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Black Men United Bring Free Food and More to Bronzeville

West Side native Corey Scott arrived at 8 a.m. on the morning of October 30 to help set up the staging area for a community food giveaway scheduled to kick off for local residents at Metcalfe Park in Bronzeville later that afternoon. He wasn’t alone. Scott, a member of Black Men United, was joined by more than 25 other volunteers from the organization, who throughout the morning, did everything from unloading trucks of food, operating forklifts, carrying household furniture, stocking tables with grocery items, and more all with the goal of serving the community.

Scott said his interest in “uniting the brothers” inspired him to volunteer with the organization over the last four months. He called it a “blessing” to help support others. Black Men United is a nonprofit dedicated to changing the narrative of the Black community and bringing hope by building bridges in communities across America.

Black Men United president and co-founder Pastor John F. Harrell of Proviso Baptist Church in Maywood, Ill. was hoping to harness the positive energy of volunteers like Scott into good works when he helped launch the organization 14 months ago. Harrell said himself along with the organization’s other co-founders wanted to tell a narrative about Black men in America that’s “positive, productive, and progressive.”

“We are so blessed man, because the community makes us who we are,” said Harrell.  The Metcalfe Park food giveaway is part of a weekly community outreach effort by Black Men United that’s been ongoing for the past 16 months, according to Harrell. He explained community stakeholders typically reach out to the organization about scheduling upcoming events, but the typical focus is “wherever the need is.”

On the day of the Metcalfe Park food giveaway, people began lining up well before its scheduled start time at 11 a.m. with grocery buggies and folding chairs in tow. By noon, nearly 200 people were waiting in a line spanning almost two blocks long. Dj Z-Man could be heard playing feel-good hits like “Ring My Bell” by Anita Bell and “We Win” by Kirk Franklin featuring Lil Baby from a block away as Black Men United volunteers cooked barbecue for everyone and offered candy to children.

For the food giveaway, more than 100 boxes of fresh produce including bananas, peaches, corn, zucchini, cucumber, and collards were available to be given away. But that’s not all. Food giveaway attendees also received two separate raffle tickets upon entry into the park. One ticket allowed people to select from a bevy of items such as rice cookers, air mattresses, dehumidifiers, bike helmets, toys, air filters, diapers, electric kettles, and more. The other raffle ticket gave participants an opportunity to win large pieces of indoor furniture. Additionally, more than 2,000 bottles of hand sanitizer and more than 150 personal containers of sanitizing wipes were available, too.

Black Men United was joined by community organizations such as Christmas in the Wards, the Chicago Football Classic, and local elected officials for the event. Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd Ward) said she had previously partnered with Black Men United to host other community events within her ward.

“It’s about helping people in need. The pandemic has revealed a host of disparities in many of our people,” said Dowell. “African American folks have been affected by that and Black Men United coming in to step in the gap and fill a void with food, toiletries, appliances, and everything you can think of under the sun is out here today and from what you can see from the lines people need that assistance.”

Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas said her office has partnered with Black Men United throughout the summer to assist county residents claiming money from senior’s exemption, homeowner’s exemptions, etc. they might have been unaware of at Black Men United’s food giveaway events. She said since March 2020 a stunning $84 million has been returned to the African American community.

To learn more about Black Men United visit https://blackmenunitedusa.org/.

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