Skip to contents

100 Ways You Helped: Here’s How Chicagoans Lifted Their Neighbors Through COVID-19 Pandemic

One year ago, life as we knew it was upended by a pandemic and other crises. When the systems we were used to relying on failed, Chicagoans stepped up to save each other.

Here are 100 ways Chicagoans helped each other through the pandemic and other crises over the last year.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago; Provided
  • Credibility:

In March 2020, a stay at home order was enacted in Illinois — the first of our lifetime — amid the spread of coronavirus, a virus we were struggling to understand.

In the year since, Chicago’s neighborhoods have faced unprecedented challenges. Folks got sick. Loved ones died. People lost jobs. Schools shuttered. Beloved mom-and-pop shops closed their doors — some for good.

Parents worked double duty. Routines were interrupted. We stayed distant from the ones we care about most. Grocery store shelves were emptied, and fear and paranoia set in. Crisis took hold.

By many accounts, government struggled to provide adequate solutions. The systems we were used to relying on failed.

We lost so much. Yet in the face of insurmountable trouble, we came together to save each other.

A year after the shutdown, we celebrate the neighbors and everyday heroes who made our lives a little more bearable.

This is Chicago. And these are 100 ways we helped.

We Fed Our Neighbors

1. In 18 neighborhoods across the South and West Sides, neighbors and activists like Ashley Godfrey banded together to bring fully stocked refrigerators — dubbed Love Fridges — to areas struggling with food insecurity.

Credit: Provided
Ramon “Radius” Norwood stands next to the Bridgeport refrigerator at Mars Brewing, left, and the Little Village refrigerator at 2751 W. 21st St.

2. In Washington Park and at sites across the city, activist Nita Tennyson and others launched the Love Train to provide free baby supplies and food to those in need.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Love Train volunteers hand out baby supplies and food after the GoodKids MadCity Love March to Combat Gun Violence in Washington Park on July 11, 2020.

3. In Archer Heights, the Southwest Collective launched Food’s Here to feed neighbors, employ laid-off restaurant workers and reduce food waste. They use extra food from meal subscription services and a closed restaurant to feed 250 people hit hard by the pandemic each week.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
María Dolores Lopez packs up food at Archer Heights cafe De Colores, 3838 W. 49th St., as employees packaged over 400 to-go meals March 2, 2021. The meals were distributed to Southwest Side families in need as part of a new pilot program organized by community organization Southwest Collective.

4. In West Garfield Park in the fall, Jermaine Jordan opened Healthy Hot Free Meals, a soul food restaurant that provides free food for people in need and those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Neighbors from across the city donated to keep the effort going.

Jermaine Jordan preparing and giving out meals at Healthy Hot Free Meals.

5. In Hyde Park, students organized UChicago Mutual Aid after they were forced to move off campus while being hit with lighter financial aid checks.

Credit: UChicago Mutual Aid
UChicago Mutual Aid volunteers

6. On the South and West sides, churches and groups like Black Girls Break Bread organized one-stop shops for supplies like food, masks, coronavirus testing and diapers.

7. In Woodlawn, organizers with The Experimental Station, Invisible Institute, Build Coffee, South Side Weekly and Star Farm Chicago launched Market Box program, which fed South Side families and supported small Midwestern farms through the summer. As of September, they’d made nearly 4,000 fresh food deliveries to South Side families.

Credit: Davon Clark
Star Farm staff and volunteers packed 100 bags with produce, bread and eggs Sept. 17.

8. In Bridgeport, owner Ed Marzewski and chef Won Kim transformed Kimski into a Community Canteen, offering free or pay-what-you-can meals to go. They gave out as many as 2,000 meals each week.

Credit: Facebook/Maria’s Packaged Goods & Community Bar
The “Community Canteen” at Maria’s allows neighbors to get a free meal or pay what you can, which will help fund more meals.

9. In Washington Park, the People’s Grab-N-Go popped up every Monday at Burke Elementary School in response to the brief CPS food shutdown. The school was one of CPS’ meal distribution sites. In the first two giveaways alone, organizers Matt Muse, Jihad Kheperu, Dominique James, Trina Reynolds-Tyler and others fed 800 families.

Credit: Provided
People’s Grab-And-Go

10. In Back of the Yards, Increase the Peace and other groups launched a free Black and Brown Unity Food Pantry, acting as a bridge in the wake of isolated incidents of violence dividing the two communities.

