Grocery Run Club is a community driven initiative that partners with organizations to provide fresh produce and everyday essentials in underserved neighborhoods in Chicago.
When you hear the word community, what do you think about? A group of like-minded individuals? A decent comedy show that put Donald Glover’s acting career on the map? Maybe the word reminds you of a local community center focused around the betterment of human life? All valid answers connected to the word. When I, a born and raised northsider, think about “community,” I think of the numerous neighborhoods I grew up in while moving from apartment to apartment with my mom through the majority of my childhood. Every few years or so, we’d find ourselves in one of the 77 neighborhoods this beautiful city has to offer, rooting ourselves in our new home, venturing out to see what the community had to offer and what we had to offer the community.
Community surrounds us all, and as we venture through these experiences that are molded together and called life, our community changes. Change comes out of necessity. Change happens when we are pushed to make a difference. Within the most recent months, I was called to action to make a difference in my community. As cofounder of Grocery Run Club, community now includes the people that GRC crosses paths with who are willing to give a few moments of their lives to help their neighbors. They are individuals that have also been called to action. We’ve been able to work with born and raised Chicago kids that want to see a difference in the neighborhoods that they grew up in. We’ve met community members that have been rooted in west side neighborhoods for over 40 years. We’ve been able to work with individuals that are transplants but call Chicago home, because they found their community within these city limits.
When I think about what community truly means, I can’t help but combine all of these experiences and perspectives into one. I pull from the stories shared with me, and sit with the idea that because of community, individuals have been able to put food on the table for their family; families have been able to clothe their children; corner stores have been turned into community fridge sites all across the city, and community fridge sites have turned into meeting grounds for activism. I think about how three Chicago kids turned a vacant storefront into their very own Cultural Center in Gage Park for their very own community, and how vacant apartment complexes have been beautified into free community markets that help feed that very same block that we find ourselves supporting week after week. These are real life examples of what community is, real life examples that I can take you to, real life examples that if you allow yourself to be a part of, you’ll be able to experience as well. And when you do, you’ll be able to see that community is power.
Jorge Saldarriaga is a community organizer working in Chicago. He can be found at @groceryrunclub.