Under the philanthropic endeavor Care-Bags.org, Gene Pellegrene, owner of artist painters llc, has been making five to seven weekly care bags for the homeless in the community of Logan Square, Chicago, since April 2013. This is not a nonprofit or organization, just representing a group of people who care about their community and raising awareness about homelessness. The care bags contain an assortment of ready-to-eat foods, toiletries, information about local assistance, clothing, first aid and more. There has been a great deal of support for these care bags and their recipients, featuring these efforts on the television program Windy City Live and the Huffington Post among others. Pellegrene’s efforts were honored by receiving the inaugural LaVerne Gage Award from The Revive Center for Housing and Healing.
Over the course of the project, deeper understanding and relationships with these people has been shared via video interviews, social networking and blogs, documenting throughout the year their stories and the impact they have had on the community and the community on them. On April 19, a homeless man named Bud expressed such joy that his video interview alerted his sister he was homeless. She hadn’t known until that moment and is currently taking steps to get Bud off the streets. See his story.
The visits build relationships with people like Roger as hes’s provided with first aid and bandages for a wound healing slowly on his leg. He discusses the hardships he endures living and sleeping outdoors 365 days a year. People like Bud, talk about his past and his future and enjoy the brief moments of laughter that are welcome throughout the conversation. Jeff shares his views on why and how people bless him with money while he panhandles and longs for the days when he could work for a living. Nic and Michael as they discuss the hardships they endure living on the streets with heroin addiction. Throughout the year, after building trust, their stories are shared and visits documented in an attempt to understand homelessness and establish positive connections.
The support from businesses and individuals has been tremendous. Many people from all over the US communicated how their view and understanding of the homeless had evolved since the inception of the care bags. Many of these people made their own care bags, some organized knitting parties for warm clothing as well as other donated goods. A highlight of 2013 was a group of seniors at Urban Prep Academy, Chicago, organizing, making and delivering care bags to homeless in downtown Chicago. 2014 should be no different as the awareness and caring for the homeless increases with public support. To date over 260 care bags have been made and delivered, more video interviews are being conducted and planned. New HD cameras have been purchased to distribute to the homeless so they may share with the public a deeper look into their lives. The new Community Care Box will be built and placed at a local coffee shop (New Wave Coffee) as a drop off/pick up point in the community to assist those in need.
Visit care-bags.org for more information, weekly blog, video interviews and news in making these care bags.