Stories by Joanna Hernandez

West Side Produce Farm Works to Provide People With Autism Life Skills

Elvis Sanchez works in a produce farm program through Urban Autism Solutions. (WTTW News)

Urban Autism Solutions, an organization on the West Side, is working to empower young adults on the autism spectrum to learn life skills. The 1.2- acre produce farm is a hands-on program teaching young adults the basics of farming with a goal of enhancing their social and vocational skills.

El Rescate in Humboldt Park Provides Housing, Hope for LGBTQ Youth

(WTTW News)

As Pride month is being celebrated, we’re highlighting people who are making an impact within the LGBTQ community. We visited a homeless haven in Humboldt Park and spoke with a woman who helps LGBTQ youth get housing and build independence.

Pain Into Purpose: Mothers Weigh in on Ongoing Violence in Chicago

(WTTW News)

As part of a Chicago Tonight’s special series, “Turning Pain into Purpose,” we are joined by two mothers affected by gun violence to discuss the work they’re doing in the community.

Pain Into Purpose: In Search of Justice for Miguel Rios

(WTTW News)

As part of “Chicago Tonight’s” special series “Turning Pain into Purpose,” Miguel Rios seemed to be doing everything right. At 18 years old, he was going to school, had a job and was there for his brothers and sisters. But this July will mark two years since he was killed, and his family has yet to receive justice. 

Pain Into Purpose: Mother Who Lost 2 Sons to Gun Violence Seeks Answers

Maria Trujillo lost two sons within four months of each other. (WTTW News)

As part of “Chicago Tonight’s” special series “Turning Pain into Purpose,” we speak with Maria Trujillo, a resident of Little Village. Trujillo lost two sons in a year and is still searching for answers. 

Pain Into Purpose: Mother Who Lost Daughter to Gun Violence Wants to Turn Convenience Store Where She Died Into Community Hub

Nyisha Beemon holds a photo of her daughter, Jaya Beemon, who was shot and killed in February 2020. She has since started a foundation in her name. (WTTW News)

It has been more than two years since Nyisha Beemon’s daughter was shot and killed inside a convenience store. Now, she wants to purchase the store and turn it into a community hub that would offer support and counseling. 

Teens Developing Urban Design Skills While Improving Their Neighborhood

(WTTW News)

The project is part of the city’s INVEST South/West initiative and led by the Chicago Department of Transportation. The initiative works with a variety of partners to revitalize marginalized communities. 

Local Nonprofit Leader Wants to Use Healing Power of Books to Help Kids

Seena Jacob, founder of nonprofit BookWallah, reads to a group of children at a Boys and Girls Club in the North Center neighborhood. (WTTW News.)

Seena Jacob, the founder of the nonprofit BookWallah, is working to help children heal from trauma using books. She founded the organization in 2009 when she says she began to question her life’s purpose and started to visit orphanages around the world. 

‘Chicago Tonight’ in Your Neighborhood: Proposed Casino Sites

(WTTW News graphic)

Chicago has three finalists for potential casino sites, but residents of those communities have mixed feelings. Some fear a rise in crime and the impact a casino could have on neighboring small businesses. Others are hopeful it could provide good paying jobs.

Confection Connoisseurs Bid Farewell to Dinkel’s Bakery

By the looks of the lines at Dinkel’s, lots of customers are going to miss the sweetness of the bakery. (WTTW News)

It’s a bittersweet month as the Lakeview neighborhood says goodbye to Dinkel’s Bakery, a staple in the neighborhood that has been making sweet desserts for decades. 

Rogers Park Wine Business Looks to Expand Customers’ Palates While Continuing to Adapt

Liz Ahearn opened Picnic Wine and Provisions in Rogers Park seven months before the pandemic hit. (Joanna Hernandez / WTTW News)

Liz Ahearn opened her Rogers Park business, 7301 N. Sheridan Road, seven months before the pandemic hit. Like many other shop owners, she’s had to get creative. Despite the challenges, she has managed to keep her business growing. 

Families Plea for FBI Assistance in Solving Chicago Homicides: ‘CPD Has Failed These Families’

Victor Chihuake asks for the FBI to investigate the unsolved homicide of his cousin Ramiro Morales Jr. during a rally outside the Chicago FBI field office on March 22, 2022. (Joanna Hernandez / WTTW News)

Mothers and family members who are seeking justice in the killings of their loved ones stood outside the Chicago FBI field office. The rally was organized by the Little Village Community Council as a way to bring attention to unsolved homicides in the city and to ask the FBI for assistance.

