CHICAGO — Let’s end 2022 on a high note, shall we?
Here are 11 stories that made us smile this year — and this isn’t even a fraction of the good stuff we covered. If you want some more good Chicago news in your life, check out our “It’s All Good” podcast with 67 (!) episodes dedicated to positive stories.
Do you have a positive neighborhood story you think we should cover? Email us.
1. TikTok Historian Shermann ‘Dilla’ Thomas Lands New Tour Bus For His Chicago Lessons After Months Of Fundraising
Before he became a household name, reporter Atavia Reed knew Shermann “Dilla” Thomas was a Chicagoan to watch. After she wrote several stories about his work to highlight the South Side’s often-ignored history, Chicagoans came together so Thomas could put a down payment on his own tour bus.
2. ‘Ray Of Sunshine’ South Side Crossing Guard Has Brought Joy To Kids With Toy Giveaway For Nearly 20 Years
Woodlawn crossing guard Angela Thompson has held a Christmas toy drive for kids along her route for more than 15 years. The toy drive started when Thompson overheard a young mother’s conversation “about how she couldn’t afford to do anything for her kids for Christmas,” she said. Ever since, kids on her route never went without gifts.
For over a year, Rogers Park neighbors have joined together to offer a weekly meal of chili to the dozens living in tents inside Touhy Park, 7348 N. Paulina St. The operation has grown over time, with the neighbors also offering fresh produce, personal hygiene products, clothes and harm reduction supplies.
“I’ve experienced a lot of kindness,” one attendee said.
4. Whole Foods’ Decision To Close Englewood Store Inspires Resident To Build Thriving Community Garden
When Whole Foods announced its Englewood store would close, Kenneth Griffin decided to do something about it.
The police officer, chef and founder of nonprofit No Matter What took over a vacant lot at 6505 S. Bishop St. Then, with no experience in gardening, he gathered area teens and police officers and built a thriving community garden.
The Denzel Thornton Memorial Garden, named after Griffin’s friend who was fatally shot in 2016, is no replacement for the Whole Foods, but Griffin thought it was a good way to teach youth to advocate for their futures.
Early this year, more than 1,000 Morgan Park High School students were surprised with full rides to college.
Hope Chicago, a nonprofit that funds college scholarships for Chicago Public Schools students, surprised students at the Far South Side high school during a February assembly, and the joy was contagious.
“I’m in shock, I’m very grateful. This just actually really feels like a miracle,” one student said.
6. How A Ukrainian Village School Is Making Families Escaping Russian Invasion Feel At Home In Chicago
Since Russia invaded Ukraine early this year, reporter Quinn Myers has told many stories about the city’s resilient and generous Ukrainian community, which has stepped up to help those here and abroad impacted by the war.
He covered rallies, donation drives, free virtual dance classes for kids in Kyiv and how St. Nicholas grew from a neighborhood Catholic elementary school to a community and social service hub. Nearly 80 Ukrainian students fleeing the war enrolled there this year, and the school has offered them free language classes, school supplies, health screenings, sports camps and more.
7. Northwest Side Teen Gets Surprise Quinceañera Thanks To Taft High School, Fulfilling Mother’s Dream
Juanita Ico, a mother from Belize who was sent to Chicago with other migrants from Texas, didn’t have enough money to throw a birthday party for her daughter after the long journey to America.
So, the team at Taft High School stepped up and organized a surprise quinceañera for her daughter Jojho, who has epilepsy and is nonverbal. The celebration — complete with music, pink balloons, food, flowers and guest gift bags — was a dream she always wanted to make come true.
“Seeing her walking with this dress is amazing,” Ico said. “I was not expecting this, but I am very grateful for everything.”
8. This Self-Taught Gardener Is Beautifying Back Of The Yards And Helping Residents Reclaim Their Streets 1 Corner At A Time
Edgar Florentino loved visiting Downtown when he was a kid, taking in the colors and textures of the landscaped flora. Then he’d return to Back of the Yards and be disappointed by the lack of vibrancy on the streets, he said.
So, Florentino started landscaping “hot corners” — streets where there is a lot of gun violence — and is on a mission to beautify and reclaim parkways for neighbors.
“It’s just something beautiful watching something grow.”
For six years, crossing guard Tammy Anderson has kept students safe at Beasley Academic Center using a stop sign and a smile. Anderson is a nonstop dance machine, waving at passersby, directing traffic with her brightly colored nails — and keeping her rhythm as she keeps order on State Street.
Anderson’s story delighted our readers, so when she fell on hard times and needed $5,000 to avoid eviction, Chicago went above and beyond to help the single mom get back on her feet — raising more than $19,000.
When we reported that rare ghost signs found on a Lakeview building were set to be demolished, you all Chicagoans jumped into action.
Chicago-based sign painters rallied and set up a fundraiser so they could rescue decades-old painted ads that were found on the building, and after raising more than $12,000, they did just that.
11. Lincoln Park Woman Creating ‘Ripple Effect’ Of Joy By Placing Bouquets Across Chicago For Strangers To Take
Jessica Housley has been spreading joy by making bouquets and leaving them in random places for people to take. Housley started the project, With Love, Chicago, in 2017 to spread love and kindness during a divisive time.
She put flowers from her mom’s garden in a vase and left them along Bissell Street in Lincoln Park with a note reading, “For you. If you find this, it’s meant for you. With love, Chicago.” Since then, Housley and her team of helpers have made hundreds of flower arrangements and left them throughout Chicago for people to take.
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