Hundreds of people turned out Saturday to pick up free baby formula, diapers and other supplies at an Austin church event that had to be postponed earlier this month after a small group of people made off with supplies meant for hundreds.
Pastor Michael Wright of Christ Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church, 854 N. Central Ave., said he was “devastated” April 2 after 12-15 people took advantage of an employee working alone and took all the items set aside for the church’s Baby Bank event that helps people in need.
On April 3, the date the event was originally scheduled to be held, Wright had to explain to people showing up what happened and that the event was postponed. But donors quickly stepped up to help after a Block Club Chicago story shed light on what happened.
Dozens from the Austin neighborhood and from the suburbs donated supplies. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Starck Real Estate in Arlington Heights, for example, donated some 5,000 diapers and other baby items. Robert Magiet and members of West Town Feeds showed up in four SUVs filled with more than $3,000 worth of supplies.
On Saturday, even more donated, including a 50-car caravan of Delta Sigma Theta Chicago alumnae from across the city who brought more than 100 boxes of supplies.
And Magiet donated again — this time bringing food for 400 people.
Also on hand was Michael “Chef Mike” Airhart, founder and CEO of Taste For The Homeless, who cooked burgers and hotdogs for the crowd.
Local DJ Tony Harris, who lives a half-block from the church, spun records on the parkway on Iowa Street, which Chicago Police closed to allow for a block-party-like atmosphere.
Magiet has organized multiple, large-scale efforts to help people in need over the past year.
He bought out local tamale vendors on cold days and operated a Love Fridge from his restaurant, TaKorea Cocina. His nonprofit, West Town Feeds, has orchestrated Thanksgiving and Christmas meals for people experiencing homelessness, St. Patrick’s Day meals for hospitality workers and ongoing meals for soldiers working the United Center vaccination site.
So, seeing the several hundred people lined up along Central Avenue Saturday, Magiet said he was not surprised.
“I’m actually not. I’ve seen the need this year, especially because of the pandemic,” Magiet said.
Asked if he might run out of food before the end of the event, he said that could be a positive.
“It would mean we fed 400 and even more got baby supplies,” Magiet said.
For mothers like Shay Heath, a 23-year-old Austin resident with a 3-year-old and a 10-month-old, the event was a blessing. “My kids’ dad is deceased so this really comes in handy,” Heath said.
Ericson Vega, 28, of Austin, who was holding his 4-month-old daughter while waiting in line, agreed with Heath. “It helps a lot, especially during Covid when many can’t get out. This really shows we aren’t alone, Vega said.
For Celia Camacho, a 32-year-old Logan Square teacher with three kids, the event was especially helpful.
“I don’t qualify for LINK because I work but I’m going through a divorce and this is a really tough time for me. This is wonderful,” Camacho said.
Wright said people in line had to enter the lobby of the church and register and then were able to go down a line of tables stocked with supplies and could take what they needed. Wright said people are asked for their contact information so that church volunteers can follow up after the event to see what other needs they may have.
“This is amazing,” Wright said, scanning the line that stretched for more than a block down Central Ave.
“Our goal was to help 1,000, but we may exceed it. Wow.”