Is New Eastside meteorite-ready?

In the early morning hours of February 6, a two-foot-wide meteorite streaked across downtown Chicago, leaving a bright green trail in its wake. The meteorite took a northeast trajectory before plunging off the coast of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, about 150 miles away.

While Chicago is protected from most natural disasters, it remains vulnerable to a meteorite strike.

I asked two local experts, Dr. Mark Hammergren, astronomer and meteorite specialist at the Adler Planetarium, and Joy Squires, Chief Communications Officer of the American Red Cross Chicago Region, what would happen if Chicago were struck by a meteorite.

TP: Mark, should we be worried?

MH: Is this something to be concerned about? No. Bright meteors are rare from any given location. A meteor leaves a streak of light in the sky; a meteorite is a rock that drops to earth. Although a woman in Alabama was struck by meteorites as she lay sleeping in a sofa in her living room.

TP: Can you say what would happen if a larger asteroid hit the lake?

MH: A tsunami [would be] possible. That is a concern for midsize asteroids, something [between] 100 and 1,000 feet could generate a wave that could cause damage. That said, something a lot smaller could cause damage if it came directly over the city. A sonic boom—the blast of air—from a meteorite in Chelyabinsk, Russia, was so intense it broke many windows and sent 1,600 people to the hospital.

TP: Has a meteor ever hit Chicago?

MH: In 2003, there was a bright meteor in the sky, and then rocks started falling over Chicago’s south suburbs. Some hit houses and cars.

TP: Joy, what would be the challenges for helping the New Eastside through a major meteor strike?

JS: With any concentrated area, there are challenges to helping people just look out. With Hurricane Sandy in downtown New York, [it was] “How do we work in the high-rises and get food up to people”… and the elevators being out. We also wouldn’t know where the shelter area would be… decisions would have to be made in the moment.

TP: Is there anything New Eastsiders can do to feel less helpless?

JS: Be informed. Get the Red Cross emergency app; it tells you where shelters are and what they need.

— Tricia Parker, Staff Writer

Pedway renovation kicks off

A city-backed coalition of business owners, nonprofits and design firms aims to make drastic improvements to Chicago’s Pedway. With a budget of $125,000 they envision transforming sections of the Pedway into a “destination” and “oasis.”

“We think this is the time to revitalize and tap underutilized aspects of the Pedway,” says Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC), the Chicago-based advocacy firm spearheading the effort. “We are committed to developing a serious design concept plan.”

Learner says several city agencies are supporting the group’s efforts, including CDOT, DCASE and the Chicago Infrastructure Trust. Learner declined to comment on how the group will raise additional funds, but said it is “ambitious” and wants to design a Pedway on par with underground systems in Montreal and New York. The $125,000 is coming from the ELPC’s own funds.

In mid-January, the ELPC hosted three public meetings, attended by about 100 people, in which group leaders sought ideas from eager attendees. While leaders declined to share specific design ideas at the meeting, group-moderated discussions hinted at possibilities. Moderators circled back to several themes: “interactive art,” better signage and connectivity, more dining options and “natural” aesthetics.

Residents, designers and architects discuss ideas during a January forum at the Cultural Center (Patton)

“Water features and bringing in natural light throughout the system [would give you] moments to contemplate when you meet a business colleague or friend,” said a representative of Chicago-based Billings Jackson design firm, one of three design firms in the group.

Design plans will initially focus on the main Randolph Street “stem,” from LaSalle Street in the west to Beaubien Court in New Eastside. Learner says New Eastside’s Pedway could be next.

“If we’re successful in revitalizing the main stem, the next logical step is to see how the New Eastside Pedway can be improved and linked to the main stem,” said Learner. “It ought to be a heck of a lot easier than it is now.”

New Eastsiders face a logistical gauntlet getting from Lake Shore East Park to the Cultural Center and beyond, with a series of loosely connected street-level and underground passageways. Signage is limited, and closing hours are unclear. Most buildings shut their Pedway at 7 p.m., but neighbors report seeing the Pedway open as late as 9 p.m.

