Skip to contents
Englewood, Chatham

Family Gets New Apartment After Losing Everything In Auburn Gresham Fire: ‘I Feel Like I’m Dreaming’

A family displaced by last month's Vincennes Food Mart fire got a new home.

Ieshia Rodgers takes in her new, furnished apartment as Digs With Dignity volunteers look on.
Jamie Nesbitt Golden/Block Club Chicago
  • Credibility:

SOUTH SHORE — Ever since a fire destroyed her Auburn Gresham home, all Iesha Rodgers has wanted is a bed of her own in a home of her own.

For the last month, Rodgers; her partner, Frank; and their three children have crashed on the couches and floors of various relatives, thankful to have a roof over their heads but missing home.

On Juneteenth, home found them.

A nonprofit helped the family of five find a new home and furnishings. As Rodgers opened the door to her new South Shore apartment, feelings of anxiety gave way to joy. There’d be no more worrying about overstaying her welcome or wondering which relative could take her in for the night.

“I can’t believe it. I just can’t. I feel like I’m dreaming,” Rodgers said. “I’m so grateful.”

Rodgers lost everything in the fire that destroyed the Vincennes Food Mart, 400 W 79th St., last month. She remembers the night in flashes: the heat emanating from her bedroom floor so intensely it forced her back into the bed, the frightened faces of her boys, the frantic dash to alert her neighbors.

They escaped with only the clothes on their backs.

Credit: Jamie Nesbitt Golden/Block Club Chicago
Rodgers’ sons, Isalita (background), Darrell (foreground) and Jarrell (right) check out their new bedroom.

Catholic Charities was one of the first organizations to reach out to Rodgers and the other people who were displaced. The group connected her to Digs With Dignity, a nonprofit that provides furnishings to families transitioning out of homelessness.

Digs With Dignity volunteers sat with Rodgers, compiling a wishlist for her and her sons. Rodgers didn’t quite know what to expect. While she was grateful for the help, she also had a laundry list of other worries, employment chief among them. At the time of the fire, she had been out of work for a while, and not having a permanent address would only complicate her job search.

Good news came on that front, too: A relative employed as a home health aide referred Rodgers for a position, and last week she received a call she’d been hired.

Credit: Jamie Nesbitt Golden/Block Club Chicago
Rodgers collapses on her new bed as Kim Hannay, Digs With Dignity co-founder, comforts her.

“People kept telling me that God closes one door so that a bigger one opens,” Rodgers said. “I had to keep believing that something good would happen. And it did.”

Before the big reveal of the apartment Friday, a team of over a half-dozen Digs With Dignity volunteers picked up the keys to Rodgers’ new home and got to work, transforming a set of empty rooms into a place that could be called “home.” Toys, books and bunk beds were set up for the boys; for mom, there was a comfy, queen-sized bed, a chest of drawers and something else she didn’t expect to see: teddy bears.

Rogers had lost her collection in the fire.

“They remembered,” Rodgers said, fighting back tears.

To help other families in need, you can volunteer or donate to Digs with Dignity here.

Credit: Jamie Nesbitt Golden/Block Club Chicago
A Digs With Dignity interior designer works with families to execute their vision, right down to the placement of the serving tray and the books and mugs atop.

Do stories like this matter to you? Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.

Already subscribe? Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation.