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Hyde Park, Woodlawn, South Shore

After Looting Closes Stores, Group Organizes Grocery Giveaways For Hundreds Of South Side Seniors

Founder Natia Simone has overseen two grocery deliveries to more than 650 senior home residents in June.

Boxes of supplies await packaging at Village Minds' June 20 distribution.
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SOUTH SHORE — Mutual aid group Village Minds has brought fresh produce and non-perishable foods to hundreds of South Side seniors after this month’s looting left many residents without easy access to groceries.

The group, organized by South Shore resident Natia Simone and assisted by a few dozen volunteers, has made two distributions to area senior homes.

More than 650 residents of homes such as Bronzeville’s Pioneer Village and Cambridge Manor in Douglas have received food, Simone said.

The effort kicked off in the first week of June, when — like many other South Shore neighbors — Simone sought out ways to help the neighborhood rebound from the destruction.

“My sister and I decided to take a walk the day after our neighborhood was initially looted and destroyed,” she said. “We were walking around and I said I could use a bottle of water. We couldn’t find a single bottle of water. Stores were closed, destroyed and empty.”

Later that week, Simone helped clean up the then-closed Jewel-Osco at 75th Street and Stony Island Avenue, which reopened Friday. She was hesitant to help out “that large a corporation” until a friend told her it was the only place her mother could easily buy groceries.

As Simone cleaned up, she said she saw a few seniors return home when they learned the store was closed.

“I got on Facebook and put out a plea: ‘Someone needs to start a group where we can list resources,'” she said. “Somebody started a post and said, ‘Why don’t you it?'”

So she did. After creating a Facebook page, raising funds and making trips to Mariano’s, more than 450 seniors at South Side homes benefitted from the first distribution of food June 6.

At the most recent distribution Saturday, about 200 residents at two senior homes received groceries. Saturday’s donations were plentiful enough that there were leftover items.

Volunteers brought the surplus to their grandparents, their grandparents’ neighbors and other seniors in their lives, Simone said.

Volunteers sort through supplies for Village Minds’ June 20 distribution.

Though the group got its start in organizing food distributions, its Facebook page has since become a community hub for mutual aid.

“It’s kind of become a resource for volunteerism, for people searching for help,” Simone said. “We will post any activities, volunteer requests, anything on the page.”

Village Minds was initially intended as a one-off distribution, Simone said. Now that the community’s response has been so positive and donations have been so plentiful, she hopes to continue organizing grocery runs for elderly South Siders every couple weeks or so.

“As I’ve been speaking to these seniors, this was a need people had pre-COVID, pre-looting,” she said. “I’m not surprised that I’m going to continue. I’m more surprised that it was something I didn’t know about already.”

To donate to or volunteer with Village Minds, you can send money through CashApp to $VillageMinds or email the group.

Volunteers with Village Minds stand with a pallet of supplies at their June 20 distribution. About 200 senior home residents received groceries, according to organizer Natia Simone.

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