For New Eastsider Tom Prenzno, who attended the first two meetings, better-defined closing hours are just the beginning of needed improvements.

“My wife walks with a cane, and is mobility challenged,” he said. Two aspects of New Eastside’s Pedway make navigation especially difficult for the Prenznos, who live at 222 N. Columbus: 23 stairs descending from the Prudential Building into Millennium Station, and the lack of handicapped doors.

“It’s a real problem.  [I’ve seen] at least five doors that were broken, and regular doors are often very heavy,” says disability lawyer Barry C. Taylor, who attended the second meeting.

“A list of dreams is good,” says Prenzno, “but until we fix the basic fundamental infrastructure, nothing is going to happen.”

The group says it will work on “design development” from now until March 14, and present its plan to key city stakeholders on March 15.

Stroller-friendly Pedway shortcuts

Millennium Garages, which consists of four vast underground parking lots beneath Grant Park and Millennium Park, has more to offer than just a dry place to put your car. Equipped with elevators and ramps, the underground structure at Randolph St. and Columbus Dr. provides accessible connections and shortcuts from New Eastside to some popular destinations.

New Eastside residents heading to the Art Institute on a particularly cold or rainy day, stroller-pushing or otherwise, can take the elevator on Upper Randolph (across the street from The Buckingham) down to the Millennium Garages.

There is another elevator in the heated and enclosed garage that connects to Monroe Street at the south end of Millennium Park, directly across the street from the entrance to the Art Institute.

The elevated sidewalk connecting 300 E. Randolph St. to Millennium Park

If you’re Loop-bound and wanting to avoid the elements, you can take the elevator at Harris Theater — which serves the Millennium Garages — and connect to the Pedway at Lower Randolph via the Metra Station (South Shore Line at Millennium Station). After passing through on the train station platform, you will be welcomed by glass doors that open to the Pedway. You’ll find a secret, bustling urban community with shops, restaurants and CTA access. The Cultural Center, Macy’s and Block 37 are just a few of the popular destinations in this portion of the Pedway.

New Eastside resident and regular Pedway user Janice Dantes points out that, “The door- holding is tricky,” when navigating with a stroller. “But it’s not impossible and occasionally a kind stranger will lend a hand,” she says.

“One thing I wish they had is an elevator from the Prudential Building to the Metra Station,” she adds. “This would make getting to Macy’s much easier.”

If you’re eager to try out these convenient routes for yourself, grab a friend and head out to explore. You’ll probably uncover some Pedway secrets of your own.

Care bag drive helps area homeless

New Eastside for Charity, the neighborhood organization dedicated to improving the lives of the area homeless population, distributed 66 care bags and 30 to 40 sleeping bags to people living in the area’s network of underground streets on January 21.

The care bags contained items for battling cold weather and providing nutrition.

“We filled them with underwear, undershirts, socks, long johns, hats, gloves, scarves, lip balms, water, crackers, protein bars and cookies,” says Sonia Koht, the New Eastside resident who cofounded the organization with her neighbors Ginger Menne and Sujata Dayal last January.

Care bags ready for distribution

Most of the items were donated by 35 to 40 people, many of whom attended a corresponding happy-hour drive at The Chandler that was featured in the cover story of New Eastside News’ December issue.

“It was really mostly the community,” explains Koht, who hopes to expand not only the scope of the items donated but also the program in general for the organization’s subsequent summer and winter drives.

“Stay tuned for more details,” she says.

Assisting Koht in the physical distribution of the care bags were her son, Alexander, friend Jay Prenta, and Alexander Carlins, son of Magellan Development President David Carlins.

“It took us like four hours, from five in the evening until about nine something,” she says. “We waited until people who are on the street came back to their living area.”

During the process, the distributors got to know many of the inhabitants who live in tent colonies protected by the upper streets.

