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Hyde Park, Woodlawn, South Shore

Struggling Mom-And-Pop Restaurants Get Paid, Frontline Workers Get A Free Meal Thanks To New Program

"We absolutely did not have the funds to pay our rent last month, and [this Chicago Real Estate Resources program] helped to catch us up," one restaurant owner said.

Leslie Rogers of South Shore Hospital (left) and Vanetta Roy of Surf's Up South Shore pose with meals outside the hospital April 29.
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SOUTH SHORE — Health care workers and other frontline employees received hundreds of meals from local restaurants thanks to an new program from a Chicago commercial real estate firm.

Chicago Real Estate Resources created the CRER Cares program last month, boosted by a GoFundMe that has raised nearly $13,000 as of this week. The donations pay for meals, supporting essential workers and providing critical financial support to neighborhood restaurants struggling because of the coronavirus shutdown.

CRER employees have helped distribute 721 meals since April 21. That day, 75 meals from 2 Asian Brothers at 3222 W. Foster Ave. went to Swedish Hospital.

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Commercial broker and CRER Cares director Nate Gautsche poses with meals from 2 Asian Brothers at Swedish Hospital April 21.

Last Wednesday, 60 meals from Surf’s Up South Shore, 2236 E. 71st St., and 60 meals from The Foodie’s Spot, 7350 S. Stony Island Ave., were delivered to South Shore Hospital.

The Foodie’s Spot contributed halal chicken, whiting and broccoli croquettes and black beans and rice. From Surf’s Up, workers received wings, grilled or fried fish, a dinner roll and soda.

The purchase helped The Foodie’s Spot make rent for May, owner Carmella Coqmard-Muhammad said. The timing was “a blessing” — like many local restaurants, she didn’t receive funds from the first round of the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program.

“We absolutely did not have the funds to pay our rent last month, and [the program] helped to catch us up,” Coqmard-Muhammad said.

A $3,000 donation from fast food franchise operator Sanjeev Khatau funded the South Shore delivery and 120 meals from Lexington Betty Smokehouse, 756 E. 111th St., for Roseland Community Hospital workers.

“A lot of times when people contribute, they have ideas of local restaurants they want to support,” commercial broker and CRER Cares director Nate Gautsche said. “Our focus is local mom-and-pop restaurants, as opposed to larger chains.”

More than 200 meals from Kaathi’s, 2273 N. Lincoln Ave., and Señor Pan, 4612 W. Fullerton Ave., have gone to employees of Little Company of Mary Medical Center in Evergreen Park in the last week. They were funded by a $2,500 donation from 235 Insurance.

One hundred meals from Harold’s Chicken, 612 S. Wabash Ave., were delivered to staff at A Safe Haven homeless shelter in North Lawndale last Friday.

About 60 breakfasts from Bacon and Jam, 3335 W. 111th St., have been sent to Mount Greenwood and Morgan Park first responders this week courtesy of McBrearty Builders.

The meal donation program will continue weekly until it runs out of funds, Gautsche said.

Frontline workers at South Shore Hospital welcome the extra love they’ve received since the pandemic hit, assistant administrator Leslie Rogers said. But they’ll continue to do their jobs regardless of the attention — or free food —received.

“We were just hospital workers in the past, but now people are saying ‘thank you’ to us in a different way,” Rogers said. The meal donation “was something we didn’t ask for; we love it and we appreciate it.”

The hospital is also accepting donations of personal protective equipment — namely gloves, masks, isolation gowns, footies and hair bonnets — as well as packaged foods.

Those with supplies to spare can email Rogers to arrange a drop-off.

If neighbors don’t have material items to give, a commitment to social distancing and spiritual shows of support work just fine, Rogers said.

“Everyone cannot contribute donated gifts, but prayers they can do,” he said.

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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