These days, when she’s not trailing after her grandson at home, Vora Long-Williams is helping her neighbors in Englewood.
As a member of the Resident Association of Greater Englewood (R.A.G.E.), Vora delivers baskets of food to families, seniors and young people with kids around her block.
“I wanted to be a part of giving back to my community and making sure that the people who need food get it, especially seniors who can’t get out [of their homes],” Vora said. “I really want to make sure they’re taken care of.”
Since the coronavirus outbreak began, community organizations, mutual aid groups and solidarity networks have jumped into action in neighborhoods across the region. Many, like R.A.G.E., have existed for years and are shifting their work to bring immediate food and financial assistance to their neighbors impacted by the crisis.
“These neighborhood efforts are important because, even with social distancing, it displays our need for connectivity, caring for our fellow neighbors, and it assures them that we are all in this together,” said Asiaha Butler, Co-Founder and President of R.A.G.E.
For many people, the connection to the community is personal. “Our member volunteers who are able and ready to help are stepping up to do so in solidarity,” she added. “[They] know their neighbors and the families in need on their block personally.”
To support groups on the frontlines, like R.A.G.E., United Way of Metro Chicago and The Chicago Community Trust, in partnership with the City of Chicago, launched the Chicago Community COVID-19 Fund. All dollars raised will help these groups provide immediate assistance to our neighbors in need.
More than 140 nonprofits and community organizations have already received more than $9 million in grants, with more rounds of funding to come.
As we disperse this aid, the Fund’s partners recognize that everyone in the region is affected by the coronavirus crisis, but not equally. Communities of color are bearing the brunt of this crisis because of long-standing racial and economic inequities.Through our grant-making process, we’re prioritizing nonprofits and community organizations that serve Black, Latinx, Asian and immigrant communities, as well as other vulnerable populations, like seniors and people with disabilities.
“We’re a Black community, and most Black communities don’t have great health. They don’t have access to good health insurance and they don’t always have the funds to purchase the things they need, especially now,” Vora said of Englewood.
To address this, R.A.G.E. has used its grant from the Response Fund to cover the costs of safely delivering healthy, nutritious food to more than 200 households in the Greater Englewood neighborhood. Volunteers are also making wellness calls to community members to determine their needs and connect them to resources.
For Vora, this hasn’t just been an opportunity to help others. It’s also been a way to stay connected to her community at a time everyone feels so distant.
“At this point, we’ve got each other,” she said. “If you see your neighbor doesn’t have enough food or doesn’t have certain things that you have, you should be willing to share.”
“When you’re in your community and love the community the way I do, you help.”