Chicago organization seeks volunteers to aid groups threatened by COVID-19

April 9, 2020

Before the rise of the pandemic inspired volunteers to collect donations, My Block, My Hood, My City founder Jahmal Cole picked up hand sanitizers, Emergen-C packets, disinfectant wipes and other essentials to deliver to seniors and people with disabilities. 

On April 9, Illinois state officials confirmed 1,344 new coronavirus cases and 66 additional deaths, bringing the state totals to 16,422 and 528, respectively. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), seniors suffering from chronic health conditions are at increased risk of contracting COVID-19. In response to the growing threat, senior citizens are self-isolating, afraid to leave their homes to buy groceries and necessities due to the panic surrounding food and supply shortages.

Now, over 1,600 seniors from Chicago have asked My Block, My Hood, My City to deliver care packages to their homes. With the help of approximately 900 volunteers, My Block, My Hood, My City uses donations to purchase goods from Amazon Fresh and Instacart to include in its care packages, which the South Side organization distributes to senior citizens and citizens with disabilities.

“We are funded by donations from people all over the world,” Cole told The Independent. “If it wasn’t for [volunteers] right now, we would be out of business.”

Seniors and those with disabilities can request viral response packages on the organization’s site by filling out basic information, such as the recipient’s age and shipping address.

Public health officials advise senior citizens to isolate themselves and avoid leaving their homes for nonessential purposes, prompting My Block, My Hood, My City leaders and allies to mobilize an effort to assist vulnerable demographics. The organization constructed a plan to help seniors understand that they are not alone, despite the statewide measures mandating social distancing.

The organization is asking volunteers to aid its cause by helping conduct wellness calls on seniors once a week. Those hoping to volunteer at My Block, My Hood, My City can visit the organization’s website to sign up to make wellness check-in calls to seniors. Once the organization receives a hopeful volunteer’s submission, representatives provide contact information from five seniors, which they will then conduct a checklist of health conditions. 

“It’s good [for seniors] to get calls from [volunteers],” Cole said. “[Volunteers] can check up on them and see if they need resources.”

Seniors receive 50 calls per day by volunteers who want to know how they are feeling and how their families members are doing. Cole emphasizes that the organization extends aid to anyone in need, indiscriminate or race, sex or political affiliation. 

“The coronavirus doesn’t care about the color of your skin, what your gender is, what city you live in or who you voted for,” said Cole. “This is something that affects us all. I know a lot of us are experiencing stress, so I wanted to say we are going to get through the storm.”

Cole states that he is intimately familiar with financial instability. As a youth, the My Block, My Hood, My City founder spent days without a bounced between shelters, motel rooms and other temporary accommodations. Even when Cole did find a place to sleep, heat was a luxury. 

According to Cole, the trials he endured in his past inspired him to assist people in his community, motivating him to start My Block, My Hood, My City, an organization dedicated to helping underserved youth explore Chicago. Cole also strives to teach others about financial planning in Chicago’s South Side and West Side communities.

Cole currently resides in Chatham, a neighborhood located on the far Southeast side of Chicago. While Chatham is home to 15 currency exchanges, no banks reside within the neighborhood’s parameters.  

Cole takes students from his student explore program to visit banks and trading firms to learn about consumer engagement. Most of the students in the program visit sites throughout Chicago to gain educational opportunities. 

Cole recognizes that everyone within his organization has been affected by the pandemic in one way or another. To offset the impact of the coronavirus COVID-19, My Block, My Hood, My City provides student explorers cell phones with Wi-Fi service to keep in contact with organization leaders and members.

“There’s a prayer in this pandemic, said Cole. “This outbreak has made us come together as a city to ensure everyone has what they need.”

If you will like to donate, volunteer or if you know someone who needs a care package, you can visit the organization’s site here.

Read more by Leslie Hurtado:

Democratic lawmakers and immigration activists push ICE, CBP to protect detainees from COVID-19 exposure

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