Credit: Mauricio Peña/ Block Club Chicago
Berto Aguayo, director and co-founder of Increase the Peace, hosts a Black and Brown Food Pantry in Back of the Yards Wednesday afternoon.

11. In Logan Square, Diana Dávila, chef and owner of Mi Tocaya Antojería, fed hundreds of homestyle Mexican meals to families in need while keeping her workers employed.

Credit: Provided
(Left) Janice Espino, an employee at Mi Tocaya Antojería, stands with chef and owner Diana Dávila at one of their meal giveaways in May (right), which drewlong lines down the block.

12. In North Lawndale, Rev. Reshorna Fitzpatrick and volunteers launched Soup for the Soul at Stone Temple Missionary Baptist Church, providing free soup to 200 West Siders in need every Monday.

Credit: Provided
Soup for the Soul gives away free meals at the Stone Temple church in North Lawndale.

13. The pandemic inspired South Side chef Michael Airhart to take his Taste for the Homeless effort on the road, using his van to traverse the city to give free meals and clothes to people experiencing homelessness. Airhart estimates he feeds about 1,200 people per day.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Chef Michael Airhart has been serving food for those experiencing homelessness most days at the corner of 14th Place and Canal Street. On March 17, 2021, he cooked up dozens of burgers and polishes for those in need of a bite.

14. Before the pandemic, New Life Centers’ Pan de Vida food pantry in Little Village was helping about 100 families per week. But when COVID-19 hit, “need spiked like crazy,” Executive Director Matt DeMateo said. In response, they partnered with the Greater Chicago Food Depository and scaled up distribution at seven sites across the South and West sides, feeding more than 700,000 people in six months.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Staff and volunteers lend a hand as New Life Centers of Chicagoland hosts a holiday food distribution event with the Greater Chicago Food Depository in the Little Village neighborhood on Tuesday, Dec. 22.

15. In Hyde Park, the Brave Space Alliance, Chicago’s only Black- and transgender-led LGBTQ center, launched a crisis pantry for people in need.

Credit: Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago
Zahara Basset, director of development and external relations at the Brave Space Alliance, leads protesters during a Black Trans Lives Matter protest.

16. In Austin, Alt_ co-founder Jon Veal and others transformed an abandoned building into a free grocery store where residents can get food. The market is stocked with food donated by neighbors and nonprofit, and it inspired other markets across the city.

Credit: Provided
Alt_ Market being built in Grand Crossing.

17. In Bronzeville and Kenwood, The Sacred Keepers Sustainability Lab created a food distribution hub after some South Side grocers temporarily closed after being looted. It’s supported by the The Bronzeville/Kenwood Mutual Aid network.

Credit: Provided
Volunteers greet people at the Bronzeville/Kenwood Mutual Aid network’s food and supply distribution Oct. 2. The distributions are held at Sacred Keepers Sustainability Lab, 4445 S. King Drive.

18. South Chicago-based master gardener Gregory Bratton is responsible for nearly 100 urban farms across Chicago, playing an instrumental role in bringing free fresh food to the South Side. Coronavirus didn’t slow down his efforts.

Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
Gregory Bratton poses in the Trayvon Martin Everlasting Community Garden, 8454 S. Escanaba Ave., which directly neighbors his house. The Buddha head is not religious, but rather a reminder of peace, Bratton said; it’s one of 100 across Chicago he helped to install.

19. In Gage Park, the Gage Park Latinx Council gave away 3,000 pounds of food within 15 minutes of openings its mercadito. The market serves 75-100 families weekly.

Credit: Provided
For nearly a year, the Gage Park Latinx Council has been providing food to families facing food insecurity on the Southwest Side.

20. In Pullman, Brittanee Rolle and other organizers launched Feed the People, a pop-up distribution providing food, infant formula and feminine products Fridays. Over the duration, 1,000 people were helped.

Credit: Delacreme Scholars
The Scholar Slide By volunteers pack fresh groceries to be delivered to homes on the South and West sides.

21. In Avondale, chefs Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark, the husband-and-wife team behind Wherewithall, shifted their model to become a community kitchen, offering 1-cent or pay-what-you-can meals.

Credit: Ariel Cheung/DNAinfo
Husband-and-wife chefs Johnny Clark and Beverly Kim in front of Parachute, 3500 N. Elston Ave.

22. In October, 450 moms scattered across the city donated 1,700 lasagnas to out-of-work moms and others in need.

Credit: Provided.
Erin Hallett, from Wicker Park, is one of the volunteers for the nonprofit Lasagna Love.