“It was really touching,” she remembers. “One guy said, ‘you know when I see this I really do believe in miracles.’”

www.facebook.com/NewEastsideforCharity

— Daniel Patton, Staff Writer

A walk through “Haunted Chicago”

On a recent dark and not-so-stormy night, my wife and I met a group of strangers on the LaSalle Street Bridge for a walking tour.

This tour concerned haunted sites in and around the Loop. The tour was sponsored by Atlas Obscura, and gave a fascinating, if somewhat macabre, backstory to sites we walk past every day.

Author Matthew Reiss in the in the alley behind the former Iroquois Theater, which is allegedly habitated by the spirits of the victims who perished in a 1903 fire

Highlights included the location of the old jail at Clark and Washington, where several hangings took place; the now-abandoned Excalibur nightclub, where the bones of Jean Lalime, one of Chicago’s first residents, were reportedly on public display; and the Fool Killer, a submarine pulled from the Chicago River in 1915 that contained both human and canine remains.

But the evening was dominated by two tragedies that struck within short walking distance. The Eastland disaster, which occurred at the aforementioned LaSalle Street Bridge, left 844 dead when the ship known as the Eastland capsized while docked, also in 1915. The ship was apparently left on its side in the river for several days while rescue and recovery efforts continued. A temporary morgue hastily established to deal with the crisis later became Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios. This spawned numerous ghost stories, including sightings of “The Grey Lady” ghost, presumed to be one of those who perished aboard the Eastland.

The second tragedy was the Iroquois Theater fire of 1903, which claimed the lives of over 600 people. That site is now the location of the Oriental Theater on Randolph Street. The ill-fated Iroquois Theater advertised itself as “fireproof” in the days leading up to the calamity, which occurred during a production of the musical Mr. Blue Beard. We stood in the alley behind the theater, and learned that it is called “Death Alley,” and it’s the scene of numerous ghost sightings.

www.atlasobscura.com/things-to-do/chicago-illinois#events

— Matthew Reiss, Community Contributor

New Eastside’s snow removal team

City foreman Mark Nichol and snowplow driver Dan Guardado, who routinely plows 620A, the route covering all three levels of New Eastside, are the neighborhood’s “snow sentinels,” making flurries and piles of snow disappear.

I meet Nichol first, in his white Chevy Equinox. Lined up in front of him at Monroe and Columbus are a row of plows, eager to push. When the plows deploy, Nichol follows behind, flashing his lights. It is 9 a.m. on a December Friday morning, and a storm has been hovering all night.

“You keep rolling, we never stop,” says Nichol, 57, in a light blue fleece and jeans. Beeps and buzzes sound throughout the car, but Nichol is energized, not stressed. After driving a snowplow for 25-plus years, battling the elements is second nature to him, though New Eastside presents special challenges.

“With all the buildings and hotels, people come and push snow into the street,” says Nichol. Yet the neighborhood nuisance leaves Nichol undeterred. “We don’t stop ’til everything’s done,” he says.

Snowplow driver Dan Guardado

A few minutes later, ready to do business in a black cap, sweatshirt and grey work gloves, Guardado swings out in front of us, in plow S11735.

Kindly, Nichol and Guardado have agreed to give me a quick tour of New Eastside, as long as the weather cooperates.

I climb inside the cab, feeling, for the first time in my life, omnipotent against the snow. Despite driving a plow for 17 years, Guardado is equally giddy.

“This is a good gig,” he says. “I wanted to get into this a long time. I love driving… you could say I’m a driving fool.”

Bumping along Lake Shore Drive, with Nichol following, I learn about Guardado’s past. He grew up near Taylor Street, where he was inspired by his father, a maintenance worker at St. Francis Church. His face lights up when he talks about memories of Mario’s Lemonade stand near his childhood home, though he says when he’s out on 620A all his thoughts are focused on work.

