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New Life Centers of Chicagoland is opening a marketplace and food pantry in Little Village. The new full-scale food distribution hub will be opening at 2701 South Lawndale Avenue — directly across the street in a former corner store. According to Matt DeMateo, executive director of New Life Centers of Chicagoland, the new distribution site should be open either in December 2021 or January 2022.
DeMateo added that the front half of the buildings will be dedicated to the distribution hub. Here people will be able to receive free food. The second floor will have offices where employees can connect residents to the resources they need.
The building was purchased by the New Life Centers and other local groups. They purchased the new site to expand the pre-existing food distribution hub.
Over the past 18 months, the Center has been able to feed over two million residents. Around 2,800 families show up to receive food every Tuesday and Friday.
DeMateo stated that the New Life Centers has “groups and partners from across North Lawndale and Little Village that come through.”
They do grocery delivery to those who are elderly or COVID-positive.
In addition to the new building, there is a large mural painted onto one of the building’s outside walls. The painting is done in bright colors and depicts themes of togetherness across racial divides. DeMateo hopes the mural resonates with Lawndale’s Brown and Black residents.
He explained that the mural was brought into the planning process shortly after “George Floyd was killed.” He admitted there was friction between Brown and Black residents “in Little Village, which is South Lawndale, and North Lawndale.”
DeMateo added that “it was the street outreach workers from New Life and other agencies across the city that really, during the tension post-George Floyd’s death, came together and brokered peace between Black and Brown [people] in the area.”
The mural was painted by local Little Village artist Sam Kirk. She and her team of artists sat down with the community to hash out potential ideas for the painting. Kirk and the New Life Centers felt it was important to have the youth add their input during the mural-making process.
Kirk explained that she “basically spoke with youth from both North and South Lawndale to learn from them.” She wanted to know “what their challenges were in the neighborhood, what they loved about the neighborhood, what they loved about each other’s areas. Because even though we’re right next to each other, it feels like we’re pretty separate.”
Kirk announced that there will “be a second mural that happens in North Lawndale too, probably early next year.” She added that both paintings “are meant to serve as the two ends of the bridge, visual reminders of what we’re working towards…a be a big welcoming sign so that residents from both sides feel welcome to come to both parts of Lawndale.”
The New Life Centers theme for the year 2021 is healing together. DeMateo said they “believe that healing together is a key part of this next season. It’s a key time of just reconnecting with each other after a very difficult season…It’s more than just work. It’s about how we heal our neighborhoods together.”
Written by Sheena Robertson
Block Club Chicago: After Feeding 2 Million People During Pandemic, New Life Centers Opens Food Distribution Hub In Little Village; by Maia McDonald
Top and Featured Image Courtesy of Jason’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image by Jessica Vernone Courtesy of Sac State’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License