We Housed People

23. In Ravenswood, the Luceros, the family of nine behind the Cielito Lindo mariachi band, were facing eviction. COVID-19 canceled events and closed theaters, cutting the family’s regular income by nearly half. But neighbors came to their rescue, raising $66,000 for the family, covering months of unpaid back rent and securing several months of future payments.

Credit: Facebook / Provided
The Lucero family, who live in Ravenswood, make up “Cielito Lindo,” a modern Mariachi band in Chicago.

24. In Avondale, three homeless encampments were set on fire within three hours in July. Neighbors donated tents, bedding and other supplies to help residents get back on their feet.

Credit: Mina Bloom/Block Club Chicago
Antonio Ortega (pictured) lost all of his belongings in the Monday afternoon fire.

25. When West Garfield Park was hit with a bitter cold snap in February, restaurant owner Jermaine Jordan launched GoFundMe to get people experiencing homelessness off the streets and into hotel rooms. In the first few days of the effort, he rented 38 rooms to shelter those in need.

Jermaine Jordan has been getting hotel rooms and giving food for people experiencing homelessness across Chicago.

We Launched Hotlines And Checked On Neighbors

26. Spurred by Tanya Lozano, founder of Pilsen’s Healthy Hood, activists across Chicago launched We Got Us to deliver masks, groceries and other critical supplies to the South and West sides. The group also launched a ZIP-code-specific hotline where volunteers connect callers to food pantries and testing centers.

Credit: Instagram
Organizers, including Tanya Lozano (far right) are helping pack care packages for people in need.

27. In Greater Grand Crossing in April, The Dovetail Project, a South Side nonprofit dedicated to helping young fathers, launched a 24-hour support line where dads could request essentials like diapers, formula and free food.

The Dovetail Project, a South Side nonprofit dedicated to helping young fathers, has created an emergency hotline to help those affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

28. In North Lawndale in July, the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council created a helpline where residents could find local resources to help them meet basic needs.

Credit: Pidgeon Pagonis
Lawndale resident sews masks at Stone Temple Missionary Baptist Church.

29. In March, My Block, My Hood, My City volunteers from across the city signed up to call isolated seniors for wellbeing checks.

Credit: My Block, My Hood, My City
My Block, My Hood, My City has been delivering supplies to seniors across the city for weeks.

We Made Masks

30. In Hyde Park, former librarian Leslie Travis tapped her numerous connections — including a sailmaker and quilting guild — to create a massive operation producing thousands of masks.

Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
Leslie Travis poses on the porch of her Hyde Park home in a mask and a scrub cap she made. The scrub cap includes buttons to hold the mask and protect her ears.

31. In Wicker Park, Lauren Nepomuceno and Monica Paprocki launched an ambitious citywide mission to make cloth face masks for Chicago’s first responders and essential workers. In one month, Masks 4 Chicago’s 654 group members produced about 3,000 masks — all of which were donated to workers.

Credit: Lauren Nepomuceno / Provided

32. In Streeterville, 91-year-old great-grandmother Eszter Kutas made hundreds of masks and sold them, donating the proceeds to the COVID-19 Relief Fund at Northwestern Medicine. “I know it’s not too much, but it’s something.”

Eszter Kutas is sewing face masks in her condo in Streeterville and selling them to neighbors in Bucktown and Logan Square.

33. In Uptown, refugees who were learning to sew through RefugeeOne, like Sandra Muyumba, pivoted during the pandemic, making thousands of masks to donate to the community.

Credit: Provided
Sandra Muyumba, a client of RefugeeOne, makes protective face masks from her West Ridge home.

34. In West Town, Lauren Young sewed 8,000 masks to help neighbors. Over the holidays, she sewed 1,800 masks for seniors in West Town

Credit: Lauren Young / Provided

We Donated Supplies To Protect People

35. In Ravenswood, Koval distillery delivered 500 gallons of free hand sanitizer in April to Chicago nonprofits struggling to find supplies. The distillery, known for its whiskey and gin, switched to producing hand sanitizer in March to address the nationwide shortage. Its first batches of free hand sanitizer went to retirement homes, first responders and health care workers.

Credit: Koval Distillery
Sonat Birnecker Hart, founder and president of Koval Distillery, fills hand sanitizer jugs.

