GREATER GRAND CROSSING — A South Side organization that has helped young fathers for over a decade has created a 24-hour support line to provide additional assistance to families affected by the COVID-19 crisis.
Care packages will be distributed through the Fatherhood Relief Fund, an initiative from The Dovetail Project, which allows fathers to request help by texting “Dovetail” to 56525. The program is open to fathers between the ages of 17 and 30, living in the city or south suburbs.
Fathers will receive one care package for a baby and a personal one for themselves; the former filled with essentials like diapers, formula and food, the latter containing hygiene products, gift cards for gas and groceries, and resource lists providing information for those in need of more immediate assistance.
Normally, the organization would be kicking off its spring fatherhood training program around this time, but it was forced to cancel it due to safety concerns.
Founder Sheldon Smith told Block Club that since launching the crisis hotline Wednesday, the organization has received over 78 calls for help.
“Before we even started the hotline, we got about 1,800 calls from fathers who couldn’t find help anywhere else because all of the other fatherhood-centered organizations were closed,” said Smith. “That’s what really prompted us to jump into action.”
It also prompted Smith and his team to extend the age limit from 24 to 30, since a considerable number of calls were coming from dads over 25.
While the initiative got a $50,000 boost from the NFL Foundation, the Finnegan Family Foundation and the Dart Foundation, they still need help making sure Chicago’s young fathers are cared for.
“Our two greatest expenses are [baby formula] and gas cards, so if people want to donate those, we’d appreciate it,” said Smith, who added that people can drop off donations to the organization’s headquarters, 7300 S. Cottage Grove Ave. “We were fortunate to receive 5,000 diapers from an organization called Share Our Spare, which was a great help.
People who wish to make a monetary contribution can opt to give a one-time or monthly donations of $25, $75, or $125.
“There are a lot of fathers at home right now who want to provide for their children, but can’t. We’re not going to forget about them,” said Smith. “We have to keep that at the forefront.”
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