WEST HUMBOLDT PARK — A grassroots effort to save West Side businesses hit hard by looting and the coronavirus pandemic far surpassed its goal, raising more than $40,000, and now the organizers are using the money to help businesses rebuild.
Siblings Charles Pickett, 25, and his sister, Mercedes Pickett, 25, are offering grants to struggling minority-owned businesses in Garfield Park, Douglas Park, Humboldt Park, Austin, Homan Square and North Lawndale. Applications can be filled out online and are due June 13. Businesses must provide proof of financial need.
The Picketts launched the grant program after spending last weekend hosting neighborhood cleanups and collecting canned goods and health supplies to distribute on the West Side. All of the work is being done under the siblings’ nonprofit, called Earth’s Remedies.
“This isn’t a one-action item. … This is a movement to help the betterment of our people,” Charles Pickett said.
Charles Pickett launched his Save the West Side fundraiser the Monday after the city was rocked by theft and destruction, separate from the peaceful demonstrations protesting the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Charles Pickett said he initially set out to raise $5,000 but the donations kept pouring in. The support has been “tremendous,” he wrote on GoFundMe.
“It was a random spark of heroism,” he said.
Mercedes Pickett said she was “definitely shocked … but also encouraged” by the support.
“This is literally what we wanted Earth’s Remedies to do was to connect everyone through these resources,” she said.
For many, the wave of theft and destruction that hit the West and South sides the last weekend of May was a painful reminder of the 1968 riots sparked by the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
Charles Pickett said his father would say, “It wasn’t that the West Side didn’t recover, it’s that it wasn’t supposed to.” He said that’s what inspired him to help the West Side rebuild. The Pickett family has lived in West Humboldt Park for decades.
“We know people are going to riot, we know people are going to protest. What are we going to do after that? What are we going to do to uplift the community?” Charles Pickett said.
“The protests and riots are bringing change, but we are trying to bring change in a different way.”
So far, only a dozen West Side businesses have applied for the grant, but the siblings are doing outreach to attract more. The goal is to get at least 20 applications by June 13, Charles Pickett said.
Half of the businesses who have applied were hit hard by looting and the other half are struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Mercedes Pickett.
The siblings will announce grant winners on Juneteenth, or June 19, the day that honors the emancipation of enslaved Black Americans.
The siblings are keeping the GoFundMe running and if donations continue to come in, more grants will be given out. They’re also planning on collecting more donations and doing more neighborhood cleanups in the coming weeks.
“This doesn’t stop here,” Charles Pickett said. “We’re going to continue to help our community, continue to tackle every pillar we think is important. It doesn’t just stop with the businesses.”
To get involved with Earth’s Remedies, visit the organization’s website.
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