Derrick Walton knows what it feels like to be homeless, sleep in abandoned cars and not have enough, if anything, to eat. Therefore, when he established Chef D’s Rock Power Pizza in January 2014 in Des Moines, Iowa, he pledged to shut down his restaurant once a week to help in feeding the homeless.
Although Walton can’t really afford to close his restaurant one night a week, he continues to do so to make sure anyone who needs food can get it – for free.
On April 2, 2014, Walton was invited on the Ellen Degeneres Show and she gave him $10,000 for his cause. Ellen has been partnering with Bank of America to highlight people who give back to their communities. When she heard of Walton, she was touched by his story and wanted to help him get the word out about his restaurant.
Walton grew up in Detroit in a household of eight kids and he learned to cook from his mother. After going to culinary school, Walton said he made some bad choices that landed him homeless.
“It put me in a position where I needed help from others, but the doors were always closed,” he recalls. “I made a promise that if I ever got in a position where I could help somebody, I would give something back.”
After saving up money from a dish washing job and later a line cook, Walton was able to open Chef D’s Pizza. And now, the $10,000 check from Ellen will help him continue to be able to keep his doors open for the homeless on Monday nights.
Iowa is home to almost 3,000 homeless people. The state has a poverty rate of 12.7%. With poverty often comes food insecurity and Walton is doing a small part to alleviate hunger in the homeless population of Des Moines.
– Haley Sklut