Eighty teenage athletes spent Martin Luther King Jr. Day Monday preparing food packages for needy families in Chicago, as part of a state-wide trend of marking the holiday with community service projects.
Chicago Cubs outfielder Ian Happ and a bevy of local and state leaders joined the teenagers for an afternoon of baseball talk and food packing. That project, co-sponsored by the Cubs affiliate Cubs Charities, Greater Auburn Gresham Development Company and the Greater Chicago Food Depository, was just one of the service initiatives in the Windy City to mark the late civil rights icon. Other activities included packing boxes of school supplies and distributing laptop computers to students around the city.
Illinois Governor JB Pritzker, Lieutenant Governor Julianna Stratton, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other state officials praised the participants, saying community service was a particularly appropriate way to memorialize Dr. King.
“What you (volunteers) are doing today and what you do every day really can either tear up, tear down, or build up,” said Lieutenant Governor Stratton. “It can either discourage or encourage.”
Even more than in past years, the majority of charity projects focused on food insecurity, given the acute economic effect that Covid-19 has had on the city.
“The numbers are staggering as we know in terms of food insecurity and unemployment. It even affects some of our own Cubs Charities program participants, but they are still here and still giving back.,” Alicia Gonzalez, executive director of Cubs Charities told ABC’s Eyewitness News .
“Families are still really struggling with food instability, housing instability, lack of equitable access to healthcare, so many of the other ills that this pandemic has really magnified and so the struggle is real and we fear that this struggle will continue through 2021,” added Carlos Nelson, CEO of the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Company.