The Peace and Health Commission of the First Ward held its first block party on Saturday, July 17, inviting neighbors to join in “food, music, local job opportunities, community resources and a school supplies/book bag giveaway.” The gathering took place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the 1600 block of North Maplewood Avenue.
“As summer progresses, we know that a key component to the health and stability of our neighbors is access to local employment and community resources, and we are so proud to be surrounded by such a diverse local business and social services community,” First Ward Alderman Daniel La Spata’s newsletter said.
More than 20 organizations participated in the block party, which also made COVID-19 vaccines available. Government organizations included the First Ward office, which was handing out literature and hotdogs, as well as the CTA, which was focusing on hiring bus operators amidst a staffing shortage.
The First Ward office’s literature included a resource guide on alternatives to calling 911. “The resources highlighted in this guide are community based, trauma-informed behavioral health services intended to support individuals and families experiencing a mental health challenge, substance abuse or a domestic violence concern,” the handout read. “Before dialing 911, consider seeking assistance and support from these partners, many of which have presence in your community and are ready to serve and meet your needs alongside you! Unless otherwise specified, services are offered for free, regardless of insurance status.”
Social organizations present at the block party included Casa Central’s children and youth services; Girls in the Game, a nonprofit dedicated to “helping girls find their confidence, voice and strength” through sports; Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, an affordable housing nonprofit; and housing advocate Lucha.
Other organizations included the Greater West Town Community Development Project, Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce, Hudson Group, Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago, and Office of the City Treasurer.
“Greater West Town Community Development Project was happy to participate in the First Ward Block Party on Saturday, July 17,” said Lorena Hernández, job developer for the group.
The event lifted spirits after months of a pandemic, she added. “Being able to be out in the community and engage with organizations and community residents made it a great weekend. Seeing children enjoy Maplewood Park and the attractions set out for them, such as face painting and an inflatable play area, gave me hope that things are looking better. It was a great day weather wise, and we had great community attendance. We had the opportunity to network with other community organizations to see how we can collaborate in helping Chicago residents with resources and employment opportunities, anywhere from rental assistance to job placement needs as well as vocational training.”
Hernández said that her group told block party guests about two Greater West Town vocational training programs, woodworker training and shipping and receiving training, as well as an adult job placement program. She added that the Greater West Town Community Development Project’s alternative high school, Greater West Town Academy, “is an accredited high school for students interested in obtaining their high school diploma. The academy accepts students up to age 21.
“Last but not least,” Hernández said, “they had a great DJ and people were dancing in the street. Great Job, Ward 1, for throwing a great Block Party.”
In partnership with the Chicago Department of Public Health, the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines were available for free at the event. The workers in the tent confirmed that, with an hour to go until the event ended, only one person had used their services.
Featured photo: Scott Jauch