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Englewood, Chatham

South Side Groups Are Giving Out Weekly ‘Relief Bags’ With Fun Activities For Kids

The bags of books, activities and craft supplies "give parents and kids a little something to smile about, because there’s so much they can’t control," Burst Into Books founder Jurema Gorham said.

Linda Grant, left, of Xperience Church Chicago and LaTanya Johnson, founder of LaTanya & the Youth of Englewood, create the activity bags.
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AUBURN GRESHAM — Nearly a dozen South Side organizations have partnered to provide free activity bags for students every week, as kids are unable to attend classes in-person through at least April 30.

Age-appropriate bags for kindergarteners through 8th graders are available and include free books, coloring utensils, puzzles, crafting materials and more.

Residents across Chicago can request a bag or offer donations to sustain the effort by emailing the organizers or calling (312) 983-2655.

Bags will be delivered every Friday until schools reopen, said Jurema Gorham, founder of Auburn Gresham-based nonprofit Burst Into Books.

“Kids are being bombarded with a lot of academic stuff” during the pandemic, so the bags also include toys like water guns and bubbles alongside the materials that encourage productivity, Gorham said.

Chicagoans can assist in the effort by donating money or materials to partner organizations and reaching out to organizers if they know a family in need.

“We’ll come and pick [donations] up,” Gorham said. “We want to have enough resources so we can do this as long as we can.”

Left to right: Joseph Williams, founder of Mr. Dad’s Fathers’ Club; Jurema Gorham, founder of Burst Into Books; and Angel Lofton of Angel’s Touch create activity bags at the LaTanya & the Youth of Englewood Youth Center April 5.

Beyond the relief bags, Burst Into Books provides weekly “academic game plans” to assist parents with homeschooling. Volunteers also read to children every Monday through Thursday during the day and at bedtime; you can sign up to be a guest reader here.

Partner organization Mr. Dad’s Fathers’ Club also holds weekly story time sessions every Friday at noon, where founder Joseph Williams reads to his children and broadcasts it on the nonprofit’s Facebook page.

Other organizations behind the relief bags include:

Families are already facing income losses and the stresses of home life under quarantine, Gorham said. They shouldn’t have to figure out how to keep their children engaged and entertained on their own.

Parents “weren’t planning on how to work from home and be a teacher,” she said. “We want to give parents and kids a little something to smile about, because there’s so much they can’t control.”

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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