The local group Neighbors Together came about when three Hyde Park residents – Kate Oakes, Susan Alitto, and Linda Swift – were all wondering how they could best make a difference in the community during the early days of the pandemic.
Oakes and Alitto were concerned about struggling Hyde Park restaurants as well as UChicago Medicine frontline healthcare workers, and envisioned a plan in which donations could be collected to purchase meals for workers while benefitting the local restaurants – becoming the Feeding Frontliners Project. Swift wanted to support Kenwood Academy High School families in need who could benefit from gift cards from local restaurants – becoming the Kenwood Food Project.
Both groups lacked official non-profit status, though, making it difficult to accept donations. The Neighbors Together partnership officially began when Oakes, Alitto, and Swift connected with Angela Habr-Paranjape, Executive Director of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club, who suggested that with such similar missions, the two groups might team up for greater efficiency. With a 100+ year history in Hyde Park providing high-quality childcare and enrichment programs as a non-profit organization, the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club was able to serve as the fundraising agent for Neighbors Together, and the new group was on its way. This partnership allows neighbors to pool resources to ensure that purchasing is done equitably across local businesses in quantities that make sense, and all donations are 501(c)3 tax-deductible.
In the early stages of their plans, Oakes and Alitto reached out to the University of Chicago’s Commercial Real Estate Operations (CREO) group who provided contact information for many of the local restaurants, as well as food donation guidelines for UChicago Medicine.
Partner restaurants/companies currently include Ascione Bistro, B’Gabs Goodies, Bonne Sante Health Foods, Café 53, Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat, Cedars, Chant, Domino’s Pizza, Food & Paper Supply Co., Hyde Park Produce Market, Litehouse Whole Food Grill, Mikkey’s Retro Grill, Medici on 57th, Nando’s PERi-PERi, Nella Pizza e Pasta, The Nile, Piccolo Mondo, Pizza Capri, The Promontory, Rajun Cajun, Roti Modern Mediterranean, Saucy Porka, Seoul Taco, The Soul Shack, and Virtue.
Donations for Feeding Frontliners will be pooled together and once a total of $1,500-2,500 is reached a meal will be purchased for a full shift of 150-250 frontline healthcare workers. With the Kenwood Food Project, each $50 gift card provides a full meal to one family, and sponsoring restaurants add $5-10 in donated funds to each card.
In a recent story in the Hyde Park Herald, Oakes commented, “I feel like bringing these two projects together was a great way to not just support healthcare providers, but also to show that there’s other ways we’re supporting people in need in the neighborhood,” she said. “Who knows? If this is successful, we’ll find ways to expand even further. But for now, this is what we’ve got.”
Visit hpnclub.org/index.php/programs/neighbors-together/ for more details, and to donate to the projects. Donations can also be mailed via check to HPNC, 5480 S. Kenwood Avenue, Chicago, IL 60615. Indicate “Kenwood Food Project” or “Feeding Frontliners Project” in the memo.