By Cathriona Fey
BAPA Community Outreach & Improvement
Neighbors helping neighbors. It is a simple concept and in the Beverly/Morgan Park community something we see often as residents regularly come out to help neighbors experiencing difficult times. During the pandemic, the number of residents experiencing a difficult time has increased. Neighborhood resident Tim Noonan recognized the importance of organizing as a community to meet the needs of residents who need help. He has assembled and is leading the 19th Ward Mutual Aid initiative to assist residents in Beverly/Morgan Park and Mount Greenwood.
After donating to the Maple Morgan Park Food Pantry, Noonan felt he could do more to help during COVID-19. Upon learning about a Mutual Aid initiative recently launched in Bridgeport, Noonan knew this was something that our community not only needed, but could support. As the Vice President of the Beverly Improvement Association (BIA), Noonan brought the idea to his directors. The idea was received with the support to move forward but it was clear that in order to do so more community would be needed.
Meanwhile, the Beverly Area Planning Association (BAPA) launched BAPA Cares to provide support to local groups and initiatives that are working to help residents and businesses weather this storm. Noonan made a call to BAPA Executive Director, Mary Jo Viero, and the two organizations decided to merge their efforts.
In addition to BIA and BAPA, the 19th Ward Mutual Aid initiative has attracted groups such as the Beverly Art Alliance, South Side Ancient Order of Hibernians, local churches and Turpin Cares to help advance efforts. Since its launch in May, a 19th Ward Mutual Aid Facebook group has been started and a website domain name secured. While Chicago COVID-19 Mutual Aid groups have been active in other neighborhoods throughout the city, the 19th Ward Mutual Aid is still very new and the group is working toward identifying specific community needs.
“There is no blueprint for this,” Noonan said. “Everything we do is to serve the residents in our community and what their needs are right here in the 19th Ward.” In addition to setting up channels to request assistance, the group has reached out to local pastors and church leaders to better understand the needs of their congregations, especially the elderly and those homebound. 19th Ward Mutual Aid is also partnering with the Maple Morgan Park Food Pantry to identify gaps in resources and food supplies available.
With the help of BAPA and Turpin Cares, the 19th Ward Mutual Aid group has organized a weekly Free Store that will be open on Wednesdays, 5 to 7 p.m., at the BAPA Community Room, 11109 S. Longwood Dr. Thanks to an existing channel of donations and coordination from Turpin Cares, people are able to come to the Free Store to request and receive a variety of first-aid and hygiene products.
In partnership with the Beverly Art Alliance, 19th Ward Mutual Aid is also working to advance Art Heals, an initiative to support local artists by providing opportunities to showcase their work, bringing the benefits and pleasure of art to area residents during these difficult times.
Noonan said the Mutual Aid group will be active as long as there is a need. According to the 19th Ward Mutual Aid Facebook group, this is nondenominational and nonpolitical, just neighbors helping neighbors.
To learn more about the 19th Ward Mutual Aid, follow them on Facebook for news and updates. If you have an idea, would like to assist, or need assistance, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 773-980-6043.
BAPA Teen Corps
Providing an opportunity for teens impacted by school closures is a priority at BAPA, which is organizing the BAPA Teen Corps. Through the program local teens can volunteer to help address needs identified by the Mutual Aid group. They will be encouraged to develop their own ideas and respond to community requests.
Through BAPA Teen Corps students can complete service hours and build up service credentials while helping their community. For information contact Mary Jo Viero, email@example.com.