Nearly 200 asylum seekers have been spending the night at the 12th District police station in Pilsen, as seen on Aug. 30, 2023. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

PILSEN — Chicagoans can get active and bring in donations for migrants staying in police stations at a 5K in Pilsen.

Alejandra Ruales, an avid runner from Bogotá, Colombia, is partnering with the Venezuelan-owned Mandala Cafe, 1641 W. 18th St., for the Dec. 10 event. Participants will meet up at the cafe at 9 a.m. before taking off on a 5K run/walk or a 1-mile walk, Ruales said.

Runners will start in waves, depending on the pace they want to run and to prevent the sidewalks from being too congested, and they will finish back at Mandala, Ruales said.

The event is free, but attendees are encouraged to bring gently used or new winter gear or buy items through an Amazon Wish List for migrants at the nearby Near West (12th) District police station, 1412 S. Blue Island Ave.

Ruales, a Pilsen resident, said she occasionally passes by the police station on her runs and sees the dozens of tents where people have been sleeping lately. She decided to organize the run to tap into the support Chicago’s running community gave her when she first moved to the city in 2013, she said.

“I have a community that has brought my warmth, who has supported me and helped me grow, and I just think that the same community can show up for our new neighbors,” Ruales said. “It’s just one way that we can take action, step up. Chicago is a city that has been built by migrants. There’s no reason why we can’t keep supporting people.”

So far, about 40 people have signed up for the run, Ruales said.

How To Help Migrants

• The city has partnered with Instituto del Progreso Latino to create an Amazon wishlist where people can buy supplies for migrants.

• Anyone who wants to donate extra furniture can fill out a form requesting Chicago Furniture Bank pick it up.

• You can find volunteer and donation information on the city’s website.

• Read more: How To Help Migrants In Chicago As Winter Approaches

Nhedia Arocha, one of Mandala’s owners, said she was happy to support the run and its cause because she knows how beneficial it is to get new arrivals winter gear heading into the colder months.

“I hope it’s a success,” said Arocha, who moved to Chicago from Venezuela five years ago. “There’s so many people who need help. And as we all know, coats and winter boots can be expensive.”

Ruales said the run is open to anyone, regardless of their running experience or pace. It’s an opportunity for people to gather and get into the spirit of giving, she said.

“When I came to the U.S., I had a clear path, but not everybody has that,” said Ruales, who came to the country to attend college in Iowa. “I think if we’re able to provide warmth and a sense of community and show up — why not?”

Help Block Club Get
500 More Subscribers!

Subscribe to Block Club now and you’ll get a free 16-by-20-inch Chicago neighborhood print of your choice, helping us reach our goal of getting 500 more subscribers before 2024. Click here to subscribe or click here to gift a subscription.

Listen to the Block Club Chicago podcast: