The month of December gives many of us reasons to be joyous: music, lights, family, gift-giving, friends, food, and much more. However, the 2020 winter season proved to be especially hard on Chicago’s west-side residents facing marginalization and the COVID-19 crisis. Immediately, Earth’s Remedies saw an opportunity to provide relief. Founded by alumnus Charles Pickett ’17 and his sister, Mercedes Pickett, the duo brought the West-Side Holiday Drive to the following neighborhoods: Garfield Park, Douglass Park, Humboldt Park, North Lawndale, Homan Square, and Austin.
Community members were elated to receive warm meals, groceries, and winter wellness packages. “I appreciate this. This means a lot to me and my family! We never get to see this kind of love out here!” said one recipient. Read more for a recap of Earth’s Remedies tremendous efforts.
For those who are not familiar with the Earth’s Remedies West-Side Holiday Drive, how valuable is this initiative to Chicago’s residents. Is this holiday drive a new program?
The West-Side Holiday Drive is an annual program, connecting the community to winter wellness resources. COVID-19 created a new sense of urgency for families. We decided to distribute a variety of wellness resources within the packages including PPE and hand sanitizer.
The holiday drive consisted of five events. Which had the greatest impact on the community? Why?
Holiday for Families had the greatest impact on the community. The Earth’s Remedies team dropped off the resources to the families, creating convenience and accessibility. We were able to provide winter gear, groceries, learning material for youth, and PPE resources. Families who signed up for the event were automatically entered into the Earth’s Remedies’ Can We Pay Your Bills? drawing. We provided financial assistance to 11 families on New Year’s Eve!
Did Earth’s Remedies collaborate with local businesses and/or community leaders to enhance the holiday drive’s impact? If so, please describe those partnerships.
Our goal was to connect the community to their local, small businesses and other resource organizations. We received donations from many entities across the city: State Representative Lakesia Collins - 9th District, West Humboldt Park Development, Garfield Park Community Council, Breakthrough Ministries, UMedics, New Moms, Austin Coming Together, Clearly Filtered, and Project Exploration. Over 600 warm meals were provided by Chicago Food on The Run, Whadda Jerk Food Truck, and Hatch-Made Meals by The Hatchery.
We had several small businesses open their spaces to accept donations. This included First Ascent, Orange Theory, New Life Community Church Humboldt Park, and Windy City Strength and Conditioning. We also received generous donations from Top Secret Toys, Share Our Spare, Elephant Room Gallery and MOLO Solutions.
Give us an idea of the overwhelming number of west-side Chicagoans who needed Earth’s Remedies’ services this holiday season. How many people received assistance from these events?
With Holiday for the Homeless, warm meals, non-perishable food, winter gear and sanitation kits were presented to individuals enduring housing insecurity. We distributed masks and encouraged social distancing. A food truck was reserved as well. We serviced 75 people facing homelessness and we gave countless hot meals to local community members.
The Holiday for Families outcome was more than unexpected. When we began marketing for the drive, we immediately received inquiries via email and social media. We received over 250 requests, but were only able to deliver to 70 families. This number included the elderly and 140 children.
The coronavirus pandemic, coupled with the winter season, only intensifies the struggles for marginalized families and individuals in Chicago. What lesson(s) have you and Mercedes learned from providing emergency support to these residents?
COVID-19 created hardships on families and small businesses, depleting resources and reducing household income. Due to the lack of support for Brown and Black families, we saw a surge in requests. Families needed resources and E.R. was able to connect with many families, elders, youth, and small businesses to provide resources and financial assistance. We learned that help can be delivered in many innovative forms. We increased community engagement online, gained partnerships, and had families personalize their resource packages (delivered Uber Eats style).
How does Earth’s Remedies plan to give back in 2021? What goals do you and Mercedes hope to achieve?
Our top concerns are ensuring that students have what they need to excel during the school year, as well as distributing resources during and after the pandemic. Earth’s Remedies is planning to continue the annual events, Fresh to School and Holiday for West-Side Families; also, we are re-developing our tutoring program to provide free virtual learning assistance to west-side students. The Entrepreneurial Mentorship Program will connect students to small businesses within their community.
We are upgrading our Tutoring Platform to an e-learning experience for CPS students. At this moment, we are looking to collaborate with educators, college students and mentors to help create learning material for K-12 grade. This process will begin in February. In April, we will launch the e-learning platform featuring online tutors. We look forward to updating our website, allowing the community to connect to free and developmental resources.
Later in the spring, we will roll out our Entrepreneurial Mentorship Program, connecting 11th and 12th grade students to real-world employment experience. This will allow local, small businesses owners to mentor a team of high school juniors and seniors. Students will receive experience as volunteers and interns. Potentially, they will be hired as part-time staff. Finally, we hope to obtain an Earth’s Remedies brick-and-mortar location to be the central hub of our resource events, seminars, and neighborhood green garden. We expect this to materialize in autumn 2021.
If you would like to contribute to the mission of Earth’s Remedies and provide hope to west-side Chicagoans, you may do so on the organization’s GoFundMe page.