Migrants celebrate their first Christmas in Chicago, major winter storm forecast and more in your Chicago news roundup

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

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Guests, many of whom arrived in the United States from Colombia and Venezuela, were served a holiday meal and sang carols in Spanish. Later, children were given presents donated by the community.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a five-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

This afternoon will be partly sunny with a high near 30 degrees. Tonight will be partly cloudy with a low near 15. Tomorrow will be mostly cloudy with a high near 29.

Top story

South American migrants celebrate their first Christmas in Chicago

​​Christmas feels different this year for the hundreds of South American migrants that attended yesterday’s holiday party at a Salvation Army shelter in Humboldt Park.

Many arrived from Venezuela and Colombia at the Texas-Mexico border and were sent to Chicago by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Now they struggle to pay rent and put food on the table for their young children.

Ellyn Harris, a spokesperson for the Salvation Army, said the party was just another way to “help people in need — wherever they’re at.”

Orlanis López and her 7-year-old son, Fabian, like many of the partygoers, are residents of the Salvation Army’s Shield of Hope Center at 825 N. Christiana Ave., the site of the event.

López said that one of the main reasons she left Caracas, Venezuela, was for Fabian, who has Down syndrome.

“There were many obstacles for us to come here and give another quality of life to my son because of his condition,” López said. “Here he has all the opportunities and the right to go to school like any other child.

“This event is like a welcoming for us, and I feel grateful. On the other hand, this Christmas will be very sad.” López will miss her parents back home.

“The truth is, it can be hard to be so far from your family, your parents, your roots, your land. It is not easy to adapt. It is not easy starting from scratch, but it’s not impossible either. And here we are.”

Thanks to a $5,000 donation from the Chicago Bears, partygoers shared a meal in the Salvation Army gymnasium. They even got a surprise visit from linebacker Matt Adams, who posed for photos with fans.

“It’s great just coming out and knowing that my presence is bringing them joy and seeing all kinds of families coming together under one roof,” Adams told the Sun-Times. “There are a lot of beautiful people here today.”

Ambar Colón has more from the group of new Chicagoans here.

More news you need

  1. An off-duty Chicago police officer was found dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound this morning, less than a week after the apparent suicide of another officer. She had been on the force for five years and had been working as a tactical officer in the 1st District downtown, officials said today.
  2. The family of Cooper Roberts, the Highland Park boy paralyzed during a mass shooting, is trying to raise $2 million to buy or build a new home that is accessible for the 8-year-old, who now uses a wheelchair. Cooper’s spinal cord was severed by a bullet, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. He also suffered organ damage and continues to receive therapy.
  3. A driver has been charged with hitting a 7-year-old boy and seriously injuring him, then fleeing the scene last spring in Humboldt Park. The 39-year-old woman was arrested yesterday near her home in Portage Park and charged with felony counts of fleeing the scene and failing to report an accident, police said.
  4. A former Chicago police detective is accused of forcing a woman to have sex after he was assigned to investigate an attack against her at a CTA Red Line station last year. The Civilian Office of Police Accountability recommended the detective be fired, but he told the agency that he planned to retire in light of the allegations.
  5. Dennis W. Haggerty Jr., who swindled more than $2.5 million from hospitals in Chicago and Iowa amid the early waves of the pandemic, was sentenced to 57 months in prison yesterday. The former Burr Ridge businessman admitted to transferring the money to personal accounts and spending the stolen funds on Maseratis and other personal expenses.
  6. Lawyers for one of the men charged in the 2011 murder of a Chicago police officer say misconduct by police and prosecutors in the case has passed a “tipping point.” Edgardo Colon’s lawyers called on a judge to either dismiss the charges or sanction the Cook County state’s attorney. Our Andy Grimm has more on the case here.
  7. A Chicago Teachers Union official demanded yesterday that Chicago Public Schools officials test the blood of students and staff at a Bridgeport school for lead after high levels of the harmful metal were found in classroom paint. The demand, one of several, was made after high lead levels were found last week in three rooms, including a special education classroom, at McClellan Elementary School.
  8. A major winter storm is expected to hit the Chicago area ahead of Christmas, with blizzard-like conditions in some places, dangerous wind chills and at least half a foot of snow. The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch extending from Thursday evening through Saturday morning.
  9. C3 Presents, the company behind Lollapalooza, is donating $500,000 to the Chicago Park District that will be used to build new pickleball courts and refurbish existing tennis courts in Grant Park. The pickleball courts will be designed for only pickleball use.
  10. During her appearance on “Saturday Night Live” last weekend, Grammy Award-winning artist Lizzo paid visual tribute to Chicago-raised artist Annie Lee’s “Blue Monday.” Our Mariah Rush has more on Lee’s legacy and Lizzo’s tribute here.

