Part Two: Uplifting Stories in the Age of COVID-19
You can find the first installment of stories here.
In an unprecedented time of worry and uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak, readers are being constantly inundated with stories of dismay. Social-distancing only exacerbates this issue, isolating everyone with little to do but pace the room reading headlines.
With grim statistics and anecdotes comes heightened anxiety, but it’s important to take a moment to recognize the remarkable humanity that emerges in a crisis like this. We’re sharing stories that we think are a good representation of the altruism of Illinoisans during such a precarious time. We’d love to hear from YOU, our readers, about any positive encounters you’ve experienced or heard about in the past few weeks!
If you know of a friend, a colleague, or even a total stranger that is going out of their way to help others, please contact us to share their story. In doing this, our goal is to spread hope and spur others to take action in our communities as well.
1. Little Free Pantries spring up in Chicago neighborhoods
For years, neighborhoods across the country have participated in a program called “The Little Free Library”, a book exchange founded by a nonprofit organization.
The program encourages community members to create mini libraries—somewhat resembling birdhouses—that allow others in the neighborhood to borrow books. There are over 100 registered Little Free Libraries in the Chicagoland area.
In light of recent events surrounding the Coronavirus, some Chicagoans have transformed their Little Free Libraries into “Little Free Pantries”, providing much needed canned food and other necessities to those in their community.
A Twitter user from Chicago shared a photo of one of these micro-pantries that popped up in her neighborhood with the following message: "Seen in my Chicago neighborhood. Sign says 'To help our neighbors affected by the COVID-19 crisis, this Little Free Library is converted to a Little Free Pantry. Take what you need and if you can, please donate what you can spare!'"
2. Chicagoans flock to shelters to provide homes for foster animals
Due to the stay at home order, many Chicagoland animal shelters saw an initial sharp downtick in visitors and pleaded for volunteer foster owners to help alleviate overcrowding. Chicagoans heard the message loud and clear, with foster numbers skyrocketing across the city.
This week, Chicago Animal Control and Care announced that every single qualifiable dog in their facility had been adopted--a first in the history of their operation. The only remaining dogs in their care are those that have not yet been able to receive the procedures and healthcare requisite for qualification for direct adoption.
CACC says they are still receiving more animals every day, and implores anyone with the capability to foster to sign up. Other large animal shelters in Chicago have also stressed this message, requesting volunteers for emergency foster care.
3. University of Illinois graduate creates emergency fund for women transitioning out of homelessness
As Chicago grapples with the effects of Coronavirus, action has been taken to help protect and house the homeless population. The city has allocated $8M for homeless assistance, expanding available housing and providing aid to overcrowded shelters. Unfortunately, there still remain many people who hang in the balance: in particular, those who have transitioned out of shelters but still depend on their continued assistance.
One University of Illinois graduate has taken initiative to support these vulnerable individuals. Amelia Al-Najjar graduated from UIUC in 2019 and decided to pursue a Masters in Social Work. Her studies led her to a field placement at the Chicago nonprofit Deborah’s Place. The organization provides supportive housing and vital resources to women who have dealt with issues such as chronic homelessness, mental health conditions and domestic violence. Their Alumni Service Program extends crucial support such as case management and employment services to women who are just getting back on their feet after transitioning out of the housing program. Even in the best of times, the women moving out of Deborah’s Place face extreme adversity. With the dire situation brought on by Coronavirus, their situation becomes critical.
Despite the fact that the Alumni Program does not typically accept donations (as the focus is mainly on those still in the housing program), Amelia Al-Najjar sprung into action to raise funds to support the women. The donations will be used to create an emergency fund to ensure stability for the 70 women in the Alumni Program. To date, the fund has raised nearly $2,000, surpassing the original goal of $1,000.
“These women have been through life events that are hard to even imagine for most of us. Yet instead of wearing them down, their experiences have made them the most resilient and optimistic individuals I’ve ever met," Amelia Al-Najarr told us. "The entire globe—myself included—is terrified and saddened by all this uncertainty, but when I talk to them, they are as positive and grateful as ever. And even though they don’t have much to give, many are helping their older apartment neighbors or someone they know who’s in need over themselves. They’re really just incredible, hard working, selfless people, and this fund was created to hopefully give some much needed relief during this time.”
You can donate to the emergency fund supporting Deborah's Place alumni here.
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