How Jet City Coalition aims to help seniors and low-income residents in communities near O'Hare

Paying it forward is a simple idea. But with jobs, kids, money woes and, oh yeah, pandemic problems, it can be easier said than done.

But Kevin Murphy of Des Plaines wants you to know that it is as easy as shoveling an elderly neighbor's driveway or mowing their grass. It is even as easy as going out to your favorite local restaurant to support a small business.

Murphy's goal is to build community with kindness. As the founder of Jet City Coalition, Murphy and his team of volunteers aim to advocate and connect with residents in towns like Des Plaines, Elk Grove, Park Ridge and Rosemont.

Started in November 2020 to help those in need, Murphy offered a free shoveling service in winter, lawn care service in the summer and held a coat drive last December. In the spring, he ran a campaign that raised $15,000 to help Des Plaines restaurants struggling due to the pandemic.

This December, Murphy and his team of 30 volunteers will once again be collecting coats for area agencies that serve people in need. The goal this year is 1,500 or more. The drive ends Dec. 31.

Readers can drop off donations by emailing or submitting an intake at

Murphy shares more details about Jet City Coalition and how you can help by paying it forward.

Q: What is Jet City Coalition? Give a brief overview of what the organization does and who you serve.

A: "Jet City" was coined because we've always moved a bit different coming from Des Plaines/Rosemont/O'Hare. It's a name for the area, and a way to stake our identity in the crowded ecosystem of the city.

I feel like we're unique from the near North Side neighborhoods like Jefferson Park, as well as the further suburbs like Palatine. We also have blue collar challenges.

The Jet City Coalition is a community organization taking care of our senior and low-income neighbors. Our signature programs are free shoveling in the winter and free gardening (lawn care, etc.) in the summer.

Then, every holiday, we do the coat drive, and throughout the year we'll do various campaigns to build community and spread some positivity.

I feel like the main mission is to spread a sort of neighborly love that's missing in the new digital era. You can't substitute Facebook for breaking bread and chopping it up with the people in your community. I'm also a believer that community organizing is essential until we can achieve structural reform in our country.

Jet City founder Kevin Murphy receives a drop-off of winter gear from a Des Plaines resident. courtesy of Ellen Feeney

Q: Where do the majority of your donations come from?

A: People in the area. Des Plaines, Elk Grove, Park Ridge, Rosemont. A lot of people in the area congregate in Facebook groups, and those are a great vehicle for getting the word out. We put up a lot of fliers and knock on a lot of doors as well.

Q: How many people per year do you serve?

A: This year we'll shovel for about 75 individuals or so, and we did lawn care for 30 this summer. We ran a restaurant campaign over the spring that raised about $15,000 for eight landmark Des Plaines restaurants.

In November and December, we raise about 1,000 coats for kids and adults, so I guess around 1,000 to 1,500 over the course of the year.

Q: Tell us about your coat drive? How long does it last? How can our readers drop off donations?

A: A lot of people in the area have to choose between adequate groceries or winter coats at some point in the winter, and it's messed up. We'll have regulars at the Des Plaines Metra station in hoodies while it's 30 degrees outside. It's a very real issue in our area, so we tried to set up a network to provide for the people in our area.

We donate some of our coats to the Des Plaines Food Pantry, Kenneth Young Center, and Northwest Compass, and the rest come through our efforts to get the word out. It's grown since last year, so we may get close to 1,500 this year.

Readers can drop off donations by emailing or submitting an intake at to coordinate a COVID-safe drop off with one of our volunteers.

Jet City founder Kevin Murphy and partner Jon Catellani drop off a shipment of coats at Kenneth Youth Center in Elk Grove. courtesy of Adam Cumbee

Q: Are there any other ways readers can help your organization?

A: We're going to need a lot of help shoveling this season, and we're doing a letter-writing campaign for those who'd be interested in having a Jet City pen pal. It's always nice to set out deeper bonds in the area with folks not from here.

Q: What else would you like readers to know?

A: Just that there's a lot going on around Rosemont and Des Plaines. I think it's overlooked in the grand scheme of the city. As folks are looking to invest in forward facing jobs, I think it's an area ripe with opportunity.

I also hope that people realize how much help is needed in their own community. We saw that there was something unique about us and leveraged it to carve out an identity for the area.

Jet City Coalition

Readers can drop off winter gear donations by emailing or submitting an intake at to coordinate a COVID-safe drop off with a volunteer.To volunteer to help shovel this winter — or if you need shoveling services — visit or call (847) 313-5508.

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