Helping One of Chicago’s Hardest-Hit Neighborhoods
On any given Wednesday or Thursday morning on the 800 block of 69th Street, you’ll see cars lined up waiting for The Salvation Army Red Shield Center’s food pantry to open. There are staff members or volunteers standing on the streets with signs reading “Free Food Today” directing people to the food pantry just a block away. Sometimes, even a CTA bus pulls over so the riders can access the pantry.
Behind the scenes, Captains Corey and Nikki Hughes and their team of staff and volunteers work diligently to fill the boxes and bags with shelf-stable items, produce, potatoes, meat, and more. Captain Nikki said that when filled, the boxes are at least 35 pounds and chock full of items families need to get them through this pandemic.
“We give them whatever we can get our hands on,” Captain Nikki said. “Sometimes it’s household items such as wipes or hygiene kits. We had a massive donation of underwear and socks, so we’re making those available if needed as well.”
It is well documented that the coronavirus is hitting the African-American and Latinx communities especially hard, and The Salvation Army is certainly seeing evidence of that. The Red Shield Center serves the zip code that has the highest rate of mortality among African Americans. Captain Nikki said the Red Shield Center has seen their requests for food assistance jump by 400 percent since the start of the pandemic.
She knows it’s not just food the Army is providing – it’s also providing love and hope. “A woman came to us and said she had never had to ask for help before. But she needed to that day because she lost her job. And she was afraid of the virus,” she said. “She knew she could count on the Army to be there to help.” Other neighborhood residents have also reached out to thank Captains Corey and Nikki for the food boxes and other services the Army has provided during this crisis.
As we continue to move through the pandemic, the Army is expecting to see an even greater increase in requests for emergency assistance to help with rent and utility payments. “It’s scary seeing these communities affected so drastically, because they already had high rates of unemployment and need for assistance. This is just going to make it worse.”
The times may be tough, but through food distribution and access to emergency assistance, Captain Nikki and The Salvation Army are sure to show the City that Hope is Not Cancelled.
Learn about all the ways The Salvation Army is responding to the coronavirus – as well as how you can help – at salarmychicago.org/coronavirus.
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For tax purposes: The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division EIN is 36-2167910.