Arts & Culture

Two years into pandemic, in-person community resource fair returns to Gloria Taylor Center

"We're hoping that people find information that is needed and of value to them," an event organizer previously told the HWH.

Big Brothers, Big Sisters joined other south suburban agencies offering education, mental health, education, senior, and workforce services at a recent community resource fair. HWH / Amethyst J. Davis
Big Brothers, Big Sisters joined other south suburban agencies offering education, mental health, education, senior, and workforce services at a recent community resource fair. HWH / Amethyst J. Davis

After the pandemic prompted many to embrace virtual activities, south suburban community groups are getting back to in-person outreach.

The Community Economic Development Association of Cook County — Harvey hosted an in-person community resource fair Saturday, April 16, at the Gloria Taylor Center. Other social services agencies joined, some looking to expand their service area.

The HWH spoke with a few organization leaders about their work in Harvey and surrounding areas and how you can reach out if you’re interested to learn more:

Jobs training and workforce development: CEDA

There’s a slate of programs CEDA launched through a new initiative called UPLIFT Harvey, including an advocacy program for young people to get them civically engaged. You learn government leadership and roles. Now in year 2 of implementation, participants, aged 14 to 26, have big ideas, Program Manager said.

They want to add to the city’s art scene, suggesting that a dance troupe or youth orchestra could add light and give opportunities. But they’re deeply socially concerned.

“They want to come up with different solutions to make Harvey better, but they’re also concerned about the environment.” Participants suggested solar lighting and rezoning for green space could make the city greener, Anderson said.

Public safety is also a big topic. “The number 1 thing we heard was gun violence. But they felt as though it could be solved if there were more things for young people to do or if the conditions of Harvey looked better,” Anderson said.

Darius Gibson, 24, just joined CEDA in February as the Youth Liaison. It’s been a positive experience, Gibson said, that’s allowed him to “help the kids in Harvey and push the issues they’ve got.”

Youth advocates next plan to create an assessment tool to determine the viability of Harvey’s abandoned houses — whether they can be rehabbed, if so to what extent, or if they should be abandoned — and give it to the mayor’s office.

Young people also want to host a youth summit with city and state officials.

Address: 53 East 154th Street, Harvey, IL 60426

Phone: (773) 550-3227


Mental health: Kirby Rehabilitation

At Dolton-based Kirby Rehabilitation, the only mobile crisis team in the south suburbs, it’s not just about tending to a mental health crisis. It’s about getting to the roots of it and preventing it from escalating.

Often those in crisis don’t want anyone’s help, at all. “There’s individuals that are homeless, hungry — they’re not interested in a lot of services at that time,” Monique Franklin, MHP and Mobile Crisis Team member said.

Jeffrey McNeil, another crisis team member, said homelessness, domestic violence, and substance abuse are the three core reasons why people call Kirby. If staff cannot directly address those roots, they tap into their network, referring people to other agencies that can.

Even the police are aware of what they do. Local police or fire departments will call Kirby staff, who send a mobile team to “stabilize that crisis, engage the client,” McNeil said.

Franklin said that job loss and death associated with the pandemic are prompting more to reach out for help. “Just having those resources available, people want help now. They’re reaching out. It’s just making sure they know, ‘Well, who can I contact?’ And mental health is becoming less stigmatized as a result, Franklin and McNeil agreed.

That takes education — and trust. The Kirby facility, dubbed the Comfort Zone, has food and comfortable couches when you first enter the building. It’s a warm welcome for those who are often meeting staff for the first time during one of the most emotionally stressful times in their lives.

Address: 14014 Park Avenue, Dolton, IL 60419

Phone: (773) 614-4002


Reproductive health: Kabod House International

Socks, napkins, and paper towels are a few things homeless people use in the absence of tampons or pads when menstruating.

That prompted Roberta Coleman to start Kabod House International, a Homewood-based organization providing free Red-Paks, or care bags with tampons, pantyliners, and hygiene products for women, girls, and trans men — all self-funded and packaged herself.

“It’s a need that’s not being met — especially with the homeless,” Coleman detested.

“All the things we talk about nowadays, and we shy away from periods,” Coleman said. There’s a stigma associated with a key bodily function. “It’s a part of life,” she added.

Yet having access to hygiene products — or even education on how to use them and prevent issues like toxic shock syndrome, a life-threatening bacterial infection that can be caused when leaving a tampon in too long — is limited.

Coleman’s got big expansion plans. She’s partnering with some south suburban schools with aims of spreading into the prison system and developing a teen advocacy program.

Address: 18300 South Halsted, Suite B, #258, Glenwood, IL, 60425

Phone: (773) 273-9147


Senior care: Open Arms 101

Inflation is hitting everyone hard — especially seniors, many living on fixed incomes as they retire. Some of them have to make the choice between food and toothpaste.

That’s where Open Arms 101 comes in. Since 2016, volunteers have been delivering free shampoo, deodorant, toothbrushes, adult incontinence products, and other basic items through its #AdvanceFolk Care Package program.

They’re not stopping at taking the financial strain of basic needs off of seniors. “We’re getting into doing transportation down the line because a lot of them can’t get to and from doctors appointments,” Open Arms 101 President Oliver Patton, Jr. said. “We get a lot of calls from Unitedhealthcare about people struggling to get to doctor’s appointments,” Patton said.

“Anything they need that we have, we’ll have it delivered so they never have to come out of the house,” Patton said. Open Arms 101 is partnered with several organizations catered to the aging population, like AARP.

That’s critical during a global pandemic where seniors have been at-risk of contracting a highly contagious respiratory virus. But that’s also why volunteers have taken precautions such as wearing masks and doing temperature checks prior to entering a resident’s home.

Address: 15403 Elm Street, South Holland, IL 60473

Phone: (708) 328-8696


Youth programming: Restoration Ministries

TaSonia Bolden, 23, is a Harvey native and Thornton alum who works with youth programs at Restoration Ministries, a faith-based organization that offers drug rehabilitation and youth activities.

“My mother is a graduate of Tabitha House, which is our rehabilitation center for women,” Bolden said. Bolden was born in 1998 just before her mother began treatment in 1999, graduating 2 years later. “This has been my home,” she added.

Restoration Ministries has a boxing club, after-school program, and an art gallery that young people across the suburbs can get involved in.

As the summer approaches, there’s a day-camp between 8am and 2pm. Kids can enjoy swimming, join the bike club, kickball club, and take Bible lessons.

Address: 253 East 159th Street, Harvey, IL 60426

Phone: (708) 333-3370

Email: Contact form

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