Wheaton mutual aid group helping those most hurt by economic fallout
For Cristobal Cavazos, it's a constant concern knowing the coronavirus pandemic is disproportionately hurting the jobless, seniors and immigrants without a safety net.
So he and advocates at the Casa DuPage Workers Center started a collection of food and vital supplies at their Wheaton office to help those bearing the brunt of the coronavirus economic crisis.
Organizers set the plan in motion last weekend and quickly ran out of space. They're now using a garage at Calvary Episcopal Church near downtown Lombard to store donations in a kind of makeshift food pantry.
Volunteers have brought boxes of groceries and reassurance to residents of a West Chicago apartment complex, providing a lifeline to elderly people and one mom who lost her factory job. She has three kids and a baby and needed diapers, Cavazos said.
"It's a really tough situation, so this is the least we can do," he said.
Cavazos, Gabriela Hernandez Chico and Rafael Vieyra have started the DuPage Mutual Aid & Solidarity Network as an outgrowth of the Immigrant Solidarity DuPage advocacy group.
Mutual aid organizations are catching on across the country, marshaling a grass-roots army of volunteers who use Google Docs to track and respond to requests for cleaning supplies, errand runs, face masks, blood donations and other needs.
At the front side of the Lombard church garage, the DuPage mutual aid network is accepting drop-off donations of food, water, baby wipes, hand sanitizer and toilet paper.
From there, the volunteers will deliver the high-demand items to people without reliable transportation or seniors hunkering down at home because they're at high risk for severe complications from the virus. The volunteers will drop off the deliveries at their front door, Cavazos said.
"We're really reaching a lot of the most vulnerable people right now," he said.
Advocates also are collecting online PayPal donations to purchase groceries and fielding calls to the Immigrant Solidarity DuPage office at (630) 510-8500 ext. 107. They're trying to ease the burden for undocumented workers who don't qualify for unemployment benefits if they lose their jobs.
"It's been the food, support, activism," Cavazos said.