ALBANY PARK — Tutors with Asian Youth Services are trying to raise money to help the organization continue serving the Albany Park community.
The nonprofit was founded in 1992 by Shari Fenton to help refugee families from Southeast Asia who fled from genocide, war and oppression in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. But it’s been harder to do that during the coronavirus crisis. To help, one of the tutors launched an online fundraiser for the organization.
Before the pandemic, Fenton’s organization offered students homework help, music lessons, hot meals, educational scholarships and more.
“We normally have an art program and a science program during the summer,” Fenton said. “We gave free music lessons for piano, guitar, violin and drum. But we can’t do anything that we normally do, obviously, because of this pandemic.”
Since March, Fenton has shifted her focus to addressing food insecurity by offering free food to families in the community. But months into the pandemic, this is also becoming a struggle, she said.
“For the people I’m trying to help, food is a real issue,” Fenton said. “It’s really hard to raise money to keep this going because so many people don’t have jobs.”
While the nonprofit has experienced challenges before, they have never been on this scale. This is the first time Fenton is seriously considering shutting down the group.
“I don’t know. I’m just scared. This is so weird, because I’m normally never scared,” she said.
A tutor named Rebecca Lerner launched the GoFundMe to raise money so Asian Youth Services can pay its bills and continue providing food to the Albany Park community, Fenton said.
“Many parents lost their jobs and are unable to provide food for their families. [Asian Youth Services] has become the main food/supply provider for these 50 families, but [the nonprofit] does not have the funds and food to provide for everyone and is on the verge of closing,” Lerner wrote on the fundraiser page. “Any donation will help [North Side] continue their amazing services and provide food and supplies for these wonderful families.”
The fundraiser went live Nov. 11. As of Thursday, it has raised $2,253 of its $5,000 goal. In addition to financial donations, Fenton is gathering food donations so she can keep feeding Albany Park families.
“Canned food, fresh food, whatever, any kind of food. We need it,” Fenton said.
Donations can be dropped off 1:30-4 p.m. daily at the nonprofit’s location at 3117 W. Lawrence Ave.
Fenton said the food will be offered “no questions asked.” It is given to families in need outdoors and in a socially distanced way.
“People really need this food, and we’re trying to figure out creative ways to give it to them without them feeling threatened or shamed,” she said. “Whether it’s because they’re undocumented or now they’re out of work, we’ve worked hard to make sure people know food is a human right and we’ll give it to them without asking them why they need it.”
For more information on how to donate food or to find out more about the next giveaway, call 773-517-8525 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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