WEST RIDGE — Ald. Debra Silverstein and a group of West Ridge businesses have teamed up to provide meals for first responders and hospital staff battling the coronavirus outbreak.
Silverstein (50th) and Devon Avenue business groups have pooled resources to buy meals from area restaurants and donate them to local fire stations, police departments and hospitals. Last week alone, 175 meals were donated to first responders and health care workers on the front lines of the pandemic.
The effort keeps business flowing to West Ridge’s restaurants while supporting first responders during a trying time, Silverstein said.
“I wanted to do something that benefits everybody,” she said. “We want to keep our small businesses open. A way to do that is order from them and deliver it to first responders. It’s a win-win.”
The meal donation drive is being coordinated through the West Ridge Chamber of Commerce. The Devon Avenue Special Service Area is providing funding for the meals, said Larissa Tyler, executive director with the chamber. Special Service Areas cover commercial corridors and levy an additional tax to be pooled for community efforts.
The plan is to provide meals to area police officers and firefighters as well as worker at St. Francis Hospital and Swedish Hospital at least once a week. Last week, Villa Palermo served 125 meals to Rogers Park (24th) District police officers and firefighters at the station at 6239 N. California Ave. Greater Chicago Food and Beverage served 50 meals to Swedish Hospital’s intensive care unit, Tyler said.
This week, over 200 meals will be served to local first responders, Tyler said.
At a time when small businesses like restaurants are struggling to survive amid mandated closures and social distancing practices, the extra business for local shops doesn’t hurt, Tyler said.
Devon Avenue is home to a diverse range of small businesses, many of which have had to close due to the outbreak, according to WTTW.
“It’s helping out restaurants a little at a time,” Tyler said. “It’s helping our first responders during a stressful time. And it’s keeping us close as a community.”
The meal donations will go on indefinitely, or until the outbreak is tamed and business-as-normal returns to commercial corridors like Devon Avenue, Silverstein said.
“It’s important for our businesses to survive,” Silverstein said. “We don’t want vacant storefronts, and we want people to be able to be employed and make money.”
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