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Hyde Park, Woodlawn, South Shore

Hyde Park Mutual Aid Organizer Pledges $5,000 To Match Monthly Donations

Laura Staley's family will match the first month of recurring donations in an effort to encourage neighbors to help those in need.

The Hyde Park neighborhood.
Alexa S./Flickr
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HYDE PARK — Laura Staley’s simple, form-based coronavirus resource network was one of the first to pop up in Hyde Park at the beginning of the pandemic.

Now, the mother and community organizer has expanded the network to include a website and an option to commit to monthly donations. In an effort to encourage commitment, her family is pledging to match donors’ first month up to $5,000 in total.

Since the first days of the mutual aid network, in which offers to help far outpaced demand, requests have become “bigger,” Staley said.

Housing, utilities and groceries are among the most common concerns, and she fears those requesting help may be evicted once the moratorium on eviction filings is scheduled to end July 31.

“There has been a slow trickle of donations the entire time, but it would be great if we could get people contributing more and understanding [coronavirus] is something that’s not going to go away next month,” Staley said.

To encourage regular donations, Staley and her family plan to match the first $5,000 and are seeking out others who could continue to match funds beyond that total.

Managing the network requires about 10 hours of work per week, and Staley estimates it has raised around $5,000 since its March unveiling.

A website was recently created to “streamline” the effort a bit more, allowing donors to see exactly what their neighbors’ funding requests are. Donors can contribute to the project’s “general fund,” or earmark their donations for specific requests.

Beyond the resource network, Staley and her husband Avi Schwab — who created the network’s website — have donated to community groups like the Greater Chicago Food Depository and GoodKids MadCity.

“Our philosophy since the pandemic has started has been, the people with power and privilege should give as much as they can,” Staley said.

Staley said she is open to others who want to volunteer and help grow the network.

“I don’t think even I realized the seriousness of the pandemic when I started,” Staley said. “I thought this was going to be a couple of months, and then we’d have … found a more permanent solution. But it seems like grassroots efforts are going to be the solution for the long term.”

You can donate to the network directly on its website or through Staley’s Venmo, Zelle, CashApp or Paypal accounts listed on the site.

To request assistance, you can fill out the network’s Google form. Priority will be given to Kenwood, Hyde Park, Woodlawn and South Shore residents.

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