Benefits of Love 

By Kristin Boza 

 

In our community, we step up to help others in need. From providing aid abroad to helping little ones close to home, Beverly/Morgan Park residents give their time, talent, goods and money to boost up those who are facing a crisis. So many opportunities exist to get involved, especially during the holiday season. Here is a sampling of some local people and businesses organizing benefits of love. 

Maple Morgan Park Food Pantry 

Karen Overstreet, director of the Maple Morgan Park Food Pantry, is driven by the mission to feed the hungry in our community. Since the food pantry opened in 1983, 1,200 hungry and disadvantaged Beverly/Morgan Park neighbors are assisted each year. The food pantry relies on donations from area residents, schools, organization, and businesses to donate money and/or food items to keep the pantry stocked. “The generosity of the neighborhood provides emergency food assistance to help our neighbors prepare a full holiday meal in their homes. This gives them hope,” said Overstreet.  

To make a donation, call the Maple Morgan Park Food Pantry, 773-239-3013 or email Karen Overstreet at kkeoverstreet@aol.com. Checks can be sent to Maple Morgan Park Food Pantry, 11130 S. Longwood Dr., Chicago IL 60643.  

Breast Cancer Research and Awareness 

Everything’s Relative, 10548 S. Western, is an outspoken supporter of both breast cancer research/awareness and domestic violence awareness. Owner Joan Each Rowan is especially close to the annual Ginger Rugai Y-Me Softball Tournament, which takes place each August and is entering its 26th year in 2020. “Ginger Rugai is a friend of mine, and when she went through her battle with breast cancer, it affected many of us. At that time, the only awareness most of us had of breast cancer was that it was a death sentence! Ginger went through a lot with her own terror and treatments, and women all over were realizing that there was no or very little money for research,” Each Rowan said. “Now that the statistics for survival of breast cancer are the complete opposite of what they were 25 years ago, and I think the Y-Me organization was part of making that difference.” 

Each Rowan’s activism became personal when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018. “I knew I would be okay because years ago at the Y-Me tournament, I was given information on the importance of routine mammograms and self-exams,” she said. “Also, we are women taking care of women! We march, we play softball, and we try to change things for the better; I’m so proud to be associated with these wonderful women of our community.” 

Aside from supporting the Y-Me organization, Each Rowan and Everything’s Relative hold a food drive every November and will once again hold a toy drive for the 20th Annual Kevin Dowling Christmas is for Kids event this month. Stop by the salon to drop off an unwrapped new toy for a child in need. 

Connections for Abused Women and Their Children 

Founded in 1977, Connections for Abused Women and Their Children is headquartered in Humboldt Park. Franconello’s10222 S. Western, displays a collection box for restaurant patrons to drop off necessary items to help these families in distress. “This collection is great because I think we all have these simple things laying around the house — the shirt with the tags still on it that we never wore, an extra bottle of shampoo — and there’s nothing easier than dropping it off at Franconello’s then stopping in for happy hour,” said Franconello’s manager Marcia McGann-Hatzell. “When I first heard about this organization, I was shocked to see that there weren’t any drop-off locations on the South Side, so I asked our owner, Frank Ruffolo, if we could be a donation site and without hesitation he said yes. Domestic violence and abuse somehow sadly affects all of us in one way or another.” 

Donations of new toiletries, clothing, toys, art supplies, self-care supplies and household items (including small appliances) are accepted. The Ruffolo family is donating various spices, as requested by the organization for use in their shelter. Stop in during business hours to drop off your donation: Mon. – Fri., 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sat., 1 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Sun., 12 to 9 p.m. 

Sueños Sin Fronteras 

Beverly Therapists, 10725 S. Western, with support from the Beverly Unitarian Church, 10244 S. Longwood Dr., is responding to the short- and long-term needs of asylum-seeking families at the Texas-Mexico border for the Sueños Sin Fronteras (SSF)  program. Travel size toiletries, brushes/combs, soap bars, diaper rash cream, new underwear (all sizes), socks (all sizes), feminine hygiene products, and quart-size Ziploc bags are being collected. “SSF’s mission and values align with ours at Beverly Therapists in supporting individuals in their journey to be surrounded by a community to be their best selves in all aspects,” said Beverly Therapist partner/founder Jennifer Lara. “Transitions are challenging and having a community that supports women and children to reduce the long-term effects of stress and trauma is a cause we feel connected to. We are so grateful to the community of Beverly and the surrounding areas that have joined us in this effort; it is powerful to know that we are a part of a larger movement that believes in community.” 

