WOODLAWN — The 6300-6400 South Ingleside Block Club will hold its annual back-to-school block party 2–6 p.m. Saturday as neighbors adapt to the coronavirus pandemic.
Twenty-five backpacks with school supplies will be available for free on a first-come, first-served basis. Families on the block will offer other free supplies, such as clothing, healthy snacks and arts and crafts supplies.
Terrance Miller, former block club president, will have free suits, shirts and shoes out for pickup. He is one of the organizers of Gentleman’s Closet, an initiative that gives away dress clothing to unemployed and underemployed men for job interviews.
The block party will look different this year to help keep neighbors safe amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead of live entertainment, a “talented family” on the block is putting on a surprise show in their yard, said block club President Duane Clayton.
Instead of a bouncy house and gathering in the street, neighbors at each residence will come out in their front yard with a few family members or close friends to grill and mingle with neighbors from afar.
“It’ll be different, but it’ll still be nice,” Clayton said. “We’re celebrating together but apart.”
The back-to-school block party is a tradition for the Ingleside neighbors, resident Emerald-Jane Hunter said. When the pandemic started and then showed no signs of letting up, neighbors considered canceling this year’s celebration.
But residents needed a taste of Chicago summer since events like the Bud Billiken Parade were canceled, Hunter said.
“We need to keep that spirit and that sentiment alive in some shape or form,” she said. “A lot of people have been hurt with loss of jobs and money. … We said, let’s not let this be just another cancelation.”
Even before the pandemic, Woodlawn’s block clubs were becoming less active as new neighbors moved in, Clayton said. Through giveaways, yard sales and block cleanups, he said the Ingleside block club has worked to reverse that trend in recent years.
“People are like, ‘this reminds me of when I was growing up,'” Clayton said. “A lot of people love the nostalgia of how we all come together.”
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