WICKER PARK — The owners of Helendora Samuels Picture Framing in Wicker Park are holding a toy and clothing drive for West Side children and residents.
This is the fourth year Helendora Samuels and her husband, Sylvester “Tommy” Samuels, have given away toys and clothes around the holidays. The store owners are asking for only new toys because of the pandemic. They’ll give them to children in Austin and across the West Side. They’re also planning a visit from Santa Claus.
The Samuels are also accepting gift cards to give to kids and teenagers so they can buy their own holiday presents. Donated coats, boots, hats, gloves, scarves and other winter clothes will be given out at homeless encampments across the city.
Donations can be dropped off 12:30-3:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday until Dec. 24 at the frame shop, 1736 W. North Ave.
“I grew up in the Austin community, and I made a vow that if I ever get an opportunity to go back and help the youth and the young adults and children, then I would do so,” Helendora Samuels said.
The drive is sponsored by Helendora Samuels’ nonprofit, Stepping Out In Faith/I AM Austin, as well as Tommy Samuels’ church, The Righteous Way Of Living Ministries.
“We’re going back to Austin, from Wicker Park, we stop all over. We just jump out of the car and start handing out stuff,” Tommy Samuels said.
One of only a few Black-owned businesses in the Wicker Park-Bucktown area, Helendora Samuels Picture Framing was featured by Block Club last summer as it struggled to attract customers during the pandemic.
In response, a neighbor started a GoFundMe to support the shop. The business also saw a spike in customers during last summer’s social justice movement and protests, which drew more attention toward supporting Black businesses, Helendora Samuels said.
But recently, times have been tough.
“Since then, it’s been kind of quiet,” she said. “We’re still here offering the best framing.”
Questions about the toy and coat drive can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast” here: