PILL HILL — It didn't take long for residents to take up Jahmal Cole, the founder of My Block My Hood My City, on his televised offer to help shovel during Tuesday's snowstorm.
Willamette Craigs, an 88-year-old widow who lives in the 8900 block of South Yale, saw Cole on WGN's morning news — and immediately reached out.
“I know I can’t go out there,” she said, and while she normally relies on help from neighbors and relatives, they were tied up Tuesday.
Cole recruited a handful of adult volunteers to quickly respond to residents' requests.
“I think it’s wonderful,” she said.
Jahmal Cole greets community member Lloyd Norman. [Provided/Ben Thornburgh]
Lloyd Norman Jr., who has lived across the street from Craigs for 41 years, also welcomed the effort. He said there aren't as many people to help out anymore.
“When I first moved here there was a man in every house, but most of them have passed on now,” he said.
Now it’s just him and two other men on the block who do the best they can to help the widows, he said.
“I’m a retired educator and one of my neighbors, he’s a retired fireman, so we try to look after them as much as we can,” Norman said.
He thanked Cole and the volunteers for coming out and helping.
“It’s a good program,” he said, adding that more young people should be giving back to their community.
Cole said that he likes to help his neighbors— which he was doing when he got the call — and those elsewhere who need it.
“When the city gets overwhelmed by snowstorms, its seniors are the last to get the support,” he said.
While Cole started his organization with the mission of broadening life for at-risk teens because many had never even left their own neighborhoods, he's branching out.
Last winter he said he wanted to help the seniors in the community shovel so he asked people to help him via Facebook. In February Cole held a meet-and-greet and the DuSable Museum of African American History. He attracted nearly 500 new volunteers, he said. From that meeting, he was able to set up groups of people to help with social media, mentoring and event planning.
Cole also formed what he’s calling a First Response Committee, which currently has about 10 members. These volunteers show up whenever and wherever needed.
Volunteers from the First Response Committee helped shovel snow for seniors Tuesday at 89th and Yale. [Provided/ Ben Thornburgh]
Evergreen Park resident Eric Harper joined that team Tuesday after seeing Cole on WGN. He’s self-employed and his children were in school, so it was easy to come out and help, he said.
“I think this is a really simple way to help people,” Harper said. “The ladies on the block are unable to do this and I’m able to.”
People can sign up to volunteer by clicking here.