The Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) began care package deliveries to senior citizens and families Thursday, a project funded by a $25,000 grant to help vulnerable populations affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Volunteers packaged and delivered the parcels to more than 70 residences around North Kenwood and Oakland. One bag contained cleaning supplies — masks, gloves, bleach and baby wipes — while another held dairy, bread, fruits and vegetables from Hyde Park Produce, which is partnering with KOCO.

“People have pulled together tremendously during this,” said Shannon Bennett, deputy director of KOCO. “And a lot of our youth coordinated the logistics — calling stores, arranging deliveries. There’s a lot of young people and a lot of seniors who are very active. So it’s an inter-generational thing.”

The $25,000 came from the Chicago Community Trust (CCT), a grant-making foundation that announced last week it was distributing $3.5 million to nonprofits providing community support across the city.

Bennett said that, during the first round of distribution, KOCO plans to give packages to about 300 families and seniors in their service area, delivering the goods on Tuesdays and Thursdays. “We’re going to do two to three days of delivery a week. Then we’ll have to recoup and go buy more stuff,” he said.

Bennett said that people are being added to the delivery list as they call the KOCO office and ask for help, though much of the current distribution is being done through the organization’s pre-existing network, including some senior buildings in Washington Park and Woodlawn. Bennett added that the outbreak is exposing some long-standing issues for many of those living in senior housing.

“Some of these buildings have existing conditions, like poor management and treatment of our seniors, and it’s been exacerbated because of this situation,” he said. “My (concern) is that the CHA has not stepped up and promised the seniors much …. We’d like some type of assessment of what the needs are of our seniors.”

Among other problems, Bennett said, there have been issues with access to Pace paratransit services, and the CHA has been unresponsive to requests from seniors that the agency deliver water.

“It’s safe to say that (vulnerable) populations — particularly young people and seniors — are still gonna have some of these issues we’re dealing with now after this crisis,” Bennett said. “So it’s a good time for people to know about what’s going on with some of the people who live in the neighborhood.”

Donations to KOCO can be given at kocoonline.org/donate or over the phone at 773-548-7500.

Reporter

Christian Belanger graduated from the University of Chicago in 2017. He has previously written for South Side Weekly, Chicago magazine and the Chicago Reader.

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