Robert Magiet, a Chicago restaurant owner of TaKorea Cocina started buying Tamale – a traditional Mexican dish, made of masa or dough from the local vendors, thus helping them and feeding the homeless.
Last Friday morning, Robert Magiet was driving through Humboldt Park. It was very cold outside when he noticed a woman selling tamales.
“She looked like she had five layers of clothing on,” Magiet said. “I said, ‘Can I buy all your tamales and you can go home?’ She had maybe 10 dozen on her.” She agreed to it and he took the bags of tamales and distributed them to people staying in nearby homeless encampments.
And that’s how an unplanned tamale crusade began.
He posted a selfie with the tamale vendor that afternoon on Facebook. The post states as “Anyone know of any Tamale Cart vendors that will be out this weekend in the cold weather?” he wrote. “I went to Yolanda near Humboldt Park and bought her out so she could go home today. I’d love to do the same for other Vendors and distribute the Tamales to our Neighbors experiencing homelessness. Let me know of any leads please.”
Soon after he posted, he got responses on Facebook. His Facebook friends suggested various vendors and corners. He also shared a similar post on a few other Facebook pages.
“You have to remember some of these vendors are used to selling 30 dozen tamales a day. But not many people are leaving their house right now. For months they’re standing out there not selling that many tamales,” Magiet said.
On Saturday, he bought out all the tamales from Belmont and Kimball, the next day from Sacramento and Fullerton and the next day from Armitage and Kimball.
Suddenly he realized that he needed to arrive at 5:30 a.m. to increase the number of tamales he could purchase from vendors and distribute among the needy.
For over a week, Magiet has been purchasing cartloads of tamales from vendors in the Logan Square, Humboldt Park and Avondale neighborhoods.
Robert Magiet owns TaKorea Cocina, a small cafe in Ukrainian Village. His restaurant was one of the city’s first host sites for a Love Fridge that arrived in June. It is one of more than a dozen community refrigerators around Chicago that are stocked with healthy food for anyone in need to take for free.
“I’m not trying to save the world. I’m just trying to help people who need food. If I have the ability to go help somebody, I’m just going to go help somebody. To me, it’s literally that simple. With each day’s bounty, the goods were dropped off at local shelters,” Magiet said.
He distributes tamales to different Love Fridges around the city, Breakthrough Urban Ministries in East Garfield Park and Franciscan Outreach’s homeless shelter in North Lawndale.
“If somebody in our neighborhood is struggling, we all struggle, that’s how I feel,” Magiet said.
Reginald Hammond, Women’s Food Coordinator of Breakthrough Ministries, says he is thankful for Magiet’s generosity. It’s their appreciation that keeps him going most days, says Magiet.
The one man’s tamale crusade has allowed dozens of vendors to get off the cold street so they can be home in warmth.
“Why not help others?” Magiet said. “We’re all neighbors. We’re all Chicagoans.”