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Englewood, Chatham, Auburn Gresham

Hundreds Of Kids Leave Englewood’s Peace House Happy During Annual Toy Giveaway

The nonprofit I Grow Chicago gave away more than 3,000 presents to children and families.

Cousins Teneshia Hawkins (left) and Teedra Strawder get into the spirit at I Grow Chicago's Holiday Giveaway.
Jamie Nesbitt Golden/Block Club Chicago
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ENGLEWOOD — It was controlled chaos at I Grow Chicago’s Peace House Sunday afternoon, as family and friends — old and new — came together for the nonprofit’s 7th Annual Holiday Giveaway.

The Peace House at 6402 S. Honore Street in Englewood is a community hub for dozens of nearby residents.

The two-story home was filled to the brim as neighbors donned Santa suits and volunteers handed out hot cocoa, cookies and gifts to hundreds of families, most of whom had signed up for the event last month. I Grow Chicago collected over 3,000 presents from individual and family donors wanting to spread a little holiday cheer.

Gifts ranged from action figures to iPads to winter essentials.

Credit: Jamie Nesbitt Golden/Block Club Chicago
A toddler visits with Santa Claus at I Grow Chicago’s annual holiday event Sunday afternoon.

The organization opens registration for the giveaway in November, when families can stop by and each child can share their two biggest wishes. From there, the list is shared with donors who choose a family to sponsor, buying the gifts and delivering them to the Peace House, where volunteers quickly get to work packing and organizing.

It was a happy day for cousins Teedra Strawder and Teneshia Hawkins and their children as they picked up their teddy bears and hoverboards to take home.

“I didn’t think they would get as many gifts as they got, and I’m so grateful,” said Strawder, a mother of three who lived next door for several years before moving further south. “The gifts are great.”

Hawkins, who learned about the event through other relatives, and signed up her and her sister’s children for the giveaway, was impressed with the cultural awareness of the presents.

“Everything we asked for, we received. Tablets, basketballs, educational books. And most of the toys were African-American, since most of the kids are African-American. That really touched me.”

The cousins also loved how the organization didn’t turn anyone away, encouraging them to tell others to come with their families.

“You have families out here that really need help, so they just stepped in. I have a great deal of appreciation for them,” said Hawkins.

“We get people from all over the city. We even had a family come in from Indiana. And every year we serve more and more people,” said Rita Carmona, the nonprofit’s development assistant. “A lot of community partners chip in for the cookies and hot chocolate. Everybody gets involved.”

It was a big way to cap off another busy, prosperous year for I Grow Chicago, which included the groundbreaking on a new community playground and the opening of their Family Resource House over the summer.

The nonprofit, founded by Robbin Carroll in 2013, is also in the process of renovating four other houses on Honore Street to provide affordable housing to those in need.

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