“I think a lot about traffic, cars, cab drivers. They’re ridiculous. They think they own the street.” Guardado says he wishes drivers in front of Mariano’s would be more considerate when they park outside. To help ease the stress, and pass the time on 12-hour shifts,

Guardado listens to classic ’70s rock and munches on chips, caramel corn and sub sandwiches. When I remark about the fact he’s been on the job since 10 p.m. “It’s not a big thing,” Guardado says, “You get used to it.”

As we round the bend into Lake Shore East Park, and my dropping-off point, Guardado shows off one of the snowplow’s fanciest features.

“Not all trucks have this,” he says, as he pushes two red buttons on the truck’s black joystick, making the plow move up, down, left, right. Once again my snow ignorance is exposed: I thought all snowplows were unidirectional, fixed in one spot.

“That’s cool,” I say. “Very cool.”

Before saying our good-byes, Guarda- do gives a mischievous smile and toots his horn in front of Bright Horizons at Lakeshore East preschool (360 E. South Water St.). Watching his powder-blue truck recede toward Columbus, I’m left with feelings of respect and appreciation.

City workers might not always have sparkling reputations, but when it comes to New Eastside’s snow removal team, Nichol and Guardado are second to none.

— Tricia Parker, Staff Writer

Staying true to New Year resolutions — or not

The tradition of making New Year’s resolutions dates back to the ancient Babylonians, who greeted every fresh calendar by promising the gods that they would pay off all their debts. But the practice of actually sticking to New Year’s resolutions rarely makes it to St. Patrick’s Day. We asked several New Eastsiders to share their personal methods for dealing with those champagne-enhanced vows.

“My husband and I do something called the ‘Daniel Fast,’” says Cheryl Lewis, a freelance reporter who relocated to New Eastside from Atlanta with her husband, an architect, in March. “You kind of reset your eating schedule after the holiday craziness.”

Named in honor of the Jewish noble whom King Nebuchadnezzar imprisoned with a bunch of lions in Babylon, the Daniel Fast emphasizes cuisine that may have graced Mesopotamian meals three millennia ago. It’s heavy on grains and light on meat.

“It resets some of your choices and gets [you] back to healthy eating,” Lewis explains.

The couple has survived on the program for “two or three” Januarys. Lewis credits the diet’s effects for their success. “A lot of food has kind of an unfortunate aftermath where you hurt after you eat,” she explains. “Eating vegan, I don’t feel that way.”

And, this year, Lewis definitely didn’t break her resolution.

“I liked it so well, the way that I felt after eating mostly grains, that I’ve been vegan for three months now.”

Bill Prahofer

“Every year, I make about five resolutions,” says Bill Prahofer, the owner of Buck’s Four Star Grill at Buckingham Fountain and Buck’s Café in Millennium Park. “I think that’s a right amount to try to achieve. I usually make four out of five. I never make the five.”

Prahofer may not be batting a thousand, but he makes the hits count.

“Usually, one’s about doing something for charity every year, so I do the Polar Plunge at North Avenue Beach, helping the Special Olympics,” he continues.

He also stretches a resolution “to see the world” over the course of multiple years. “Last year,” he says, “I traveled to three different countries.”

Monique

Monique, a New Eastside resident and assistant in a construction firm, also finds success with the law of averages.

“Every end of the year, I try to make a list of things I have to accomplish,” she says. “I work to accomplish them all, but generally accomplish about half.”

2016 is the best year she’s had since moving to Chicago seven years ago from Cameroon, where she was born.

“I got a better job and I got a better apartment in a better location,” she says. “That and going home to visit.”

Cameroonians, she says, take a casual approach to New Year’s Eve. “Some of them care and some of them don’t.” Although she has not yet decided exactly how she’ll welcome 2017, she’s confident that it will involve “watching the fireworks” from her new apartment.

Harold

Harold stopped doing the New Year’s resolutions “about five years ago” because they never worked. “Every time I’d make one, I’d end up breaking it,” he says. Whether he vowed to live more prudently or end certain bad habits, his lifestyle remained unchanged.