36. In Pilsen, food pantry the Pilsen Social Health Initiative, founded by physicians Evelyn Figueroa and Alex Wu, expanded its mission by opening a thrift store, building a medical supply closet and hosting a social worker to get families the help they need.

Credit: Provided
Family medical physicians Evelyn Figueroa and Alex Wu started a food pantry inside a University of Illinois clinic in 2018 before expanding services at a new location.

37. In Portage Park in March, back when toilet paper was scarce, neighbor Jaclyn Crawford started putting rolls of toilet paper and other household supplies in a container outside her home with a sign that read, “Take what you need.” With help from My Block, My Hood, My City, she expanded her Treasure Box program this year.

Jaclyn Crawford

38. In March, Uptown Church members assembled emergency supply kits to pass out to neighbors in need. They also offered check-in calls to people who were isolated during the stay at home order.

Credit: Facebook/Uptown Church
Members of Uptown Church are stepping up to help members of the community during the coronavirus outbreak.

39. In Roseland, United Pullman and other groups passed out masks, diapers, hand sanitizer, baby food and other essentials to people in need in June.

Credit: Nitram242/Flickr

We Helped Out-Of-Work Restaurant Workers

40. Laid-off Hideout bartender Jessica Romanowski, a private chef by day, launched Care Kitchen Chicago in March, delivering care packages of meals to people impacted by the coronavirus shutdown.

Credit: Facebook/Provided
Jessica Romanowski is preparing meals for people impacted by the coronavirus shutdown.

41. After HaiSous in Pilsen was forced to close dine-in services to slow the spread of coronavirus in March, owners Thai and Danielle Dang brought together their staff to make free meals for vulnerable families and laid-off food and beverage workers.

Credit: HaiSous/ Instagram
HaiSous Owners Thai and Danielle Dang, left, Thai Dang and HaiSous Team prepare meals for family in need in Pilsen.

42. TaKorea Cocina owner Robert Magiet’s nonprofit West Town Feeds, mental health industry group Darkest Before Dawn and community building collective A City United partnered to provide free meals to hospitality workers on St. Patrick’s Day. “We were supposed to be out of work for two weeks,” one said. “It’s been a year.”

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Sophia Bisch, hostess, prepares an online order for Manuel Guochichullea at the Triple Crown restaurant in Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood on Feb. 8, 2021.

We Rebuilt Looted Businesses

43. During a weekend of unrest in June, looters breached the Local Market roof and damaged the grocery store — one South Shore residents fought six years to bring to the community. Dozens of neighbors came out to clean up the grocery store as part of a “community policing” effort.

Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
Rev. Adonna Reid (center, in blue) of South Shore United Methodist Church, leading a prayer circle.

44. After Jamaal Burris’ gym in Englewood was looted and vandalized, activists Jurema Gorham and Joseph Williams raised money to help Black businesses and offered Burris a grant to help him rebuild. “People like [Joseph] — and everyone else who reached out to help us clean up — made me realize that I owe it to them to stay here,” Burris said.

Credit: Jamie Nesbitt Golden/Block Club Chicago
Jamaal Burris, owner of The Fitness Annex, one of the recipients of a grant created to help Black businesses affected by looting in May.

45. In West Humboldt Park, siblings Charles Pickett and Mercedes Pickett raised more than $40,000 to help West Side businesses rebuild.

Credit: Provided
Siblings Mercedes Pickett, 28, and Charles Pickett, 25, (left) organized neighborhood cleanups after the looting and now they’re launching a grant program to help West Side businesses rebuild.

46. Nonprofit My Block, My Hood, My City raised $1 million in two days to help looted businesses, giving 218 businesses grants up to $7,500 to rebuild.

Credit: My Block My Hood My City
Jahmal Cole (left) of My Block, My Hood, My City during a neighborhood cleanup in June.

47. When Gus Safi’s beauty supply store in Auburn Gresham was looted, it was the second time a store he owned had been affected by unrest. Six years earlier, his beauty supply store in Ferguson, Missouri, was destroyed in the aftermath of protests after police killed Michael Brown. This time around, South Side community members came, brooms and dustpans in hand, to help him clean up. That show of support meant the world, Safi said.

Credit: Jamie Nesbitt Golden/Block Club Chicago
Hollywood Beauty Supply owner Gus Safi stands in one of the aisles of the recently reopened store.

48. In Wicker Park, dozens of neighbors came out to help family-owned businesses clean up after 40 area businesses were looted.

Credit: Hannah Alani / Block Club Chicago
Alexandra Marks talks with neighbors outside her namesake jewelry shop in Wicker Park on June 1, 2020.

