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Bronzeville, Near South Side

South Side Nonprofit Giving Teddy Bears, Chocolate To Black Girls While Encouraging Self-Love This Valentine’s Day

After LOV Day on Sunday, the Bronzeville-based nonprofit Ladies of Virtue will donate remaining gift boxes to South and West side schools. Two interviews with Black women entrepreneurs will also be held.

Ladies of Virtue program participants pose for a picture at the nonprofit's annual fundraiser in November 2019.
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BRONZEVILLE — South Side nonprofit Ladies of Virtue will hand out 300 gift boxes with a teddy bear, candy and more to Black girls this Valentine’s Day, with a message of self-love and empowerment.

In addition to the stuffed animals and chocolates, the LOV Boxes will include masks, hand sanitizer, manicure sets, hair care products and Black history fact sheets.

Gifts will be handed out 3-5 p.m. Sunday at Imani Community Development Corporation, 2314 E. 83rd St. in South Chicago, and Uncle Remus Saucy Fried Chicken, 737 E. 47th St. in Bronzeville.

Remaining boxes will be given to schools in Austin and Englewood and affordable housing developments on the West Side.

To register for a gift box, or to volunteer to pack them noon-2 p.m. Sunday at the Imani CDC, click here.

“We want to spread love to our Black girls across the city and acknowledge the fact that, during the pandemic, this has been a tough time,” said Jamila Trimuel, Ladies of Virtue founder and CEO. “We want our girls to know they are seen, heard and loved.”

Ladies of Virtue will also host two conversations with Black woman entrepreneurs in the coming days, to be livestreamed on the nonprofit’s Facebook page.

Program participants will interview Trimuel’s cousin, 17-year-old Tamera Elyse Trimuel, who wrote the personal growth book “Dear Black Girl, You Are It!”. That conversation takes place 6 p.m.Thursday.

Another interview with Monique Rodriguez — owner of Mielle Organics, which is supplying the haircare products in the LOV Boxes — takes place 6 p.m. Feb. 18.

Ladies of Virtue operates leadership development and mentoring programs primarily in three South and West side schools, with most participants coming from its Saturday Institute located at Perspectives/IIT Math and Science Academy, 3663 S. Wabash Ave.

The nonprofit’s mentors “are interested in our passions” and provide constant support for Black girls to pursue their personal goals, said Makana Oddo, a fifth-grader at George B. Carpenter Elementary School in Park Ridge.

Credit: Provided
Makana Oddo (center) poses for a picture at the annual Ladies of Virtue Pink and Blue back-to-school party in October 2019.

The LOV Day celebrations are a continuation of that support, which has been felt throughout the pandemic, she said.

The gift boxes “will make Black girls feel appreciated, and it’s nice to show love and care to people in general because you never know when they may need it,” Oddo said. “It shows that someone outside your family really cares about you and wants to know how you’re doing.”

In the near future, Oddo wants to learn to play ukulele and flute, as she loves music and art. She is interested in becoming an animator and a professional musician like Grace VanderWaal and Billie Eilish.

Oddo encouraged Chicagoans to seek out Black girls’ stories, as new perspectives can “bring people’s fear down” about communities like her own, she said.

“People can become better citizens from hearing other people’s stories,” Oddo said.

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