Taking Care of His Block

James Fallon and Kristin Larson

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LOCAL SUPPORT: Chicago reopened retail stores Wednesday, even though stores across the city are boarded up due to widespread looting and damage.

One organization stepping up to restore the city is My Block, My Hood, My City. In the last 36 hours, the organization has received more than 100 applications from “mom-and-pop shops” throughout the city asking for their assistance, according to spokesman Ernesto Gonzalez.

“Rebuilding Chicago starts locally, with the block you live on,” Gonzalez said. “Our main focus is rebuilding the small businesses of the city. Those that can’t get bailed out and those where the insurance won’t cover most of the damages.”

Jahmal Cole founded My Block, My Hood, My City in 2016 to help underprivileged city youth. The organization shifted gears this year amid the coronavirus, extending its philanthropic arm to the city to distribute personal protective equipment and helping prepare small businesses, such as barber shops on the South and West Sides, for reopening.

Now their help is even more needed.

“With the looting that went on throughout the weekend, we are gathering data from small businesses to provide a volunteer force to help them clean up, assess the damage and provide micro grants to help them get back on their feet,” Gonzalez said.

The biggest cost for retailers is glass, from destroyed storefronts and windows, and insurance doesn’t cover everything, he noted.

“Merchandise is mostly covered,” he said. “But a lot of things, like glass and point-of-sale systems, are not covered. It depends on the insurance and it’s case by case.”

The organization mobilizes volunteers to work on the hardest-hit areas of the city. As of now, 4,000 volunteers have signed up.

“We’ve gotten a surge of working professionals who want to help with web site designs, accounting, legal help and carpenters that want to help rebuild the inside,” Gonzalez said.

My Block, My Hood, My City also sells a line of apparel, all emblazoned with its logo, featuring T-shirts, sweatshirts, jackets, ties and hats. Twenty percent of each sale goes toward helping rebuild Chicago, Gonzalez said.

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