49. In Auburn Gresham, MBM Dance Company was destroyed in a May fire. Neighbors rallied to raise thousands to help owner Barbie Jones rebuild.

MBM Dance Company Founder Barbie Jones talks to WGN-TV reporter during a fundraiser for her troupe last weekend.

We Saved Struggling Mom-And-Pop Shops And Street Vendors

50. In the South Loop this summer, Manny’s Cafeteria & Delicatessen was in trouble. Without a steady stream of customers because most offices were closed Downtown, owners worried they’d have to close the cafe, in business since 1942. The next day, Manny’s fans showed up in droves, with a long line stretching around the block. Owners wept: “We are crying with joy — Chicago, you came through.”

Credit: Provided
The line stretched down the block at Manny’s Deli Wednesday.

51. In East Side, the Gonzalez-Dominguez family bought out all of the paletas from 70-year-old paletero’s Don Rosario cart so he could take the rest of the day for himself. What followed was a viral sensation, with video of the kind act being watched more than 5 million times and a GoFundMe to help Don Rosario retire racking up nearly $40,000 in one day.

Credit: Miklo_98/TikTok

52. Like other workers who rely on Chicago’s restaurant and bar scene to earn a living, beloved “tamale guy” Claudio Velez was hit hard by the coronavirus shutdown. In Lakeview and the West Loop, enterprising neighborhood groups stepped up to help him in April by crowdsourcing big orders of his delicious tamales. Neighbors bought $2,600 in tamales in two orders alone.

Credit: Mauricio Peña/ Block Club Chicago
Neighbors pick up tamale outside community garden in West Loop.

53. In Bucktown, neighbors raised more than $10,000 in October to help beloved ice cream man Wilfredo Cintron, 80, buy a generator for his ice cream truck.

Credit: Jonathan Cintron / Provided
Wilfredo Cintron hands ice cream to a customer in Bucktown after neighbors raised more than $9,000 to fix his truck.

54. In Humboldt Park and neighborhoods across the city, restaurateur Robert Magiet bought out tamale vendors and delivered the food to people experiencing homelessness at encampments and shelters. Buy-outs averaged $350 for 20-25 dozen tamales, he said in January.

Credit: Robert Magiet / Provided
TaKorea Cocina owner Robert Magiet has been buying tamales from local vendors to feed the unhoused community.

We Raised Money For Neighbors In Need

55. In Gage Park, the Gage Park Latinx Council launched a GoFundMe to help undocumented families who lost their jobs because of the coronavirus shutdown. The campaign, launched in March, raised more than $64,000.

Credit: Eduardo Cornejo
For nearly a year, the Gage Park Latinx Council has been providing food to families facing food insecurity on the Southwest Side.

56. In North Lawndale in March, Stone Temple Missionary Baptist Rev. Reshorna Fitzpatrick and Pidgeon Pagonis, two organizers of the Soup for the Soul mutual aid program, gave away $100 gift cards to 50 families who come to Soup for the Soul for a free meal and warm clothing.

Credit: Provided
Soup for the Soul gives away free meals at the Stone Temple church in North Lawndale.

57. In Edgewater, neighbors raised $27,000 for a community response fund benefitting Care For Real, a local charity that runs a food pantry and other services for residents in need.

Credit: Facebook/Care For Real
The majority of funds raised will go towards Care For Real, which runs a food and clothing pantry.

58. After he was laid off because of the pandemic, Edgewater resident Danny Beers launched a food drive for LGBTQ seniors, raising thousands of dollars for Center on Halsted.

Credit: Ryan Beshel/Provided
Danny Beers started a food drive for LGBTQ seniors last month and raised more than $5,500 for the Center on Halsted’s senior services.

We Helped Kids Learn

59. After learning someone stole tablets and other school supplies for Mothers Against Senseless Killings’ Englewood back-to-school giveaway in September, people from all over the city pitched in to help. Within hours, Chicagoans had purchased all 60 tablets on the group’s Amazon wishlist. “Today could’ve been a terrible day, but all of our friends, supporters and even strangers stepped up and made sure it wasn’t,” founder Tamar Manasseh said.

Credit: Provided
Tamar Manasseh of MASK in a pop-up classroom on 74th and Stewart. Donated school supplies were stolen from the trailer Thursday, but Chicago stepped up to help.

