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"Giving" is in Auburn Gresham's DNA

GADC staff person Cheryl Brown (center) prepares some pastry items for a participant in GADC's Free Coffee Day. This participant also received a plastic bag of donated non-perishable items sponsored by the Elev8 program at Perspectives Middle Academy.

Ernest Sanders













The days after the Thanksgiving holiday officially kicks off the start of the holiday shopping season. During this season, you often find people standing in long lines to buy gifts to exchange with family and friends. While an accepted pass-time, the Auburn Gresham community demonstrated this week many examples of "giving" with no expectations to receive a gift in return. 

Free Coffee and Canned Goods Distribution

(L-R) Perspectives Middle Academy students Ariyana Coleman, Tabatha Daniels, Kywaun Sterling, and Trevor Keith joined Carlos Nelson and Tenisha Jones in distributing donated canned goods.

Ernest Sanders

Early Monday morning the staff of the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation (GADC) began its day by lining the intersection of 79th & Racine to distribute over 350 cups of FREE hot coffee and apple cider along with fresh pastries to include cupcakes, cookies, and brownies. Pedestrians, drivers, CTA patrons, and even bicyclists all stopped to partake this quarterly event sponsored by GADC. 

New to this coffee serving day was a free canned goods distribution coordinated by Elev8 middle-schoolers at Perspectives Middle Academy. These young people took the initiative to collect over 1500 canned goods to distribute to residents of the Auburn Gresham community. Because of their desire to help, several families who may not have regular access to food items could now provide for themselves and their families. At the nearby Saint Sabina/Catholic Charities Social Service Center, GADC staff distributed a portion of these donated canned goods to people waiting in line.

(L-R) Antionette Fisher and Tenisha Jones are joined by Perspectives Middle Academy family members who received 1 of 6 food gift baskets donated by the Elev8 program with support from GADC.

Perspectives Middle Academy

At the start of the Thanksgiving holiday, the Elev8 program with support from GADC also donated six food gift baskets to include turkeys and other non-perishable items for Perspectives Middle Academy families in need. These families could now start their holiday season with great meal.

“Our organization’s ability to give back to the greater Auburn Gresham community really speaks to the pulse of what makes Auburn Gresham such a special place to live, work, learn, shop and play," said Carlos Nelson, Executive Director of GADC. “I am utterly amazed by this community’s ability to give to others in need. This is what makes Auburn Gresham Chicago’s Best Kept Secret.”

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Operation Hope 2011

Thousands of people entered the doors of BJ's Market and Bakery in Auburn Gresham to receive a free and hot southern style dinner.

Ernest Sanders

More than 2050 Auburn Gresham community members and passer-byers were treated to a free and hot southern style dinner at the Auburn Gresham eatery, BJ’s Market and Bakery. In its second year, Operation Hope is a collaboration between the Faith Community of St. Sabina, BJ’s Market and Bakery, Johnson Publishing Company (JPC)Rush University Medical Center, and WVON Radio. There were several key stakeholders including elected officials as Alderman Latasha Thomas (D-17), Auburn Gresham native and Chicago Transit Board Chairperson, Terry Peterson, Linda Johnson-Rice (Chairman) and Desiree Rogers (CEO) of JPCJean-Claude Brizard, CEO for Chicago Public Schools, and Dorothy Brown, Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County. 

This day would not be possible if BJ’s co-owners John and Hank Myers did not recognize the importance of giving back to the community. The event offered Christmas melodies, gospel selections, and a warm reception by many volunteers. One gentleman was so filled with the holiday cheer, he danced solo to some of the musical selections.

"That was delicious! All gone!" exclaimed two hungry participants in Operation Hope.

Ernest Sanders

Fr. Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina Church said, “The Christmas season is under attack from its original intent. During this season, we should embody the message of God to love one another as Christ loved the church. It is important that the poor who have been made to feel disposable and invisible, know that we not only see them but we are here to help. Giving away over 2000 dinners is just a small example of this community's willingness to love others.”

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Auburn Gresham Series on National Public Radio (WBEZ)

All this week the Auburn Gresham community was featured on National Public Radio (WBEZ) through five unique and very different accounts of this community's richness.

Freelance reporter Bill Healy (L) instructs Justin Irving how to use a very complex digital camera at a press conference in Auburn Gresham with Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Ernest Sanders

Reported, photographed, and produced by a freelance reporter, Bill Healy, five Auburn Gresham residents and business owners (a high school student, a fitness club owner, a House Music legend, a 20-something journalist, and an elderly disabled artist) gave of their time and shared stories about their community.

These very robust and honest conversation will give you a sense of why Auburn Gresham is the gem of Chicago's neighborhoods.

Healy's project, Auburn Gresham, Chicago received support from the Chicago Community Trust’s Local Reporting Initiative.

To close the week, St. Sabina Church gave away over 800 turkeys to community residents on a brisk Saturday morning.

Keywords: Alderman Latasha Thomas, Auburn Gresham, Bill Healy, Carlos Nelson, Chicago Public Schools, Cook County Clerk Dorothy Brown, Fr. Michael Pfleger, Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation, Jean Claude Brizard, Johnson Publishing Company, Linda JoAuburn Gresham, National Public Radio, Rush Presbyterian-St. Lukes Medical Center, St. Sabina Church, WBEZ

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