Contact Lara, 773-251-8016 or jenniferlaralcpc@gmail.com to coordinate a drop-off. The organization is also accepting monetary donations at Venmo @suenossinfronteras. 

Turpin Cares 

For the third year in a row, Turpin Cares has set up a donation site at Starbucks, 103rd and Longwood Diver. Turpin Cares is a non-profit organization that collects and distributes food, comfort items and hygiene products to local shelters, other non-profits and individuals on the street, and it is sponsored in part by Turpin Communication, a neighborhood-based business. Through Dec. 24, people can stop into the Starbucks and choose an ornament from the Christmas tree that includes a wish list; then, bring the items back to the location and Turpin Cares will distribute the items. “In 2016, I had countless conversations about how our world felt more divided than ever. I knew I wanted to be on the caring, loving, inclusive side of the equation. Turpin Cares was an unofficial entity at the time, and when I looked around at ways we could make our corner of the world a little better, working harder to help the less fortunate seemed like the right thing to do,” said Turpin Communications vice president Greg Owen-Boger. “We now have a small group made up of Beverly locals who work together to make the magic happen.”  

“We started this non-profit with the hopes of helping a few,” said Dale Ludwig, Turpin Cares board president. “Through these holiday donations, we’ve been able to support countless individuals and families. We can’t thank people enough.” 

Raising Money for a Child Diagnosed with Cancer 

Within three days of a GoFundMe account opening up for Beverly/Morgan Park resident two-year-old Finley Bracken, the community rallied and raised $40,000 to help the family as they navigate this scary diagnosis (to date, nearly $65,000 has been raised). Finley was diagnosed with neuroblastoma; as the youngest child in the Bracken family, her older sisters are always singing and performing for her to put a smile on her face, according to the GoFundMe sponsors who wish to remain anonymous. “Finley’s father, Dan Bracken, is a paramedic on the Chicago Fire Department in addition to serving as Assistant Chief on the Posen Fire Department; he’s one of those guys who would do anything to help another in need. Finley’s mom, Lacey Bracken, is one of the strongest women around and takes on life’s hardest days with a smile on her face,” said the family friend.  

The Brackens attend St. Cajetan Church, which is another community that instantly stepped up to help. “They embraced the family with prayer services and by initiating a food train and fundraising support — all in an effort to let the Brackens know how much they are loved in their neighborhood,” said the family friend. “The family has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support by the community. The prayers are working, so please keep Finely and the entire Bracken family in your prayers.” 

To donate, visit GoFundMe.com/f/fight-for-finley-bracken.  

Other Donating Opportunities 

The 20th annual Kevin Dowling Christmas is For Kids Toy Drive will be held Sat., Dec. 7, 2 to 7 p.m., 115 Bourbon St., 3359 W. 115th St. Admission is unwrapped new toys or monetary donation. Toys will be donated to children at area hospitals, Info: Jim McKeever, 773-972-6264 or jg.mekeever@att.net 

The 19th Ward is collecting gently used adult and children’s clothing, jewelry and handbags in good condition through Dec. 15; items will be donated to WINGS resale shop and benefit services to families touched by domestic violence, including through the WINGS program and A New Direction. Drop off items at 10400 S. Western, Mon.-Fri., 9a.m. to 5 p.m., or 3207 W. 111th St., Mon-Fri., 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Info: mattoshea@the19thward.com. 

The Advent Outreach Program at Morgan Park United Methodist Church, 11030 S. Longwood Dr., invites the community to join in knitting or crocheting hats and scarfs to be given as Christmas donations to homeless shelters. With the help of the community, the program gave 53 hats and 36 scarfs to homeless people last year. Items can be dropped off at the church. The program runs through Dec. 7. Details: morganparkumc@wowway.com.