Former Bears linebacker Sam Acho helping turn West Side liquor store into food mart

Sam Acho is on mission to make a difference.

The former Bears linebacker raised $500,000 to buy Belmonte Cut Rate Liquors on the West Side with the help of Chicago athletes like Mitch Trubisky, Jonathan Toews, Lucas Giolito, Jason Heyward, Diamond DeShields and others.

Acho and his group of supporters started to demolish the building Tuesday with plans to turn it into a grocery store. The surrounding South Austin neighborhood is considered a food desert. It has 17 liquor stores but only two grocery stores in a half-mile radius.

The inspiration for the project came from listening circles with the kids at the By The Hand Club, who talked about their dreams for a better Chicago. The new store will be operated in partnership with the same BTH non-profit, which is located nearby.

“There’s 13 and 14 and 15-year-old young black kids who can’t speak up for themselves right now. We need the Superintendent, we need the pro athlete, we need the TV personality, we need the politician to come and speak up for them,” Acho remarked recently on GN Sports: Voices for Change special. “If one of those groups aren’t doing it, the other group has to speak up more.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell were also on hand, personally invited by Acho, to show the community what change can look like.

“If we can get everyone on the same page, specifically in Chicago, specifically on the South Side and West Side of Chicago, then we’ll see a huge change. We are on the verge of that. We’ve been in the community the last couple years.”