In June, as businesses across the Chicago area reeled from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest following the death of George Floyd, two West Side siblings took matters into their own hands and started a GoFundMe campaign.
A couple months and more than 700 donors later, the campaign created by Charles Pickett and his sister, Mercedes Pickett, has generated more than $53,000, which the siblings distributed to 26 small businesses in the Chicago area — including one in Oak Park.
The Picketts gave small businesses operating within the city $1,700 each and $500 each to small businesses outside of Chicago, such as Dream Body LLC, a licensed massage therapy company located at 816 S. Oak Park Ave. in Oak Park, according to its website.
The owners of the company could not be contacted for comment on Monday.
Eleven businesses in Austin and 15 businesses in the Garfield Park and Humboldt Park communities received $1,700 grants, the Picketts said.
“We were pushing so hard and requesting donations to make sure that every business that sought help was able to get a grant, and we also followed up with each business and gave them a mini brochure of available resources,” said Charles, 25.
“Save the West Side started on June 1 with the GoFundMe campaign, but it hasn’t ended,” said Mercedes, 28. “We received so much support in and out of the city.”
The Picketts said that their movement differs from other government and private assistance initiatives in that what they’re doing is powered by grassroots organizations and community members who “are on the ground not just leading the charge, but doing the work … We want to be a bridge to connect organizations that are doing the work with the people seeking help.”
The Picketts, who live in the Garfield Park/Humboldt Park area, aren’t new to doing the work. In 2016, Mercedes founded Earth’s Remedies, an organization that shares free education, career, health, financial and conflict de-escalation resources to marginalized communities on the West Side.
Mercedes is the organization’s chief architect while Charles serves as vice president and chief business development director.
The organization’s vision, they said, is to be the “emergency room” for a community that’s in a state of emergency and to bridge the gap between low-income communities like Austin and relatively affluent communities like Oak Park.
In addition to giving out grants to small businesses, the siblings also lent a hand, literally, going around to area businesses to clean up in the wake of the looting and vandalism that happened in June.
Earth’s Remedies’ outreach extends into August, with two community events planned for the West Side.
On Aug. 22, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Store Front Events, 2620 W. North Ave. in Chicago, the organization will host a Fresh to School event. The Picketts will team up with local barbershops, salons, restaurants and other businesses to offer residents free haircuts and hairdos for both young men and young women, free warm meals and a free local art gallery experience, along with live music from local artists.
And on Aug. 30, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., at 4281 W. Washington Blvd. in Chicago, Earth’s Remedies will give out free book bags, school supplies, baby supplies and groceries.
Masks and temperature checks are required at both events. For more information on either the upcoming events or Earth’s Remedies in general, email to firstname.lastname@example.org.