BOYSTOWN — A public relations worker and bartender who lost his jobs due to the pandemic has filled his newfound free time with creating a food drive for LGBTQ seniors at the Center on Halsted.
Danny Beers, of Edgewater, started collecting donations two weeks into Illinois’ stay at home order because he was “tired of binge-watching TV and needed some more purpose.” He’s now raised thousands of dollars and donated so much food the center is giving it away to non-residents.
“I’ve always had the utmost respect for LGBTQ elders because they weren’t necessarily able to live their lives completely ‘out’ during the prime of their life,” said 37-year-old Beers, a gay man. “I wanted to show that even now, they’re not forgotten about and still cared for and loved.”
Before the pandemic, Beers would volunteer weekly at the Center on Addison, an LGBTQ-friendly senior living facility run by the Center on Halsted, serving hot meals and chit-chatting with residents.
Now, he’s finding other ways to get food to those in need.
On April 2, Beers folded the backseats down in his SUV, loaded it up with groceries and cleaning supplies and hauled it over to the Center on Addison, 806 W. Addison St.
Beers now makes these trips five days a week, reaching out to friends, family and neighbors to raise more for the LGBTQ elders.
Beers started an online fundraiser to support the Center on Halsted’s senior services. Since April 13, he’s raised more than $5,500.
“The response has been overwhelming,” Beers said. “I did my first online post about this and by the end of the day had my car full of items with people reaching out to donate even more.”
He’s also partnered with Vincent Restaurant and Lady Gregory’s in Andersonville, which each donate fresh soup, shepherd’s pie, meatloaf and other individually packaged meals to the senior center multiple times a week.
“Danny has used his free time to make a tremendous difference for the center’s LGBTQ seniors,” said Rhett Lindsay, development director at the Center on Halsted. “He’s been a longtime volunteer and has been committed to making an impact since we started hearing about COVID-19.”
Lindsay said LGBTQ older adults are among the most vulnerable populations to COVID-19, and many are struggling with feelings of loneliness due to the isolation caused by the pandemic.
“Danny is making sure they know people are out there supporting them,” Lindsay said.
Beers’ food drive has been so fruitful the Center on Addison started donating surplus items to LGBTQ seniors who don’t live in the facility through its biweekly food pantry, which opens next on June 1, Lindsay said.
“LGBTQ elders have paved the way for us,” Beers said. “Many of them have lost their family — either those members have passed away or disowned them for being who they are — so it’s time for chosen family to step up for our elders.”
People can contact Beers at 317-224-8845 or firstname.lastname@example.org to contribute to the food drive.
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Boystown and Lincoln Park for Block Club Chicago.
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