Kristopher Irizarry-Hoeksema, a Hurricane Sandy survivor who lost his home, stood with his friends and business partners outside a west side restaurant on Monday to kick off a Chicago effort to help other victims of the storm that caused immeasurable damage to the East Coast region.
“This idea to help the Sandy victims stems from six people and many organizations,” said Irizarry Hoeksema from the booth of Coco Restaurant, 2723 W. Division Street.
Called Chicago Cares and spear-head by Irizarry-Hoeksema along with his friends and business partners, Nick Dahlheim and Michael Romain, Chicago Cares, is working to relocate Sandy evacuees throughout Chicago south suburbs.
“Chicago Cares is relocating 50 people to homes in South Holland Matteson, Park Forest, Homewood, Thornton,” Irizarry-Hoeksema said.
Irizarry-Hoeksema made the announcement during a press conference held at the restaurant on Dec. 17. He announced also that a benefit will take place at 6 p.m., Dec. 30 at the Laugh Factory’s Chicago location, 3175 N. Broadway.
Comedian Tom Dreesen and Sara Benincasa, who is volunteering her time and talent to the cause will use proceeds from the benefit towards the relocation program at Maryville Academy, 1150 N. River Road, in Desplaines, where, housing arrangements have been made for the fifty displaced families.
“We lost a lot with our New Jersey business office for our tech-startup company, Junto3,” explained Irizarry-Hoeksema.
Others involved with the effort include, Tiffany Csaszar, Adelaid Alfieri and Suzanne Seligman-Wright.
Featured in an online Atlantic City news story, Irizarry-Hoeksema’s lays out how and his service dog Birdy walked three miles from an Atlantic City High School to a Starbucks after the storm to survey damages.
“You just sort of want to see how things are,” Irizarry-Hoeksema was quoted saying in the story. “You intersect with people here. You want to come and see that the places you go are still sort of intact.”
Irizarry-Hoeksema, who is also homeless, suffers from seizures and multiple sclerosis and is among the more than 2,000 people who rode out the storm at offshore shelters.
“I’m living with friends and will remain in the Chicago area,” said Irizarry-Hoeksema. “I was very lucky to get calls for jobs. At our business location in New Jersey, we lost two computers and a hard-drive.”
Romain said though they lost vital information for their tech-startup, the three businessmen figured the best way to help themselves, is to help others.
Irizarry-Hoeksema said Coco, a family style, Mexican restaurant, was chosen to hold the press conference as a way to show diverse communities coming together.
“Nick called us and said this would be a great place to hold the press conference,” said Zaida Munoz, a manager at the restaurant. “We’ll try to always help out with anything that’s going to help others.”
For more information about the group and their efforts, please call, (312) 204 7342.
By Deborah Bayliss