ENGLEWOOD — Customers at an Englewood Salvation Army store got a surprise from an NFL legend this week.
One hundred families were treated to a free Connie’s Pizza pie and an activity book from Donovan McNabb, a Chicago native and longtime NFL player. The pizza and books were distributed Wednesday at Salvation Army’s Red Shield Center, 800 W. 69th St., as part of the organization’s Celebrate Launch and Landing mentoring program.
McNabb, a Mount Carmel alumnus, grew up not too far from where the Red Shield Center stands. He said he felt compelled to help after hearing how the coronavirus pandemic had impacted the Southwest Side community.
“It’s something that’s near and dear to my heart, as well as my family’s,” McNabb said. “We love to give back and show our appreciation to those on the front lines, and more importantly those families that are going through this whole process with COVID-19. And for the kids, we wanted to give them something positive.”
Before the pandemic, Celebrate Launch and Landing mentors met with children and teens once a week to talk or blow off steam. Face-to-face interactions have been replaced with phone calls.
“It’s important to remember that kids are going through this, too,” McNabb said.
The pandemic has exacerbated issues like food and housing insecurity for families the Salvation Army serves, said Jacqueline Rechev, Salvation Army’s director of communications. Meeting those needs has taxed the organization’s budget.
Asking for help is hard enough for those living on the margins, and depending on where they go to receive it, the experience can be traumatic. Something as simple as a pizza day can mean so much, Rechev said.
“Since the pandemic hit we’ve seen requests for help increase by 500 percent. We went from serving 400 households a week to 2,000 a week now,” Rechev said.
There’s still a need for volunteers and for donations of money and supplies, particularly shelf-stable items for Red Shield’s food pantry. To make a donation, go to www.salarmychicago.org/coronavirus. To volunteer, go to www.disaster.salvationarmy.org.
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