We challenged our reporters to think about how we could help the neighborhoods we cover beyond our storytelling. Working from the areas they cover day in and day out, our reporters know so many people doing good work. It was extremely important to us to tap into these connections to benefit the community.
Starting in January, we committed ourselves to hosting an event once a month in the neighborhoods to build trust and show that we are truly engaging with our community.
Our West Side reporter, Pascal Sabino, made so many connections. We wanted to bring all of the organizations he’s written about together in one place, creating a one-stop resource shop for residents.
Unlike other prominent media outlets, Block Club covers Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park full-time. We’re there for the new businesses, school council meetings and community gardens while other organizations parachute in and cover crime. When we do cover trauma in the neighborhood, we do so with empathy and deep knowledge of the root causes of violence.
On Saturday, January 25, 2020, Block Club brought together 21 West Side groups at Sinai Community Institute for our first Free West Side Resource Fair.
In one place, residents could get: FREE meals, FREE legal help, FREE toiletries, FREE blood pressure screenings and FREE Narcan, a life-saving drug that stops heroin overdoses. They could also get help finding a job, get matched with a mentoring or trauma program and pitch their stories other local media outlets that cover the West Side.
We wanted to get our readers involved as well, so we curated an Amazon Wishlist of several hygiene items that 12-year-old Jahkil Jackson, founder of Project I Am, packaged and handed out during the resource fair. Readers donated more than 3,000 items, including toothbrushes, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, deodorant, socks, washcloths and more.
We partnered with another Chicago organization, Public Narrative, to curate a free Community Resource Guide that we handed out to attendees featuring services they can access after the event.
We also wanted to know how the community felt about media coverage on the West Side. Each of the four attending media outlets had a question at their station where attendees could write their answers on a post-it. Some of the questions included: How do you want to see yourself portrayed in the media? What stories are important to you when reading the news?