A volunteer brings a cart of fresh groceries to a client at Care for Real Rogers Park. Credit: Courtesy Care For Real

EDGEWATER — An Edgewater charity that became more vital than ever during the pandemic is celebrating 50 years of feeding those in need with a community block party Sunday.

Care For Real will celebrate its 50th anniversary 2-5 p.m. Sunday with a block party on Balmoral Avenue between Sheridan Road and Kenmore Avenue, across the street from the charity’s headquarters at 5339 N. Sheridan Road. It is free and open to the public.

The block party will mark 50 years of feeding people in need on the Far North Side and the efforts Care For Real has undertaken to meet heightened need for assistance during the coronavirus pandemic.

The block party will have live music, a raffle and a collection drive of personal care items. Businesses — including Edgewater Mexican Cafe, Burke’s Public House, Eli’s Cheesecake and Luciana’s Kitchen — will provide food at the event.

Coronavirus tests will be offered, and Care For Real will lead tours through its Edgewater offices and food pantry.

Care For Real is throwing the community party to thank neighbors for helping the charity reach more people during the pandemic, Executive Director Gregory Gross said.

A 50th anniversary fundraiser sought to raise $50,000 in 50 days this summer, but neighbors helped raise $104,000, including a $10,000 donation from a local anonymous donor, Gross said.

“They saw the need in the community,” Gross said. “The community was incredible generous. Care For Real has always been about community, so we wanted to celebrate with the community.”

Last year, Care For Real saw a nearly 150 percent jump in new families using its food services. It quickly expanded to meet the need.

During the pandemic, Care For Real opened a second food pantry in Rogers Park. This spring, Care For Real added a drive-thru food pantry service in Rogers Park, helping reach people outside the community.

Those services are on top of the food pantry, clothing pantry and pet supply pantry Care For Real runs at its Edgewater location.

“Every day, we see new people,” Gross said.

Care For Real was founded in 1971 by the Edgewater Clerical & Rabbinical Association Episcopal. The multi-faith institution sought to help neighbors in the area Kenmore and Winthrop avenues, which was know at the time as “arson alley” for the number of arson-for-profit fires, Gross said.

With the help of the community, Care For Real has helped those in need ever since.

“Whenever we ask for assistance, people are always there,” Gross said. “This is how we support and maintain the diverse community we all love.”

For more information on the block party, click here.

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