Jalisa Ford stands near the garden memorial for her son, Janari Ricks, who was fatally shot last year at 9 years old. Credit: Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago

NEAR NORTH SIDE — A Near North Side mother whose 9-year-old son was fatally shot three years ago is bringing back her annual back-to-school supplies drive in his honor.

Jalisa Ford is collecting the school supplies donations through Aug. 12 so the items can be distributed to Near North Side families that week, Ford said.

Ford is collecting the goods through the 1 Jar Foundation, a nonprofit she launched to support her neighborhood after her son, Janari Andre Ricks, was killed July 31, 2020.

Some items the foundation is collecting include pencils, pens, paper, markers, art supplies, backpacks and snacks, Ford said. She also set up an Amazon registry where people can shop and a GoFundMe for monetary donations.

Donors can find out the drop-off location by emailing Ford at 1jarfoundation@gmail.com.

The supplies will be given away noon-4 p.m. Aug. 13 to neighborhood families at the Near North (18th) District police station, 1160 N. Larrabee St., Ford said.

“The goal is to give back to the kids and youth in our community to help them have a better school year,” Ford said. “And to help parents with any financial necessities they might need for the school year.”

Janari Ricks loved giving back to his friends during the holidays, his mother said. Credit: Provided/Jalisa Ford

This is the fourth iteration of the the 1 Jar Foundation’s back-to-school drive, Ford said. The organization also holds an annual toy drive around the holiday season for Near North Side families.

The nonprofit recently established its first brick-and-mortar headquarters at 542 W. Hobbie St., Ford said. She hopes to use that new location to grow its offerings throughout the year and one day become a full-fledged community center.

“Before my son’s passing, I was always in the community, being involved and a part of events,” Ford said. “So, since he passed, I started the 1 Jar Foundation to give back to the community in honor of him.”

Janari was killed in 2020 while playing outside near his home in the 900 block of North Cambridge Avenue, police said. A man had gotten out of his car and tried to shoot another man, striking Janari several times in the process.

Police credited neighbors who spoke up about the shooting in helping them arrest and charge 39-year-old Darrell Johnson days later.

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Ford has told Block Club that Janari was an “old soul” who was very social and generous with other kids.

“Janari was so giving,” Ford said. “If he had $1, he’d try and find a way to split it with two of his friends.”

Janari would have been entering the seventh grade this year, Ford said.

“Back-to-school season was a big deal for him,” Ford said. “He loved being able to walk into a new classroom and get to know his new classmates and peers. It’s an honor to hold this drive in his memory.”

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