The team at I Grow Chicago had a decision to make when the pandemic hit — let it widen an already huge gap in life expectancy between those living in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood and those just a few miles away in The Loop or use it as an opportunity to figure out how to better help the neighborhood survive.
They chose survival.
“Our team has been working so hard, harder than I’ve ever seen,” says Zelda Mayer, director of development with I Grow Chicago. They are determined to reach out with help for each of the 689 households in the neighborhood’s 25 blocks.
First they had to figure out how to reach people who don’t have the luxury of the internet and other supports many of us have come to rely upon through the stay-at-home order. The group’s Peace Campus community center had to close temporarily until it is safe to gather again. Before coronavirus, Mayer says it was a place to get a hug, a glass of water, a meal, do yoga and get help on finding a job or counseling.
The pandemic is “painful for all of us. … For those who don’t have access to those resources, the suffering is exponentially greater. It’s not just keeping people safe, it’s keeping people well,” Mayer says.
In just the past eight weeks since starting its COVID-19 response, it has provided 5,700 prepared meals, 6,849 staple food items, 8,400 medical gloves, 2,550 educational flyers, 1,390 protective face masks, 377 bars of soap, 245 rolls of toilet paper, and done 952 wellness check-in calls with neighbors and 72 hours of remote children’s tutoring.
Now these helpers need help. The No Life Is Expendable campaign needs 1,400 more people to donate any amount of money by midnight Wednesday, May 20, since an anonymous donor will match every donation by $100 (for example, a $10 donation will bring the organization $110).
“I know we are all feeling in crisis right now. We will get through this. This is our opportunity to decide who we want to be when this is over,” Mayer says. “I Grow Chicago is working really hard to make the world more loving, one that is healthier and one that really does value human life,” she says, adding the donors to date have worked to make that vision possible.
Take a look at Englewood by the numbers:
- 73 percent do not have jobs
- 62 percent don’t have reliable access to internet
- 87 percent don’t have access to reliable childcare
- 59 percent are food insecure
- 41 percent don’t have health insurance
- 17 percent don’t sleep in a bed at night
- 15 percent don’t have access to running water
Each donation, Mayer says, shows the people in Englewood how many people do care about their lives.
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