Juneteenth giveaway in East Garfield Park launches nonprofit’s local branch

The giveaway at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church was CityServe West Cook’s inaugural event.

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Local residents line up to receive items during a giveaway of apparel, school supplies, recreational items and household necessities at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church, 2622 West Jackson Blvd.

Local residents are lined up to receive items during a giveaway of apparel, school supplies, recreational items and household necessities at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church, 2622 West Jackson Blvd.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Standing in a line to enter the auditorium of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church in East Garfield Park, a woman spoke of what she hoped to receive in a drawing at the church Monday.

An ice maker, one woman said, sweating in the heat. “I’m going to sit by it and eat ice, all day,” she said.

The ones she found available online at $90 were too expensive, but the chance of winning the item in a drawing was worth the wait in the sun. It might come in handy in case she were to get her snow cone venture off the ground, she added.

She was one of several hundred people at the church, at 2622 W Jackson Blvd., to try their luck in the drawing and see what else was available at a giveaway held in honor of Juneteenth. Other items available ranged from bikes and superman slippers to purses and ceiling fans.

The $1.2 million-worth of goods available were brought by CityServe West Cook, the local branch of international nonprofit CityServe. This was CityServe West Cook’s inaugural event. Local faith leaders and politicians, including Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.), spoke at the event about how CityServe would continue to “bless the community” with giveaways like the one held Monday.

Latoya Wilson of East Garfield Park, 40, was hoping to have some more basic needs met. Wilson wanted a large box of diapers for her baby. She said she usually spent between $60 and $70 on a box of 95 diapers, and that she would use the money she saved through the giveaway to fill up her gas tank.

Or the money could cover utilities. “Running the AC all day because of the heat gets your bill sky high,” she said.

Crissy Cochran, executive director of communications for CityServe International, said that Mount Vernon Baptist proposed Juneteenth as the day to kick off CityServe’s local wing. “It was the perfect opportunity to commemorate Juneteenth and what it meant to the African-American community in the neighborhood,” Cochran said of the holiday that commemorates the freedom of the last enslaved people in Texas on June 19, 1865.

CityServe West Cook plans to hold another giveaway in July and one every month, Cochran said. They also plan to hold smaller, more frequent giveaways at local churches, and 20 churches have already signed on to be local distribution points.

Not every big ticket item had to be won. Some you could just take home, no questions asked. Tasha Brown, 62, stood in the parking lot with her brand new folding canopy tent. Brown had hoped for a patio set but was pleased with the canopy. “Just in time for the 4th of July,” she smiled.

Felicia Morgan, 60, was there with four of her grandkids. For her, it was about saving money so she could help her granddaughter, who starts at Loyola this fall. Morgan said that they had already paid for her classes and school materials but were still a few hundred short on covering housing costs. She urged the oldest of the four to find himself shoes in the boxes laid out, and then find more for his younger siblings.

In addition to the items available at the giveaway, there were also bags of mixed goods available for attendees to take.

Wilson pulled a shoe-box sized package out of the bag and raised it over her head in triumph. It was a muscle massager. “I need this for my back,” she said.

Darryl Bright-Triplett looked into his bag. “It’s mostly feminine items,” he said, pulling out a purse and a set of hair clips. “And I don’t have a dog,” he said, taking out a dog leash.

“That’s OK,” he said. “It’s all in the blessing, and I’ll pass on this blessing.”

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