By rejecting the yardstick of progress, he found he removed the stigma of failure. “If you don’t have any rules, you can’t break them,” he explains.

Without the distraction of unachieved goals, he was free to pursue self-improvement year-round, strengthening his relationship with God and joining the Salvation Army. Harold currently mans the Red Kettle at Mariano’s on Benton Place. When not ringing, he performs song and dance routines.

Triva Donnel and shopping crew

Triva Donnel distinctly recalls her most successful NYE resolution. “In 2012, I vowed not to eat sugar,” she says. “It lasted about six months.”

The retired grandmother from Louisville, who made a stop at Mariano’s before venturing to Michigan Avenue during a holiday shopping vacation, explained that sugarless victory was the result of sheer willpower.

“I gave up all the unnatural sugars.” Although she has since lifted the restriction, Donnel stays healthy with an active lifestyle that includes “shopping with my granddaughters and purchasing dolls.” Her next stop: afternoon tea at the American Girl Place with daughter Tam and granddaughters Trinity, Rheagan and Jada.

Marianela

Don’t want to make a bargain with 2017? You can always try the Argentinean way of celebrating, as explained by Marianela, a doctor of internal medicine on rotation at the University of Chicago. She was waiting for a friend at Mariano’s when she explained how the New Year is greeted in her homeland.

“You get together with family and friends and toast for those things that you have achieved during the previous year,” she says. “My brother is about to be an architect, so we’ll cheer for that.”

Unlike every other midnight countdown in her life, she’ll toast her brother with a “cheers” from the Midwest instead of a “salud” in the Southern Hemisphere. Ideally, it’ll happen down- town, “a quick bus ride” from her home in Hyde Park.

“This is my first New Year’s outside of Argentina,” she says. “I want to figure out how Chicagoans have fun.”

Daniel Patton, Staff Writer

What’s ahead for New Eastside in 2017

For tourists, Chicago’s New Eastside is a world-class destination filled with exquisite parks, unique entertainment and stunning architecture. But for the community of urban pioneers who live in this riverside hamlet, it is home. We went behind the scenes of the neighborhood’s most renowned global attractions to see what’s on tap for locals (and smart tourists) in 2017.

Maggie Daley Park

Weather permitting, the Skating Ribbon at Maggie Daley Park will remain open until early March. But it’s just one of many things to do in the 20-acre public recreation area.

“We have a variety of fitness classes for all ages and abilities,” says Supervisor Jackie Guthrie. “For the babies six months and up, we have ‘Moms, Pops & Tots Interaction.’ We have early childhood classes from Kiddie College, which is our preschool, and we have adult classes.”

Climbing wall in Maggie Daley Park

Beginning January 9, the park’s Winter Session will offer dance, Zumba, three different types of yoga and several oth- er classes for multiple age groups. The Spring Session in March will debut a new “pounds” class emphasizing workouts with handheld weight sticks.

Guthrie suggests that interested participants move quickly. “We had a great turnout for registration,” she says. “Some classes are at capacity already.”

When the weather warms up, the park will host a series of ever-popular out- door events. The Mother’s Day Fashion Show features three-to-five year-olds strutting a runway in their own signature styles. July’s Backyard Bash will be a throwback to “those annual picnics that you always had when you were a kid,” says Guthrie. Last year’s event included a horseshoe toss, live music and corn on the cob. The Valentine’s Dance, Egg Hunt and July 4th rock-climbing competition are among other favorites returning in 2017.

Construction of the Maggie Daley Park Restaurant is “supposed to start in the spring,” says Bob O’Neill, President of the Grant Park Conservancy (GPC). When completed, the $62.5 million, 8,000-square-foot facility at 352 E. Monroe St. will offer public restrooms, an outdoor patio and a “green roof” formed by the existing park lawn. The eatery’s proprietor, Four Corners Tavern Group, hopes to begin serving patrons by the end of the year.

