Austin is one of Chicago’s largest communities, yet residents have limited access to the COVID-19 vaccine. Austin’s lead Neighborhood Network, Austin Coming Together (ACT) has been able to respond to this imminent need through the city’s Protect Chicago Plus program that prioritizes vaccinating communities hit the hardest by the pandemic.

In partnership with the City of Chicago, Rush University Medical Center, Catalyst Circle Rock School, and Amundsen Park, ACT was able to open up two vaccination clinics in the Austin community. Since opening these clinics, 6,000 residents, or 8 percent of Austin, have received their vaccinations at these community sites.

According to a written statement from ACT’s marketing and development manager Alicia Plomin, “ACT has been an integral part of the community outreach for these efforts. Through their Neighborhood Network and other partners, ACT leveraged all available communications platforms to get the word out and fill appointment slots.”

United Way of Metro Chicago supports ACT in our Neighborhood Network place-based, community-led initiative. ACT serves as a catalyst for change in their community by mobilizing resources to achieve four impact goals by the year 2025: Quality Early Learning, Safe Neighborhoods, Living Wage Careers and a stable Housing Market. You can read more about Austin’s quality of life plan called Austin Forward Together.

ACT continues to address COVID-19 by distributing over 200 wellness kits, offering over $215,000 in financial family assistance, and creating two temporary vaccination clinics.

Several United Way employees also volunteered their time at the vaccination clinics. Emma Landgraff of the United Way Community Engagement Team, volunteered at Catalyst Circle Rock Elementary School in Austin.

“Once participants checked in, we helped them line up and directed them to open stations where medical staff administered the vaccines and answered any questions participants had. Besides seeing hundreds of people show up to receive a vaccine, my favorite part was hearing volunteers cheering and congratulating participants as they departed the site,” Emma recalled.

With more than 50 community partners, ACT connects residents to critical resources, day in and day out. As a part of West Side United’s ‘Live Healthy West Side” framework, Austin and several other West Side neighborhoods are providing health education and training to help grow stronger and healthier neighborhoods.

In their weekly newsletter, Austin Forward Together, Darnell Shields, Executive Director at Austin Coming Together said: “My faith in a beautiful future for my community has not wavered. We are on the right path, but it will take rethinking and retooling how we invest in communities to really see places like Austin thrive.”

You can help build equity in Austin as we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Donate today!


By Jessica Jones, AmeriCorps Multimedia Journalist