EV Dream Center helps people in need in many ways - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

EV Dream Center helps people in need in many ways

July 22nd, 2022 SanTan Sun News
EV Dream Center helps people in need in many ways

By Ken Sain
Staff Writer

Jovani Cedeno didn’t have to look far to find the inspiration for the nonprofit that he and his half-brother, Dan Gonzalez, started in Chandler.

It was their mother.

“I took my mom out once when we went door knocking, and she got teary because I was giving them the spiel of what we’re doing here,” Cedeno said.

“And she says, ‘Man, if someone came to my door, and told me, they’re going to pick you up from school, they’re going to feed you. You’re getting in sports, you’re doing counseling, and they’re dropping you off. I would have signed all five of you up really quick.”

Cedeno and Gonzalez started the East Valley Dream Center just before the pandemic began. Their goal was to help people get off of government assistance and to become thriving members of the community.

“So my brother and I, we grew up with inner city, Chicago, single mom and all that and welfare, public aid, Section 8, and very poor and just kind of grew up in inner city noticing how she struggled. We chose not to [get involved with] the gangs, the drugs and we wanted to grow up and do something in the community.”

Gonzalez moved to Chandler and Cedeno soon followed. They wanted to do something to help those in the community, but figured how much help was really needed in the Chandler-Gilbert area.

“But then we found [problems in] the downtown Chandler area,” Cedeno said. “And so we had to do something. So three years ago, it was him, myself and a friend, we got together in my living room and say, let’s just start a nonprofit up.”

They went to Costco and bought some food and then went to a park to hand it out to folks in need.

“It kind of grew from there,” Cedeno said.

They were soon hosting block parties in parks and attendance was growing. But then the pandemic struck and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said block parties were no longer a good idea.

“But we didn’t want to stop,” Cedeno said. “So, we kind of went back to the drawing board.”

They decided to knock on doors, mostly in public housing complexes.

“It was incredible,” he said. “We got to know these families.”

All of this was before they qualified for any grants, so they were managing on about $1,000 a month in donations. The door knocking became so successful, they now are getting grants and are much more sophisticated in what they offer.

First, they have their own app. It allows the people they help to let them know what household goods they need and which they don’t.

They also have a center on Pecos Road where they hold financial literacy courses, teaching people how to manage their money. They pay people who attend the four courses to encourage them to stick with it.

The East Valley Dream Center also gets to know the children, and develops programs for them. There are classes during the week, and then group outings, including going to see a movie.

The City of Chandler recently awarded a block grant of $10,000 to the East Valley Dream Center.

They have become such an important part of the community, Cedeno says the schools will often call them when there is a problem with one of the students in their program.

“When the school has a hard time, they contact us saying, ‘Can you really go knock on the door, because they don’t trust the individual on our end.’ And so that’s a service we’re taking pride in.”

Cedeno says he is proud of how the nonprofit that he and his brother started has grown. He’s also proud that the children in their program can look at him and see a Latino man with tattoos is able to succeed and give back to his community.

And they may have the coronavirus pandemic to thank for their growth.

“You know, if it wasn’t for that, we still would have been doing the block parties and all that,” he said.

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