Outdoor lovers who prefer to eat and drink on the go can already order from the park’s newest concessionaire, Buck’s Café, a stand at the southern end of the Skating Ribbon.

Owned and operated by Bill Prahofer, who also runs Buck’s Four Star Grill
at Buckingham Fountain, Buck’s Café opened on Black Friday 2016 with a menu that includes Chicago-style dogs and deluxe hot chocolate.

“We top it with chocolate drizzle, whipped cream and marshmallows,” Prahofer says. “It’s kid-friendly.”

Chicago Riverwalk

After attracting 330,000 visitors and generating $8.5 million in revenue over the extended 2016 season, all of the Chicago Riverwalk vendors (except Dulce in Horto) have already confirmed their intentions to return in 2017. Offering food, drink, music and bike and kayak rentals, the vendors have obviously tapped into a market that Chicagoans enjoy.

Skating Ribbon at Maggie Daley Park (Patton).

The good times will be enhanced by the third and final phase of the Riverwalk project: the expansion from State Street to Lake Street that was completed last October. It adds three uniquely functional areas to the promenade.

Chicago River kayak tour

The Water Plaza between LaSalle and Wells allows visitors to explore the very edge of the riverbank. The Jetty between Wells and Franklin features piers that extend over the river. Finally, the Riverbank at Franklin and the bend features an expansive lawn and con- nects Upper and Lower Wacker Drive.

“We had a great year,” says Michelle Woods, the city’s assistant project director, who has worked on the Riverwalk since it was an idea of the Daley administration and helped launch this year’s extended season.

“Island Party Hut ended up selling 150 Christmas trees in December.”

Grant Park

“There will be a lot of temporary outdoor sculpture in Grant Park,” says GPC’s Bob O’Neill. “We have a new committee on that.”

The open-air gallery started with a giant “Buddha Head” that was installed near the skate park in October. It will expand with guidance from Sarah Rose Warman, GPC marketing director and artist in her own right who was appointed to lead the committee in 2016.

The proposed Grant Park Green Fitness Space will also kick into high gear next year. Design concepts for the location, which got the green light in mid-2016, “went over really well” during a December GPC meeting, says O’Neill.

“Our hope for 2017 is to get the money raised,” he explains.

It seems likely that the community-minded wellness area will have little trouble raising an estimated $3 million to complete the project. “Reebok expressed interest and we just talked to them,” says O’Neill. “PlayPower is helping us a lot. They are the largest manufacturer of outdoor workout equipment. They worked with us on design.”

The McCormick Bridgehouse & Museum

The McCormick Bridgehouse & Museum in the southwest corner of the DuSable Bridge (at Michigan Avenue) kicks off for the season on the city’s annual “Chicago River Day,” May 13.

“It’s our annual volunteer cleanup effort with our 2,500 volunteers covering the 156-mile Chicago River system,” says Joanne Dill, director of strategic initiatives at Friends of the Chicago River. “Sites are all over the re- gion. There are even a few downtown, including the Bridgehouse Museum. It’s a great volunteer opportunity.”

When the cleanup is done, it’s time for the fun. The Bridgehouse’s speaker series on the riverbank runs from July through August and covers “everything about the river,” says Dill. “Bridges, aquatic species, water quality, ‘swimmability,’ you name it.” The June Summer Cruise up the river and the August Asian Carp Cookout are scheduled for encores in 2017, as well. And September and October will again feature BYOB Brew & View events that include free admission and museum tours.

— Daniel Patton, Staff Writer

Cubs Convention at the Sheraton Grand

The 32nd annual Chicago Cubs Convention, January 13–15 at the Sheraton Grand, will celebrate one of the most legendary contests in the history of baseball.

“Think of the Cubs and the Indians and the long drought that they’ve each gone through,” says Cubs’ Manager of Games and Event Production Jim Oboikowitch. “Look back at [Rajai] Davis hitting a home run in the 8th inning to tie it up,” he continues.