60. When CPS shifted to e-learning to slow the spread of coronavirus, it presented a problem for West Side essential workers who couldn’t work from home. In North Lawndale and Garfield Park, Young Men’s Educational Network, Breakthrough Urban Ministries and Marillac St. Vincent Family Services gave students a safe space to e-learn under the supervision of adults.

Credit: Provided
Students at Breakthrough are given a distanced workplace to do online classes.

61. In South Shore in April, Quarry Event Center organizers stocked its Little Free Library with care packages with books and activities to keep neighbors of all ages occupied during the pandemic.

Credit: Provided
Left: Candice Washington fills the Quarry’s Little Free Library with care packages. Right: Obari Cartman sanitizes the Little Free Library.

62. In Woodlawn in April, the Brilliant Brown Boys book club moved its programs to Zoom, boosting the boys’ confidence in reading during a critical time.

Credit: Provided
The Feb. 29 Brilliant Brown Boys book club meeting, featuring guest storyteller Don Brumfield (center, gray shirt) from Black Ink Crew: Chicago.

We Saved Animals

63. In Englewood in April, PAWS volunteers delivered more than a month’s worth of pet food and supplies to 28 homebound families, helping at least 100 pets in the area.

PAWS Chicago’s Community Outreach Program services pets in underserved areas.

64. In Galewood in October, neighbors worked over five days to save Lullaby, a cat stuck in a 50-foot tree. In the end, Humborto Fernandez, owner of Fernandez Tree Service, and a team of Chicago arborists came to its rescue.

Lullaby (left) was rescued after five days in a tree by Fernandez Tree Service.

65. In February, neighbors from across the city rallied around an Albany Park family to help them search for their lost dog, Toby. He was eventually spotted in Humboldt Park, setting off a successful rescue mission.

Credit: Chicago Police Department/Facebook
Nelly Roa and her 2-year-old German Shepherd Toby. Chicago police officers with the Shakespeare (14th) District helped rescue Toby Wednesday.

66. In East Ukrainian Village in December, strangers came together to save a feral kitten trapped in a car’s engine.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Duke Animal Hospital technician Emilia Fita rescues a feral tabby kitten who climbed inside a car’s engine in East Ukrainian Village on Dec. 3, 2020.

We Lent A Hand

67. In August, a brutal storm knocked out power for 170,000 Chicagoans. In Beverly and Logan Square, Chicagoans stepped up to help neighbors without power by setting up makeshift charging stations on sidewalks and in parkways.

Credit: Provided/Amy Keleher
Beverly resident Amy Keleher’s daughter and a neighbor at the Keleher family’s charging station.

68. In Pilsen in March, residents like Sofia Armengol helped make grocery and pharmacy store runs for vulnerable people and older folks.

Credit: Bob Chiarito/ Block Club Chicago
A shopper at Costco, 2746 N. Clybourn Ave.

69. When Chicago was hit with a historic winter storm in February, the Neighborhood Network Alliance launched the South Shore Blizzard Dig-Out hotline to send out volunteers to shovel snow.

Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
A snowy 7000 block of South Paxton Avenue in South Shore.

70. During that historic winter storm in February, residents found out Chicago no longer has a program to help residents who are older or who have disabilities clear snow. Neighborhood groups like the organizers of the Lawndale Cares Helpline stepped up, offering shoveling help to those who needed it.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Chris helps his neighbor Marvin dig his car out of a snowy side street after a heavy snowfall this weekend in the Logan Square neighborhood on Feb. 1, 2021.

71. In Hyde Park and Woodlawn, two University of Chicago students, Ailsa Lipscombe and Britt Dorton, organized a disability care network to deliver medicine and groceries to neighbors in need.

Credit: Provided
An example of a care package. No deliveries have yet been made through the Hyde Park Disability Care Network, which just kicked off this week — but 24 volunteers had already signed up as of Tuesday afternoon, organizers said.

We Paid It Forward

72. In Lakeview last summer, chiropractor Ria Tjiong put down $100 at a local small business every Friday, encouraging her neighbors to order a treat on “Dr. Ria’s Tab.”

Credit: Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago
Dr. Ria Tjiong of Truly Chiropractic, 3058 N. Lincoln Ave., has spent more than $1,500 since May doing weekly giveaways supporting small businesses in Lakeview.

73. In Hyde Park in October, Julie Vassilatos and Kate Agarwal’s South Side Pie Challenge went virtual, raising funds to address food insecurity by encouraging neighbors to bake pies for each other.

