Tommy and Helendora Samuels at their frame shop in Wicker Park Credit: Quinn Myers/Block Club Chicago

WICKER PARK — A Wicker Park frame store that regularly hosts toy and coat drives is launching an Easter basket collection for kids and families in need.

Helendora Samuels and her husband, Sylvester “Tommy” Samuels, own Helendora Samuels Picture Framing, 1736 W. North Ave. For the past five years they’ve organized clothing and toy drives for Christmas, and launched an Easter basket giveaway in 2021.

The Samuels’ again are asking for neighbors to donate assembled Easter baskets for them to distribute to children, mostly on the West Side.

Baskets with toys and candy can be dropped off at the frame shop between 1-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 1-4 p.m. Saturdays. The Samuels’ will take donations until April 7, two days before Easter.

The couple is also accepting additional donations of toys and bicycles for a giveaway they hope to do this summer.

Earlier this winter, dozens of bags of toys and several donated bikes were stolen out of a storefront next to their Oak Park church where the couple stores leftover donations, Helendora Samuels said.

The Samuels’ are now hoping to still give away Easter baskets while stocking up on toys and bicycles for another giveaway this summer, which Helendora Samuels is calling “Christmas In July.”

“All my toys are gone. My goal every year is to do 2-300 baskets, and I had enough to do that, more than enough,” Helendora Samuels said. Now, “I have nothing.”

Amidst the regular collection drives the Samuels’ host every year, times have been tough at the frame store, they said. Customers have dwindled since the summer of 2020, when a push to shop at Black-owned businesses during racial justice protests sent them a spike of new clients.

“Business has fallen off tremendously,” Tommy Samuels said. The couple said they offer discounts and work with people’s budgets, and encourage neighbors to stop in.

Questions about the collection or to request baskets for people in need can be directed to Helendora Samuels at 312-731-5569.

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