“It may have been the greatest game seven ever in the World Series.”

Featuring player appearances, alumni appearances, kids-only press conferences, dozens of discussion panels, “Cubs Jeopardy!” and a World Series trophy viewing tent, the three-day extravaganza will take over the Streeterville hotel “in its entirety,” says Sheraton Grand General Manager Mark Lauer.

“An entire floor of the parking garage will be utilized for autograph signing, the organist from Wrigley Field will be playing in the lobby and Louisville Slugger will be on site turning wood into baseball wands, carving bats to order as fans wait.”

Players and alumni confirmed to appear to date include Ryne Sandberg, Fergie Jenkins and Kerry Wood.

The conference realizes the dream of its founder, former Cubs President John McDonough, who left the team in 2011 to become president of the Chicago Blackhawks.

“He wanted to bridge the gap between off-season and spring training,” Oboikowitch explains. “When he started with the Cubs, you’d see players on [the] last day of [the] season and you’d see them on opening day.”

“During the off-season, the main focus is the convention,” he says.

Besides catering to the fans of what is arguably the most anticipated victory in the history of professional sports, he coordinates the team’s efforts to give back to the community. “On Wednesday and Thursday before the convention, we do a Cubs caravan where players will go visit hospitals and schools,” he says.

“They refurbish gymnasiums. It’s something they really look forward to.”

The Sheraton Grand is doing its part to help the community as well.

“A portion of the guestroom rate goes towards Cubs Charities, a nonprofit organization and the philanthropic arm of the Cubs,” says Lauer.

Tickets start at $400. For more information, click here.

— Daniel Patton, Staff Writer

A New Eastside charity is born

On Monday December 12, the recently formed neighborhood organization New Eastside for Charity will host a Winter Drive happy hour event from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at The Chandler, 450 E. Waterside Dr. Volunteers will be accepting hats, scarves and underwear to be distributed to the local homeless population later this month. All neighbors are welcome.

Sonia Koht, a co-founder of the organization and care bag distributor, says, “Most of the recipients will be male,” and asks donors to favor men’s sizes large and extra large.

Koht is a mother, grandmother and board member at the Chandler who decided to act on her compassion for the homeless in January by creating the New Eastside for Charity with help from two neighbors, real estate agent Ginger Menne and lawyer Sujata Dayal.

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Volunteers pack care bags for New Eastside for Charity’s summer drive, which generated enough donations to fill 150 bags with essential items such as toiletries, bottled water, protein bars for the homeless population.

This past summer, the charity hosted a Care Bag Drive at Lake Shore East Park. Equipped with tables, snacks and wine from Mariano’s, the event generated enough donations to fill 150 individual backpacks with personal items like toiletries, protein bars and bottled water, which were then distributed to the people living on the streets beneath New Eastside.

“The idea was to bring awareness to the neighborhood of all the people who live in our area that are in need,” she explains. “We all live pretty well here and I thought, you know, why can’t we help the less fortunate in the New Eastside.”

For Koht, the community-wide initiative is a follow-up to her personal efforts, which include “carrying peanut butter bars and water and offering them to the people I see every day on Wacker Dr. and Michigan Ave.”

When she told her friend Ginger Menne about her concern for the unsheltered, she made a soulful and instantaneous connection with Menne on the topic.

“It was January and Sonia was talking about these homeless people on Lower Wacker,” Menne remembers. “That’s where we came up with, you know what, these people live in our neighborhood, too. We as residents have an obligation to help out the less fortunate.”

After noticing the November New Eastside News’ story about the Chicago Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team, Koht launched an effort to expand the effectiveness of the organization’s efforts.

Those who wish to donate but are unable to attend the happy hour — as well as anyone interested in volunteering for the charity — should contact or deliver donations to Sonia Koht at The Chandler, 450 E. Waterside Dr.

www.facebook.com/NewEastsideforCharity

— Daniel Patton

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