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Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Avondale

‘Solidarity, Not Charity’: Humboldt Park’s Puerto Rican Groups Unite To Help Neighbors In Need

"This is a really good way to provide that care, that love, that cultural connection during a period where there's so much uncertainty."

Authentic Puerto Rican restaurant Nellie's is providing the food.
The Puerto Rican Agenda
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CHICAGO — Organizations and institutions that serve Humboldt Park’s Puerto Rican community are uniting to help neighbors in need during the coronavirus crisis.

Volunteer-run nonprofit The Puerto Rican Agenda and the Puerto Rican Cultural Center have teamed up with beloved Puerto Rican restaurant Nellie’s, 2458 W. Division St., to deliver authentic Puerto Rican lunches to more than 30 households in the Humboldt Park area, seven days a week.

The meals — everything from chicken fricassee to traditional white beans and rice — are going to seniors, people with disabilities and Puerto Rican climate refugees in their network — “people who are going to have a harder time getting out or even cooking a meal because they’re isolated,” said Cristina Pacione-Zayas, co-chair of The Puerto Rican Agenda.

“This is a really good way to provide that care, that love, that cultural connection during a period where there’s so much uncertainty,” Pacione-Zayas said.

The campaign is called “La Cocina Mutua: Solidaridad no Caridad,” which means the mutual kitchen: solidarity, not charity in English.

Pacione-Zayas said the spirit of the campaign — “solidarity, not charity” — comes from Puerto Rico, which has been devastated by hurricanes and earthquakes in recent years.

“Historically, on the island there has been mutual aid networks and essentially they’ve been rooted in neighborhoods where the sponsoring idea and thought is we have all of the solutions within us if we operate within a collective capacity and truly see each other as my brother’s or sister’s keeper. My present is bound to yours, as well as our future,” she said.

“We were able to move so quickly and basically transfer what we learned in terms of hurricane and earthquake rapid response into a local context.”

The campaign is being funded through the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund. The organizations were awarded $25,000 within days of submitting an application, Pacione-Zayas said.

Also as part of the campaign, the organizations are also giving out $250 Visa gift cards to nearly 60 households in need.

The organizations are aiming to launch an online fundraiser by the end of the week. Pacione-Zayas said the donations will allow them to keep the campaign going and expand it to include more restaurants.

“Our suspicion is that this is going to go well beyond April 30,” she said.

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