunteered to put the
newsstand together. Many local businesses got involved – resulting in reduced costs for lumber and volunteers to fix the roof
and install insulation. A number of Chicago organizations donated funds to the project. And a fellow cop, Peter Bucks, painted
two murals for the exterior walls as a celebration of the community – depicting Anthony selling newspapers to different residents
of Gladstone Park, which many first responders and city workers call their home. Garrido reached out to the local schools and
plans to hold contests to determine which students get to paint a third mural for the stand, which will be switched out with a new
winner every few months.
“That newsstand went from falling apart to done and pristine within a matter of three weeks,” Garrido said. “And it’s a solid tank
now; it’s really put together.”
‘HE’S NOT ASKING FOR ANYTHING’
As Garrido worked on the newsstand, he got to know Johnson, whose infectious smile and friendly demeanor made it hard for
Garrido to guess how deeply he was struggling.
“He couldn’t be more humble, he’s not asking for anything,” Garrido said. “Sometimes it’s like pulling teeth trying to get information out of him.”
During one of their conversations, Garrido discovered Johnson was homeless – for over a decade, selling papers was his only
source of income. He’d been sleeping in the newsstand. After further discussion into his history, Garrido also found out Johnson
was an Air Force veteran.
“I’d talked to him on and off for over a year, but that was when I first learned that he was actually homeless,” Garrido said. “And
he’s homeless I think just because things got away from him. Something happened at some point in his life that sent them in this
direction where he just doesn’t have enough to get by. He doesn’t appear to exhibit any kind of mental illness. He doesn’t
appear to be an alcoholic or a drug user. He’s never been arrested. He just got somehow turned in the wrong direction and just
hasn’t been able to get back on top of it again.”
Garrido’s mission immediately shifted. He set up a Gofundme for Johnson to put a roof over his head. Once again, the
community stepped up – donating money, groceries, and warmer clothes for Johnson. After temporarily getting him a room at a
hotel, Garrido found housing for Johnson that’s paid for through the donations. Garrido sees it as a positive first step in an
ongoing mission to give the hard-working Johnson a better life.
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