Tables laden with warm clothes, hot drinks, plates of food and extra groceries for anyone in need lined the sidewalk Thursday morning at a prominent corner in Uptown.
Folks at The Healing Corner put the word out on flyers and through a few organizations serving immigrants and the homeless. But they also were sure that in this neighborhood, still known for its concentration of shelters and social service agencies amid tony new buildings, foot traffic also would find them outside the Uptown Baptist Church at Wilson and Sheridan.
That’s where Shaila Marcano fell into nearly-new snowsuits, coats and cutesy hats for William, 3, Harry, 2, and tiny baby Ian. She was trucking her boys toward the Red Line on their way to a cousin’s home on the South Side for Thanksgiving, balancing all three on a single stroller.
“You have babies! I have baby coats,” said the volunteer who had just pulled up with donations and ended up handing her the whole bag of winter stuff in small sizes. It barely fit under the stroller, but Marcano found a way.
The 21-year old mother fled her home in Puerto Rico in the devastating wake of Hurricane Maria and found room for her family in Chicago in shelters, lately at the Salvation Army in Uptown.
At home, she had no need for such heavy stuff. Plus, little boys grow so fast “and I don’t have too much,” she said as the big boys clutched doughnuts that volunteers had given them.
Marcano was among about 250 people who stopped on the sidewalk Thursday morning, said Arielle Maldonado, one of The Healing Corner’s founders. Many had lined up before the published start time, eager for the heavy coats and socks that ran out first. They spotted the tables set up across the street from their spot on past Thanksgivings. They were displaced from that previous location by ongoing construction of luxury condos.
Along with the donated food and the clothing, The Healing Corner’s 100-plus volunteers also gave out balloons with inspirational messages inside, “Know Your Rights” cards and of course, the anti-violence organization’s signature free hugs.
The collection of volunteers counted young people like 8-year-old Netta Walker, who enjoy services like holiday turkeys and presents from the West Side-based organization on a regular basis; entire families like Jill Goodman’s, who show up every year to serve people less fortunate than themselves; new families like 17-year-old Carolina Ospina’s, who drove in from suburbs as far as Naperville, to hand out coffee and hot chocolate with an older sister and their mom.
“It’s super nice to help people who aren’t as fortunate as us,” Carolina said during a lull. “We have a roof over our heads and a family to have dinner with.”
Delphine Cherry of Hazel Crest, pushed herself out of her home in Hazel Crest to help this year.
She typically spends the holidays in bed, depressed after losing two of her children to violence close to Christmas. One was fatally shot in 1992 right after Christmas, the other a few days before it in 2012.
“Today I thought I could give back,” she said. “People have been so good to me.”