By Beverly Reed Scott
While science and politics argue the numbers about how many Americans are affected or how long COVID-19 will impact the nation, there are some who meet the coronavirus on the ground serving the people with the most basic needs. These servant leaders are on the frontlines providing food and clothing to those most impacted by the virus.
In Chicago, Englewood is ground zero.
Mother Betty Price has seen poverty’s effects in Englewood for decades. She got her commitment “honest,” by having a childhood where hunger was a common experience. Mother Price, a former social worker, retired in the mid-60s and began feeding and clothing people out of her home.
In 1997, Feed, Clothe, Help the Needy (FCHN) acquired and renovated a former meat packing plant at 1234 W. 59th St. and turned the corner of 59th and Elizabeth into an oasis where residents in the area can depend on receiving a hot meal and other services. Since the pandemic, the need and the demographics have increased exponentially.
“I’m feeding people who have walked here from 95th Street, families of every color, Black, white, brown, everybody is coming, and the lines are getting longer,” she explained. “I’ve been here many years and I’ve never seen it like this before and they need everything, food, clothes, medicine, they just need help.”
FCHN would serve 50-60 hot meals Monday through Friday prior to the pandemic. Fried chicken, green beans, mashed potatoes, spaghetti, chili, and stews were often on the menu. People sat together at long tables that lined the room served by volunteers and politicians during election years. As the economy weakened, the population gradually changed from primarily older men. “The young men started coming in to eat, and I was glad to see them because they used to just stand around outside. I knew they were hungry, then the families started coming,” she said. “But that was before the pandemic, and I have never seen it like this. They are coming from everywhere and the line is getting longer and longer. We have been feeding 500 people a week since this coronavirus hit.”
She has removed the long tables to accommodate social distancing practices but still seats families with small children. The rest are served as carry out. When asked how the community can support Feed, Clothe, Help the Needy, Mother Price replied: “Listen I’ve been doing this a long time. I know where to go shop. I know how to get the people fed, but I need money. Please tell the people to bring checks she said as she took another call.”
Feed, Clothe, Help the Needy – 1234 W. 59th St. – (773) 436-8277.