Wherewithall Chef Honors Ukrainian Heritage, Grandmother Through His Menu

Chef Johnny Clark created a menu inspired by his Ukrainian heritage at his restaurant Wherewithall. (WTTW News)

Johnny Clark, chef and owner at Chicago restaurant Wherewithall, is using his culinary skills to help keep Ukrainian culture alive while at the same time raising funds for the country. 

New Podcast Series Explores Queer History With Help From Library’s Archives

Ariel Mejia, left, and Jen Dentel are co-creator of the “Unboxing Queer History” podcast. (WTTW News)

A library filled with collections of people’s stories is coming to life in a new podcast series called “Unboxing Queer History.”

21st Annual Chicago International Salsa Congress Kicks Off

(WTTW News)

After having to go virtual last year The Chicago International Salsa Congress is back this weekend. A four-day event celebrating Afro Latin music and dance. 

Clearing Couple Starts Pet Pantry to Help Those in Need

Meet a couple that used their stimulus checks to build a pet pantry to help those struggling to buy pet goods. (WTTW News)

It has become more common to see donation boxes across the city. Some are filled with books and others with canned goods. We head to Clearing to speak with a couple who has built a donation box to help those with pets. 

Local Officials Warn About Some Pop-Up COVID-19 Testing Sites

The Center for Covid Control is temporarily closing all their locations. (WTTW News)

City and state officials are advising people to be on the lookout for untrustworthy COVID-19 testing sites. What you should know before walking into a pop-up testing site. 

Demand for COVID-19 Testing Surges as Holidays Near

(WTTW News)

Pharmacies are dealing with a shortage of at-home COVID-19 tests as the demand for testing skyrockets ahead of the holidays.

Independent Humboldt Park Library Fighting to Keep Doors Open

The Read/Write Library is filled with unique publications like creative books, neighborhood newspapers and personal narratives by people who are incarcerated. (WTTW News)

For nearly 16 years, the Read/Write Library has been operating in the community, providing unique publications like creative books, neighborhood newspapers and personal narratives by people who are incarcerated. 

DuPage County Organization Seeks to Uplift Refugee Women

Josefina Rengifo (WTTW News)

Every year thousands of refugees seek asylum in the United States. Re:new is helping refugee women get back on their feet by teaching them how to become designers.

Ladies of Virtue Seeks to Empower Young Women, Prepare Them for College

(WTTW News)

Jamila Trimuel founded the nonprofit a decade ago and has made it her mission to help young Black girls go to college. “I see myself in the girls that I serve.”

Chicagoan Pours Love of Bikes, Coffee into Business

Heritage Bikes & Coffee in Lakeview (WTTW News)

Michael Salvatore, a fifth-generation Chicagoan, opened Heritage Bikes & Coffee in Lakeview in 2012. The business combines two things he loves while paying homage to his family and the city’s cycling history.

Local Chefs Work to Bring Black and Brown Communities Together

Chef Carlos Gaytán was born in Mexico and is the first Mexican Chef to win a Michelin Star. (WTTW News)

The Consulate General of Mexico has partnered with two local chefs to host a collaborative dinner to continue to build unity between Black and brown communities and work to heal divisions between cultures. 

Chicago’s Only Female-Owned, Queer-Friendly Bar Nobody’s Darling Aims to be Inclusive of Everybody

There’s a new bar in Andersonville that is one of the only bars left catering to queer women. Chicago Tonight’s Joanna Hernandez recently stopped by to learn more about the inspiration behind the bar’s name: Nobody’s Darling. (WTTW News)

There’s a new bar in Andersonville that is one of the only bars left catering to queer women. Chicago Tonight’s Joanna Hernandez recently stopped by to learn more about the inspiration behind the bar’s name, Nobody’s Darling.

Wicker Park Resident’s Passion Project Swells Into Booming Business

In 2015 Jamie Dalton started Aquarium Info, a blog to share information and tips to help others to start building their fish tanks. During the pandemic she decided to go a little further and transformed her second bedroom into a full functioning fish studio. (WTTW News)

Have you ever wanted to get a fish but had no idea where to start? We head to Wicker Park to meet Jamie Dalton, who began creating educational aquarium videos during the pandemic which led her to a new business venture.

Local Softball Player Hopes to Inspire Others, Help Women Go Pro

Abby Ramirez (WTTW News)

As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, meet a woman who is proud of her Mexican roots and shares what drove her to play professional softball.