Mike Kincaide has fond memories of playing at street festivals and block parties when he was growing up in Englewood. The St. Rita’s High School alumnus now lives in Andersonville, but he has roots in Englewood and his mother still lives there.

But things have changed, he said, and the difference between his North Side home and the neighborhood where he grew up are stark. There’s no gyms, and few options for healthy food, he said.

“It bugs me a lot that I can go home to see my mom, and don’t have the same things I would have if I were to go back to Andersonville,” he said.

It gnawed at him. One night, he was up late, scrolling and searching online for ways to help his mother and her home, which was falling down.

That’s when he found I Grow Chicago and its mission to foster justice and wellness. The Peace House was just minutes away from where his mother lived.

“They’re doing so much – they’re washing clothes, they’re helping people have food,” he said. “That could one day be my family who needs help.”

“My mom does so much – she’s a superwoman – she does so much for other people, but one day, she could be one of those people who needs food.”

He saw that their food pantry was in need, and within weeks, he planned a fundraiser.

“I never want their food pantry to be empty ever again,” he said.

That was a year and a half ago. Since then, he’s planned more than half a dozen fundraisers, and is the founder of Peace Fest, now in its second year. He is also helping organize I Grow Chicago’s first gala this November.

“I wanted people to come and never be told ‘no’ if they needed a bus pass or they needed something,” he said. “Someone’s going to need something, and I don’t want you to ever say ‘no.’”

He also coaches middle school basketball between working for the Chicago Cubs.

What makes it worthwhile is the change he sees in others’ lives through I Grow Chicago: students who were accepted into college thanks to help on an essay, or a resume revision that unlocks a job.

His mother, too, has blossomed at I Grow Chicago with new friends and activities.

“You can see that she’s proud of what I’m doing, and that means a lot to me,” he said.

But it’s also his way of stepping up for the community he grew up in.

“This is my way of helping other people, and my family, and the community,” he said.