Credit: Provided
Two pies submitted by a baker in Florida for this year’s virtual Pie It Forward effort, organized by the South Side Pie Challenge in support of local food banks.

74. In Lincoln Square, food pantry Common Pantry’s I Am Your Neighbor program allowed people ordering takeout or delivery from local restaurants to pick up the tab for neighbors struggling financially.

Credit: provided
Lorraine Orbon (left) from Tuscan Hen Market is just one of the restaurants participating in Common Pantry’s initiative.

We Lifted Spirits

75. In Kenwood, Jean-Paul Coffy and Yakini Ajanaku brought music and joy to their Lake Park Avenue block for 105 straight days — from March’s “coat weather” to the sun and sweat of July. They celebrated the anniversary of their first performance this weekend.

Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
Jean-Paul Coffy and Yakini Ajanaku perform Friday at the final regular session of “Lake Park Fired Up.”

76. Inspired by Italians singing from their balconies in solidarity against coronavirus, Rogers Park residents also stuck inside started a singalong, first belting out Jon Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” together online and in person.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Jenni Spinner and Rebecca Kell (bottom), the two masterminds behind the Chicago Singalong, poke their heads out of their apartment in the Rogers Park neighborhood as they sang “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi with neighbors on Saturday, March 21, 2020 in Chicago.

77. South Loopers were quick to follow suit, posting up on balconies and in high-rise windows for nightly singalongs and light shows.

Credit: Colin Boyle/ Block Club Chicago
South Loop neighbors play “We Will Rock You” by Queen and shine lights on Friday night.

78. In Jackson Park Highlands in March, neighbors came up with a game to keep antsy children entertained as we social distanced: a bear walk.

79. When his circus school was shut down and all his gigs were canceled, circus performer Joe Lobeck took his act to Logan Boulevard to cheer up neighbors.

Credit: Mina Bloom/ Block Club Chicago
Joe Lobeck, 29, with his circus gear on Monday.

80. In Wicker Park, mom Elizabeth Mavros made a window-based scavenger hunt for neighborhood kids.

Credit: Provided
A child’s artwork creation hangs in the window of a Wicker Park home.

81. In Logan Square, Maggie Pagan and her husband, Edwin, organized a series of social distancing activities like Christmas in April and porch wine night to keep their neighbors in the 2300 block of North Lawndale Avenue entertained.

Credit: Courtesy of Maggie Gomez Pagan
Neighbors in the 2300 block of North Lawndale Avenue are staying connected while socially distancing from one another.

82. In Ukrainian Village, neighbor Zak played nightly DJ sets to cheer up others feeling the brunt of self-isolation.

Credit: Emily Muzzy / Provided
A Ukrainian Village neighbor takes a selfie during his nightly social distancing “concert series.”

83. In North Lawndale, volunteers lit up hundreds of holiday trees along a mile-long stretch in the heart of neighborhood to let the community know “they were cared about.”

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Pastor Reshorna Fitzpatrick poses for a photo at the Light Up Lawndale event outside Stone Temple Baptist Church on Saturday, Dec. 19 in the North Lawndale neighborhood.

84. On King Drive, hundreds of volunteers from across the city joined My Block, My Hood, My City to light up miles of the South Side for Christmas.

Credit: Colin Boyle/ My Block, My Hood, My City
Holiday decorations are sorted into bins for My Block, My Hood, My City’s Be A Part of the Light event in Chicago’s South Side on December 5, 2020.

85. In Englewood, a group of women — mostly educators who are 40 and older — came together to launch Black Girls Carol, bringing good tidings and cheer to South Side neighborhoods during the holidays.

The members of Black Girls Carol are giving South Side families a reason to celebrate this holiday season.

86. In Pilsen, artist Shelby Rodeffer painted a mural to lift spirits. It depicts two distant homes communicating through a tin-can telephone with the message: “We will figure it out. Aqui juntos.” “We wanted to let our neighbors know we are thinking about them,” she said.

Credit: Marta Sasinowska
Artists and muralist Shelby Rodeffer works on a new mural outside the Chicago Art Department in Pilsen.

87. In Uptown, neighbors of the condo building at 908 W. Agatite Ave. created their Land of Make Believe, decking out their courtyard with a field of inflatable unicorns to battle the coronavirus blues.

Credit: Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago
An Uptown condo building’s courtyard has been transformed into the “Land of Make Believe.”

