Windy City residents could still use our help.

May 15, 2020
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Much of the world has suffered as COVID-19 has continued to spread and Chicago has been one of the U.S. cities hit particularly hard.

So far, the city has recorded more than 33,000 cases of COVID-19, including more than 1,400 deaths, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health. And the opening of retail locations for in-person shopping remains weeks away with restaurants and bars still after that, NBC Chicago noted

"The Bean" is seen closed off in Chicago's Millennium Park during the state's "Stay at Home" order.
KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images

While Chicago residents have continually found bright spots even amid these harrowing times — who could forget the adorable penguins strolling the halls of the Shedd Aquarium — Windy City residents could still use our help.

From supporting struggling restaurants or artists who have lost work to volunteering to watch the children of healthcare workers, there are many ways to get involved from both near and far. 

Support Local Restaurants

One of the best ways to support restaurants is to order food from places offering takeout. To help Chicagoans figure out what is open and available, Dining at a Distance compiled a list of restaurants open for take-out, curbside pick-up, or delivery. Options include everything from famed three-Michelin Star restaurant Alinea (think take-home meals like chilled English pea soup with chamomile compressed cantaloup or “rootbeer” of braised beef short rib) to Rick Bayless’ casual spot, XOCO, where you can snag some pork carnitas tortas and Mexican Coke. 

To support small businesses with donations, the Chicago Hospitality Employee Relief Guide has compiled a list of businesses and their fundraising pages on platforms like GoFundMe.

Help Furry Chicagoans

Humans aren’t the only ones struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic. And even though many people have committed to adopting or fostering pets, rescue groups could still use our help. To help with urgent needs and supplies, PAWS Chicago set up an online “store” where people can purchase things like cleaning and disinfecting towels, PPE, or medicine for pets in need.

Provide Meals for Neighbors In Need

Volunteers fill cartons with food on the concourse of Wrigley Field in April.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

As more and more people lose work or deal with reduced hours, food insecurity has become an issue many are dealing with. That’s where food pantries and volunteer networks can step in to help. Donate to programs like Common Pantry’s “I Am Your  Neighbor” initiative, which provides meals from participating restaurants to those in need. Donors call and pay the restaurant directly. Program participants can then order from the restaurant with the cost of the meal deducted from the “running tab.”

Additionally, the Lakeview Pantry has set up food distribution centers, including a temporary location at famed Wrigley Field. People can donate to their efforts or volunteer to work doing things like packing groceries and sorting food. Similarly, the Greater Chicago Food Depository is accepting donations to help feed their network as well as seeking volunteers between 18 and 60 years old to help pack food.

Volunteer to Watch the Children of Healthcare Workers

Babysitting site Sittercity is offering first responders three free months of the company’s premium membership through its Chicago Responds program, allowing parents to utilize things like the site’s enhanced background check with no cost. So far, 2,000 people have volunteered and 300 first responders have signed up. The program will continue until the county enters Phase 4 of the reopening plan, according to the company.

Donate Homemade Masks

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended everyone wear face masks when going out in public to prevent an asymptomatic individual from unknowingly spreading the virus. To that end, Chicago is running a citywide cloth mask drive through May 16. People are encouraged to make these masks that can then be donated to homeless shelters, community health clinics, essential public workers, and more.

Help Artists Who Have Lost Work

Illinois' stay at home order closed places like theaters, concert halls, and music halls. That has led to many artists being out of work. The Chicago Artists Relief Fund is raising money to allocate microgrants of up to $300 to support artists suffering during the COVID-19 pandemic, with an emphasis on helping artists of color as well as artists who are transgender, nonbinary, or queer, or those who are disabled.

Similarly, Arts for Illinois started a relief fund to aid artists with one-time grants of $1,500, which are awarded through a lottery system. During the first round of the program, the fund said it gave out more than $3.3 million dollars to 906 artists and 166 arts organizations across Illinois. 

Call Isolated Seniors

One of the hardest parts about COVID-19 is how it has isolated people, and that is especially true for seniors. In Chicago, My Block My Hood My City is working to make sure seniors have access to everything from food to hand sanitizer but isn’t overlooking the need to simply hear a friendly voice. The group is looking for volunteers to call older Chicago residents for a friendly check-in.