PORTAGE PARK — In the early days of the pandemic, when toilet paper and other paper goods were hard to come by, many people started hoarding.
But Portage Park resident Jaclyn Crawford went in the other direction.
“We all experienced that. You walked into Jewel and all the toilet paper was gone. And when everyone was fighting each other, I was like, ‘Why can’t we help each other?’” she said.
Crawford did just that, putting rolls of toilet paper and other household supplies in a container and setting it outside her home on the 5700 block of West Pensacola Avenue with a sign that read, “Take what you need.”
Now, with the help of a grant from My Block, My Hood, My City, Crawford is expanding her cause from the box in front of her home to making deliveries wherever help is needed.
Crawford said she was inspired by Jahmal Cole, the founder of My Block, My Hood, My City, who asked people to think about one thing they could do for their block that could make a difference.
She began by putting out the items in front of her home. Neighbors helped to replenish the supply as items were taken by people in need.
“There were some neighbors who were willing to help out. And they started putting food in the container, which was great — except that a sneaky squirrel gnawed its way through the lid,” Crawford said. “I stopped for a bit to figure out how to prevent that from happening and saw that My Block, My Hood, My City was offering a grant to anyone wanting to do something small for their block.”
Crawford applied and in early February was notified she was getting $1,500 from the group.
“The fact that they took notice of something I was doing, I was speechless,” she said.
The first thing Crawford bought with the grant was a squirrel-proof metal container for the items, which she dubbed the Treasure Box. She’s also bought more supplies to give away.
“I’m also thinking about people that are homebound, and this weekend [I] created a Google form for them to fill out to let me know what they need. I’ll deliver a ‘treasure chest’ wherever there is a need,” Crawford said.
Ernesto Gonzalez, spokesman for My Block, My Hood, My City, said 15 grants were given out to people and groups.
Crawford “is very motivated and it looks like what she is doing is making an impact in the neighborhood,” Gonzalez said.
Crawford created an Amazon wishlist where people who want to help can buy items for her to give away. She also created a Facebook page so supporters can spread the word about how to help — or get help.
“I’m not an organization. I’m a singular person doing one thing, helping my neighborhood. I believe individuals can help individuals, and I need others to help me to help other people,” Crawford said.
People who are homebound can fill out an online form so Crawford can deliver supplies to them.
Crawford has a no-questions-asked policy for those who seek help. She hopes to get enough donations to help many more people.
“If you need toilet paper, you need toilet paper,” Crawford said. “My dream is to fill my entire house with things that I’m going to give away. That would make me so happy.
“I don’t want this to just be my thing. I want other people to set up their own treasure boxes for their own neighbors. Imagine if everyone had one in their yard. How cool would that be?”
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