Jun 22, 2024  |  
 | Remer,MN
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NextImg:Chicagoans can provide winter clothing for children in need

According to the most recent U.S. Census report, the rates of childhood poverty doubled from 2021 to 2022. Rising costs of food combined with limited purchasing power and the elimination of the expanded child tax credit and related pandemic relief programs have only intensified the need.

In Chicago, one in two children are at risk for clothing insecurity. Considering their already strained financial situations, many families — those in historically disinvested communities and otherwise — are faced with “heat or eat” decisions. For our city’s growing migrant community, accessing warm shelter and weather-appropriate clothing remains a day-to-day struggle.

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Youth across Chicago, both native residents and newcomers, deserve the dignity of appropriate winter gear. A warm, properly fitting, quality winter coat is critical to a child’s health and safety in the winter. But it’s also a matter of equity. An adequate winter coat can help ensure a child remains fully engaged in school and not ostracized due to a lack of basic necessities.

Since 2016, Cradles to Crayons Chicago has helped bridge the gap for families whose budgets force them to choose between food and clothing. The annual “Gear Up for Winter” campaign puts the most critical cold weather essentials directly into the hands of children, so they can stay warm, safe, and healthy during winter.

This year, for the first time, Cradles to Crayons has forged a corporate partnership to strengthen the impact of this important program. With support from Bank of America Chicago, the organization endeavors to collect and distribute 25% more cold-weather gear, through collection sites at the bank’s corporate offices and through sponsorship dollars to purchase additional essentials. The result will be 50,000 high-quality, warm winter coats and related gear distributed to children who need them most across the Chicago area.

There’s a valuable lesson from this partnership: When corporations and nonprofits come together, they are better positioned to address our city’s most pressing challenges in measurable and impactful ways. One organization can change a community. Two can change a city.

Our hope is twofold: that Chicagoans donate to the Gear Up for Winter drop-off locations, and that Chicago’s leading corporations say “yes” to opportunities for partnerships that promote equity, economic mobility and prosperity.

Rita Cook, president, Bank of America Chicago
Dawn Melchiorre, executive director, Cradles to Crayons

If you want to become mayor, plow the sidewalks

Chicago is known for a lot of things: great nightlife, excellent restaurants and amazing sports teams. However, when winter rolls in, there is one thing Chicago is not particularly known for: walkability.

Some might wonder, “Why would anyone want to walk during the winter months anyway?” They might not consider there is a large section of our community that would rather walk, whether for financial or health reasons. Chicago’s struggle to promote walking during winter is due to lack of shoveling and proper infrastructure.

If we look at similar cities like Minneapolis, we can see how a cold-weather city can promote walking in the winter, which benefits people through public health and the economy.

Chicago takes plowing its streets very seriously. As soon as snow starts to fall, the city is quick to act. Despite the rush to clear the street, there is a lack of concern for the sidewalks. The only way sidewalks are cleared is through the good neighbor policy, where it’s expected that property owners clear the sidewalks in front of their home or business. Yet this ordinance is rarely enforced.

Now there’s a plan for a pilot program to remove snow from the sidewalks. But that’s in the early stages, and there are still many concerns that it will not cover a big enough range.

In combination with the plowed sidewalks, Chicago could benefit from expanding its downtown indoor walkway system. Minneapolis constructed a state-of-the-art skywalk system that allows people to maneuver around the city without being exposed to the extreme weather.

Despite having a lower average temperature during the winter, Minneapolis has a higher walkability rate due to the skywalk, which has proven to improve the economy by connecting people to local shops, restaurants and other businesses.

If Chicago could remove the snow from the sidewalks and expand its indoor walkway system, it could compete with cities like Minneapolis for coldest walkable city and promote a healthier public and economy.

Craig Bouslog, Deerfield, student at Arizona State University

Bus service: Who will pay?

The Sun-Times story on the CTA and CDOT’s bus service proposal features interviews with transit advocates who are disappointed there aren’t more specifics. That’s not surprising. There probably aren’t any.

Chicago is symptomatic of many cities east of the Mississippi River. It’s old. The streets weren’t built for mass transit. They were built with walkers and the horse and buggy in mind. Many streets, particularly in residential areas, are one-way because they are not wide enough for two cars to pass, especially if there is parking on both sides.

The plan includes more bus-only lanes and sounds wonderful. Between pollution and traffic jams, there is nothing wrong with encouraging more use of mass transit. But where would these lanes go and who will pay in what is already one of the most taxed cities in the country? Or is this another “let’s bill Washington and Springfield” project?

Laurence Siegel, Manteo