88. In Edgewater, photographer Michelle Lytle brought a mural to Broadway that says “Everything Will Be OK” and a coinciding lawn sign campaign to raise money for Edgewater charity Care For Real.

Credit: Courtesy Michelle Lytle Photography
Edgewater’s new street art is based on a public-encouragement art campaign started in Atlanta.

We Celebrated Each Other

89. In South Shore, 33-year-old Spanish teacher and mom Kourtney Lewis was battling cancer again amid the pandemic after beating the disease a decade ago. Her neighbors wanted to celebrated her fighting spirit, and dozens lined the streets and sidewalks to wish her a happy birthday from afar.

Credit: Ronnie D. Lewis
Kourtney Lewis, left, and her mother, Paula Lee-Rosario, celebrate Lewis’ 33rd birthday.

90. Coronavirus canceled many weddings and forced others to marry in more intimate settings. In Bucktown, Jeff Solin, an ordained minister, married a couple in socially distanced celebration from his porch and used a 3D printer to create a pair of silver rings for them to exchange.

Credit: Jeff Solin / Provided
Bucktown resident Jeff Solin married a couple, who wished to remain anonymous, outside his house.

91. In Woodlawn in June, neighbors planned a surprise, socially distant birthday parade for 100-year-old Lucinda Rogers. Dozens of attendees made the celebration “out of this world,” one attendee said.

Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
Lucinda Rogers (in white) dances with Andrew Holmes on her 100th birthday in front of her longtime West Woodlawn home.

92. In Jefferson Park in March, Jasper Korotko’s friends and their parents drove past his Jefferson Park house with signs and balloons, honking and blasting birthday songs in one of the first socially distant celebrations during the pandemic.

Credit: Screenshot
Jasper Korotko at his 10th birthday party, a social distancing parade.

93. In West Town in March, Vanessa Torres’ friends and family piled into cars — each household sequestered into one car, in observance of social distancing — and threw her a surprise Puerto Rican parade in honor of her birthday.

Credit: Vanessa Torres / Provided
Vanessa Torres celebrated her 35th birthday with a surprise Puerto Rican parade outside her West Town home.

94. In Bronzeville in December, dozens of masked-up neighbors came out to celebrate historian and civil rights activist Timuel Black, who turned 102.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Friends and family hold signs and balloons as they drive past for Dr. Timuel D. Black’s 102nd birthday celebration in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood on Dec. 7, 2020.

95. In Irving Park in March, neighbors saved 4-year-old Jack Cholis’ birthday with a bingo scavenger hunt.

Jack Cholis, right, and his brother, Christopher.

We Reached Across Borders

96. In Pilsen in January, the Figueroa Wu Family Foundation launched the free shuttle service from ABLA homes and Barbara Jean Wright Courts to help Near West Side families access its Pilsen food pantry.

Credit: Provided
Pilsen Food Pantry test out a pilot shuttle bus to serve 25th Ward residents on the Near West Side.

97. Tommy Samuels and Helendora Samuels, owners of Helendora Samuels Picture Framing in Wicker Park, tapped their Wicker Park neighbors to help neighbors in Helendora’s childhood home of Austin. Their efforts included a toy and boot drive and Easter basket and meal drive.

Credit: Hannah Alani / Block Club Chicago
The Rev. Sylvester “Tommy” Samuels and Helendora Samuels inside their custom framing shop in Wicker Park.

We Prayed And Helped Each Other Grieve

98. In Englewood, neighbors rallied to send love and pray for Ms. Gwen Johnson, a force who has helped those in need for more than 50 years, after she contracted coronavirus.

I Grow Chicago volunteer Gwen Johnson (left) in an undated photo.

99. In May, Purpose Over Pain volunteers raised thousands to send Mother’s Day flowers to 75 West and South side moms who lost their children to gun violence.

Credit: Provided.
Flower bouquet grown by Southside Blooms

100. To honor the thousands of Chicagoans who died of COVID-19, Albany Park resident Luz María Vargas, who lost her own mother to the virus, built three temporary memorials for people to mourn loved ones lost to coronavirus as part of the Floral Heart Project.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Raquel Esparza prays over the Floral Heart Project as Chicagoans gather at Buckingham Fountain to remember those who lost their lives to COVID-19 on March 1, 2021.

We Saved Lives

These are just a fraction of the ways neighbors helped — and a fraction of the stories Block Club covered. Did your neighbors do something extraordinary to help each other over the last year? We want to know about it. Email

Do stories like this matter to you? Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.

Already subscribe? Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation.