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Volunteers help break down and repackage food at the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

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How Chicagoans can help people struggling during coronavirus pandemic

There are many organizations seeking assistance. We’ve put together a list of ways you can help others during this time of crisis. 

Volunteers help break down and repackage food at the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
| Tyler LaRiviere / Sun-Times

Many people have struggled with issues resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. Even if you are fortunate to be healthy and have a job, the chances are there are people around you who are struggling.

Unemployment has spiked, finances are stretched, food insecurity is on the rise, and vulnerable populations have struggled in their daily life. But the crisis also has provided opportunities for Chicagoans to help each other.

You could donate money to a worthy cause or give of your time. There are lots of opportunities to get away from sheltering at home and do something for the benefit of others.

There are many organizations seeking assistance. Here are some ways you can help out.

Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund

Set up by the city of Chicago, the Chicago Community Trust and the United Way, this fund will combine donations to give grants to nonprofits that help increase access to food and basic supplies, housing and utility assistance as well as provide financial assistance for household supplies. Go to http://www.chicagocovid19responsefund.org.

Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund

The United Way of Illinois and the Alliance of Illinois Community Foundations have set up this statewide fund, which Gov. J.B. Pritzker and his sister Penny Pritzker, the former U.S. commerce secretary, have helped raise money for. It covers many of the same issues as the Chicago COVID-19 response fund and will primarily help those areas not covered by the Chicago fund. Go to http://www.ilcovidresponsefund.org.

A Better Chicago Emergency Relief Fund

A Better Chicago, which provides educational opportunities for low-income Chicagoans, set up this fund to benefit nonprofits that work to help young people and their families in African American and Hispanic communities, which have been hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic. Go to http://www.abetterchicago.org/emergencyrelief.

Compassion Fund for COVID-19 Closures

The Children First Fund, which is the Chicago Public Schools’ foundation, started a fund to help out in low-income areas with food distribution, technology and Internet access to help students with remote learning and families in difficult circumstances. Go to http://www.childrenfirstfund.org.

Big Shoulders Fund

The Big Shoulders Fund, which helps Catholic schools in the neediest areas of the city, has started an emergency fund to assist students with food cards, e-learning programs and scholarships when their parents have lost their jobs. Go to http://bigshouldersfund.org

Greater Chicago Food Depository

The Greater Chicago Food Depository, which provides much of the inventory for the area’s food pantries, needs healthy warehouse volunteers between 18 and 60 to pack food for their COVID-19 response. For more information, go to chicagofoodbank.org. If you can’t help in person, you can donate money to be used to buy food for others.

Food pantries

Some food pantries have closed because of staffing issues, and many food pantries are in desperate need. The Greater Chicago Food Depository’s website has a food pantry directory you can search by ZIP code and then contact each pantry to find out what it needs. Go to chicagofoodbank.org and click on the link for “Find Food.”

Meals on Wheels Chicago

Meals on Wheels Chicago feeds more than 8,500 homebound seniors or those with disabilities. Because the pandemic canceled a fundraiser, donations are especially needed. Giving $49 will feed a senior for a week. A donor has agreed to match donations up to $40,000. Go to http://www.mealsonwheelschicago.org.

Top Box Foods

Top Box Foods needs drivers to make twice-weekly emergency home deliveries. If you have a car and are available for a few hours those days, apply online at http://www.topboxfoods.com. Top Box also needs help with delivery prep and calling customers.

Red Cross blood donations

With many blood drives canceled, you still can donate blood through the Red Cross. Go to http://www.redcrossblood.org.

Sending dinner to hospitals

You can recognize the contributions of doctors, nurses and other hospital personnel by buying them a meal. Sorry, no homemade food is allowed, but most hospitals have set up ways to have food delivered to them. Most all will take restaurant-delivered food and new, unopened personal protective equipment. Don’t send anything without first checking a hospital’s website, including these:

Printing face shields

If you have a 3D printer, the Chicago COVID-19 3D printing group on Facebook is looking to print face shields for Swedish Hospital and for volunteers to assemble face shields for the University of Chicago hospitals. Go to http://tinyurl.com/chicagofaceshields.

Medical workers

The state is looking for people with medical backgrounds who could help when there’s a surge in patients at hospitals. Doctors, nurses and other medically trained individuals are needed. Go to http://www.illinoishelps.net.

Calling seniors

If you’re looking for a way to help from home, My Block My Hood My City has opportunities to make well-being calls to seniors. It provides names and a survey to discuss on the call. Also, the organization provides care packages for any senior in need and is seeking donations of toiletries, canned goods, pasta and other items. Go to http://www.formyblock.org.

Boosting small businesses

Shop in Place Chicago, a website developed by the Institute for Justice’s Clinic on Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago, wants to connect consumers to local businesses. You can search by ZIP code or type of business and find discounts that many retailers are offering during the shutdown. Go to http://shopinplacechi.com/business-search.

Helping laid-off restaurant workers

The Chicago Hospitality Employee Relief Guide has compiled a spreadsheet with more than 600 restaurants, bars and other businesses with funds set up to benefit their laid-off workers. Go to http://tinyurl.com/312hospitality.

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