A bright one

Toy drive with a twist in Little Village: kids get vouchers for Discount Mall vendors

At a mini-mall where kids have long scoured for toys — a mall whose tenants are bracing for what could be its last Christmas — a nonprofit is trying to help kids and drive traffic at the same time.

Urban Warriors is funding $20 vouchers for 500 children to spend at participating Discount Mall vendors.

The event, called Una Nochebuena, is planned for Thursday at the mall at 26th Street and Albany Avenue in Little Village. It will run from 4 to 8 p.m. The vouchers will go to the first 500 kids to arrive and are good at 10 vendors.

Rey Raigoza, a co-founder of Urban Warriors, chose the mall for its significance in the community. Since opening in 1991, the mall’s lively warren of shops, near the “Bienvenidos a Little Village” arch, has become a destination for Mexican and Latino shoppers around Chicago.

A family from St. Louis browses Agus Landa’s toy shop in the iconic Discount Mall, in the Little Village neighborhood.

A family from St. Louis browses Agus Landa’s toy shop in the Discount Mall, in the Little Village neighborhood.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Vendors, however, are preparing for the worst, with the mall’s lease set to expire next month. The property’s owner, John Novak, has revealed few concrete details about the future of the mall or the larger, 6-acre Little Village Plaza where it is located. Novak bought it in 2019.

Raigoza, who picked out toys there while growing up in Little Village, particularly wanted to highlight the role small businesses play in the Lower West Side neighborhood. “Small businesses are critical to a community, to a neighborhood, you see the culture of the community,” said Raigoza, 32.

This is the organization’s second year organizing the toy drive, although twice as many vouchers are being handed out this year. 

“This is great so that the kids don’t have to go without a gift, and the parents don’t have to go without being able to get their kids a toy,” said Agus Landa, who owns a toy shop with Roberto Sotelo.

Michael Loria has more on the toy drive here.

From the press box

Your daily question☕

What’s one important lesson you learned this year?

Send us an email at newsletters@suntimes.com and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday we asked you: What’s something every Chicagoan should do to prepare for a snowstorm?

Here’s what some of you said...

“Find the best chair you can to put in the parking spot you shoveled out!” — Ebony Jayne Washington

“Fill your gas tank. Buy enough milk, fruit, bread and wine to last for a week.” — Kaye Grabbe

“Watch Cubs and Sox reruns from the summer!” — Jeffrey Craig Cohen

“Have a good pair of boots, gloves, winter coat and a hat.” — Freddie Harris

“Have plenty of toilet paper and wine!” — Maureen Connor Kelly

“Stay informed, have plenty of blankets, shovels and salt. In your car: full gas tank, windshield solution, blankets, snacks, jumper cables, flashlight, flairs and a first aid kit.” — Pat Wilt

“When driving in snow. Don’t slam on the brakes. Gently ease on the brake to avoid slipping and sliding.” — Jordan Wilson

“Buy a case of Old Style!” — William Helmcke

Thanks for reading the Chicago Sun-Times Afternoon Edition.Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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