The importance of being an ally: to those impacted financially by Covid-19

The Editorial Board

Among the numerous challenges posed by Covid-19, unemployment rates have significantly spiked, leaving millions of families across the country struggling with financial hardship. The Illinois Department of Security reported that the unemployment rate has risen from 4 percent in March 2020 to 7.1 percent in March 2021.

While many families have been economically impacted by the pandemic, Greg Trotter, associate director of communications for The Greater Chicago Food Depository, noted that low-income Black communities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. 

“Lower-income Black and Brown communities in the South and West sides [of Chicago, which] have suffered for years from disinvestment and systemic racism and have been affected by food insecurity for years, were [impacted the most] by Covid-19,” Trotter said. 

He explained that during the past year, the food depository has seen a significant increase in the need for assistance and gave out an additional 22.3 million meals since February 2020. 

“Right from the beginning of the pandemic we saw a dramatic increase in the need for foodbusinesses shut down, people lost their jobs, were furloughed and faced economic hardship,” Trotter said. “It was the largest increase in the number of people turning to our network in the history of our organization, and it was staggering and heartbreaking.”

It’s not just Chicago; members of our own community have also been heavily impacted by Covid-19.

Junior Jackie Maciuszek explained that her parents’ business, Allegra Banquets, lost $100,000 of potential business over the course of six months because of the shutdown caused by the pandemic. While her family was heavily impacted financially, she also mentioned that her parents’ mental health was negatively impacted.

“Thankfully, we had enough savings to keep our life stable but my parents were behind on payments, stressed and bored all day,” Maciuszek said. “[My parents] love working and I would say this [shut down] affected their mental health.”

The Oracle Editorial Board urges the Glenbrook community to be an ally to those who have been economically impacted by the pandemic. Supporting local businesses and families and investing in organizations that assist those in need, such as food banks are all ways you can show allyship.

Maciuszek emphasized the importance of reaching out to local businesses to see how you can help them, as she said that the support her family received from friends and helped their business as well as lifted their spirits. 

“A lot of the Polish community paid to have food catered from their banquets on holidays, which definitely helped a lot,” Maciuszek said. “Likewise, a lot of the people that booked parties pushed them back rather than canceling.”

Senior Taylor Geltis’s family also suffered, when the restaurant where her mom worked shut down, placing more pressure on her dad as he became the sole financial provider for their family. Geltis explained that her family had to cut back on eating out and other extra expenses in order to stay afloat. 

“[My mom] was not able to work for many months and [that] put all the pressure on my dad to financially support our family for that time,” Geltis said. “We had to save money as best we could and not spend it on extra things.”

Geltis encourages those who are financially stable to help families who have been impacted by Covid-19. The Editorial Board urges the South community to care for those who have suffered because of the pandemic.

“I think anyone can be an ally by [providing] food or a meal to others,” Geltis said. “If someone has extras, try and help out within [your] community and give back where you can.”

Mark Maranto, who oversees Titans Helping Titans, explained that the committee partners with local organizations such as the Northfield Township Food Pantry and Making Lives Better to run various drives with the goal of providing students with more than just the basic necessities. 

“[We] try to help [students with] events that are not covered [by the school],” Maranto said. “[It’s] one thing to get, free or reduced-cost lunch, but [it’s] another thing to be like, ‘Okay, do you have clothes for prom? Do you have books, backpacks and school supplies?’”

  Maranto encourages students to reach out to the committee to see how they can become involved with projects they are working on, and participate in the drives that are occurring to be allies to those in our community who are struggling. and fundraisers to connect students with resources. He explained that there are still opportunities to be involved with the service Titans Helping Titans does while juggling other obligations.

“Anybody who wants to be involved should just contact me,” Maranto said. “I have students regularly who just say, ‘hey, I’ve heard about this [committee]’. So what they do is they’re like, ‘you know what, I can’t really help with the backpack drive. I’m very busy at this time. But I’d love to help with prom, or I’d love to help with winter clothing’. And then, with the committee, we all talk about another [opportunity] we could do.”

Kevin Barry, Northfield Township Food Pantry coordinator, urged people to financially support businesses and volunteer. Barry explained that the food pantry utilizes volunteers to provide services such as food distribution and uses monetary donations to purchase needed food items.

“[People should] support local organizations, like the pantry, whose missions are to help those in need in our community,” Barry said. “People can get involved [with the food pantry] by making food or financial donations, hosting food drives, or volunteering.”

Because volunteers are often tasked with the lengthy job of sorting through goods that are donated to pantries, Trotter said they are frequently looking for more volunteers.

“I would recommend seeking out the food pantry in your neighborhood,” Trotter said. “Even in the northern communities that are more affluent, there are certainly people who are struggling. Having that direct experience with people who need help can be a very meaningful experience.”

 However, we should not limit our allyship  to only those in the Glenbrook community. Trotter emphasized the importance of continuing to help all of those who have been hit hardest by the pandemic. 

“We are trying to communicate to people that, [while] we are moving in a positive direction, we are definitely still in an ongoing crisis, so we will need the continued support of our community and partners,” Trotter explained.