Hyde Parkers ‘jump in’ to supply winter gear for Syrian families, neighbors in need

Thanks to the generous donations of scores of Hyde Park residents, four Syrian families and several disadvantaged community members received much-needed warm weather gear just in time for winter. The family friendly event took place on Wednesday and Saturday of last week at Augustana Lutheran Church in Hyde Park.

When the call for the clothing drive went out earlier this month, donations poured in filling two large rooms with dozens of winter coats, snow pants, boots, sweaters and other apparel ranging in size from infant to men’s XXL. In addition to the church, other designated drop off locations included KAM Isaiah Israel and University of Chicago Laboratory Schools.

“Our children grow out of clothes so quickly and typically only need them for a year or two,” said Dorothy Pytel, co-director of the Hyde Park Refugee Project.  “It’s nice to have items that are still in good enough shape to give to families who might otherwise have to spend a good portion of their income to purchase.”

In addition to the two Syrian families sponsored by the Refugee Project, two other families were invited to participate.  The families, of five and six respectively, also arrived in Chicago about a year ago and were referred to the Refugee Project by friends and acquaintances. They originally had come to the US through World Relief, which provides three months’ support to resettling refugees.

Last Wednesday’s drive took the place in lieu of the regularly scheduled weekly adult ESL classes that include a paid instructor and tutors made possible by community response to an earlier appeal.  Since the kids had the day off from school, volunteers brought in a bouncy house, generously donated by Hyde Park Latter Day Saints Chapel. While moms combed through clothes, several volunteers, including those who normally teach ESL to the adults, kept an eye on the kids, both refugee and volunteer children, who who had a blast in the bouncy house and making crafts in the nursery.

The following Saturday, guests who regularly attend the church’s monthly community breakfast were invited to select whatever they wanted from the racks and tables still brimming with coats, hats, sweaters and warm clothing. Remaining items were donated to local charity organizations.

“We are so thankful for the community’s incredible response to the drive,” said Pytel who organized the drive. “Within the span of a few weeks, we were able to supply 24 Syrian family members and more than a dozen of neighbors in need with enough winter gear to face the cold winter ahead.”

Photo of volunteer child in the bouncy house provided by her parent with permission.

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