WEST RIDGE — With West Ridge having one of the largest coronavirus clusters in the state, residents and local groups are making sure their neighbors are equipped to handle the outbreak.
Neighbors of the Far North Side community were shocked to learn last week that West Ridge’s 60645 ZIP code had the largest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the state. The ZIP code has 339 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday. The 60659 ZIP code, which makes up the southern end of West Ridge and neighboring North Park, has 185 confirmed cases.
Since then, Auburn Gresham’s 60620 now has the most cases of any ZIP in the state, with 339.
West Ridge’s cluster is of particular danger to the diverse neighborhoods, with its groups of religious minorities, immigrants and refugees. The Jewish Orthodox community, for one, is being impacted by the outbreak.
But neighbors are rallying to those groups, making sure they have the information and resources needed to withstand the outbreak.
Essam Choudhary said local nonprofits serving South Asian and other communities have now turned their focus from the suburbs to West Ridge. The idea is to help groups who may have a language barrier or inadequate access to resources and information during this time.
“We have found that a large population of Rohingya refugees now live in the Devon area … and are unfortunately unaware of how to protect themselves,” Choudhary said. “Along with other new immigrants, low income families and the Orthodox Jewish communities, all are under prepared and help hasn’t been easily available that’s suitable for them, until now.”
The Illinois Muslim Civic Coalition, the American Pakistan Foundation, Islamic Circle of North America and others are teaming to provide wellness check calls, COVID-19 information, prevention tips and food deliveries, Choudhary said.
ICNA Relief, the charitable arm of the Islamic Circle of North America group, has donated $65,000 in groceries and $4,000 in family aid to area residents. A group of ICNA volunteers gathered for a large food distribution effort Saturday in West Ridge.
“With the COVID-19 crisis, the need has skyrocketed,” said Dr. Saima Azfar, ICNA Relief’s Midwest regional director. “So many new families asking for assistance aren’t typically our clients but have lost their job or been furloughed and still have bills to pay.”
ICNA has also set up a free healthcare hotline, where residents can get advice on non-urgent medical problems so families can avoid doctor’s offices and clinics during the outbreak. The number for the hotline is 630-444-7411.
With West Ridge dealing with the outbreak, the Devon Avenue commercial stretch known as Little India has been severely impacted by mandated business closures and practices like social distancing. To help, Chicago Desi Youth Rising is raising funds for Devon Avenue shop owners and workers who are going through a rough time.
Local business leaders and Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th) have partnered to buy meals from Devon Avenue restaurants and donate them to area first responders.
Another fundraising effort is seeking to help West Ridge businesses while also spreading potentially life saving information to the neighborhood’s diverse residents.
Local CPS teacher Halle Quezada has teamed with Life Quilt Foundation to make window signs that say “Stay Home, Save Lives” in numerous languages. A donation of any size to the group’s small business support fund comes with a free window sign.
“This fundraiser is about bringing our community together in a time when we must stay apart,” Quezada said on Facebook. “In the end, we hope we will all be stronger for it.”
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