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Austin, Garfield Park, North Lawndale

West Siders Celebrate Birthdays By Raising Money For Community Stimulus: ‘Everybody Should Receive Gifts’

Organizers are giving away gift cards at their weekly food giveaway, Soup for the Soul, at Stone Temple Missionary Baptist Church on Monday. Here's how you can donate.

Soup for the Soul gives away free meals at the Stone Temple church in North Lawndale.
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NORTH LAWNDALE — Two organizers of the Soup for the Soul mutual aid program are celebrating their birthdays on Monday by raising funds to give out gift cards at the weekly food distribution event.

Pastor Reshorna Fitzpatrick of the historic Stone Temple Missionary Baptist Church and Pidgeon Pagonis, both members of North Lawndale’s GROWWS committee, share a March 15 birthday.

Since their birthday falls on the weekly Soup for the Soul giveaway that the GROWWS organize, they wanted to celebrate with community members who come to the Monday events for a free meal.

“Everybody should receive gifts, not just the person whose birthday it is,” Fitzpatrick said. “I want people to be able to go out and buy themselves a birthday dinner.”

Chicago-based musical artist and poet Jamila Woods launched a GoFundMe so donors could help raise money for the gift card giveaway.

Organizers want to raise $5,000 so they can give away $100 gift cards to 50 families who come to Soup for the Soul for a free meal and warm clothing.

The gift cards will be like a community stimulus residents can use for personal needs or spend at local businesses that were hurt by the pandemic, Pagonis said.

“If they have something they need it for, like rent or a bill, or they just want to get their hair done, I just want people to be able to get what they need in a quick, no-strings-attached kind of way,” Pagonis said. “I just want people to feel good.”

Soup for the Soul is 2-4 p.m. Monday at Stone Temple, 3622 W. Douglas Blvd.

“I’m excited. Everybody gets to smile. Everybody gets gifts,” Fitzpatrick said.

Soup for the Soul launched last fall in response to the need for fresh food in North Lawndale, which has intensified during the coronavirus pandemic.

The program also provides residents an opportunity to get fresh produce through a partnership with the Urban Growers Collective, which stations its mobile farmers market, called the Fresh Moves Mobile Market, at the church at the same time as Soup for the Soul.

Visitors receiving soup are given a $10 voucher for produce from the market, where they can buy additional fruits and veggies.

“It’s empowering [to engage] people who are already in the community to come together and to show the power and the resilience that we have,” Fitzpatrick said.

Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.

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