GLENVIEW, Ill.—Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Illinois, several Chicago-area organizations have joined together to assist the Armenian community in facing challenges posed by the crisis.
In mid-March, the respective chairs of the Chicago ARF “Christapor” Gomideh, Armenian Relief Society (ARS) “Zabelle” Chapter, AYF-YOARF “Ararat” Chapter, the Chicago Hamazkayin, the Chicago Homenetmen, and All Saints Church formed a COVID-19 Crisis Team to help ensure that the community had a coordinated, uniform approach. On March 13, the organizations decided to shut down all activities held at the All Saints Community Center as well as those located offsite, including organizational meetings and events. Taniel Varoujan Armenian School classes, Hamazkayin “Sardarabad” Dance Ensemble practices, Homenetmen Scout and athletic practices were cancelled as well. These actions predated the Illinois governor’s shelter-in-place decision to restrict public and private gatherings by one week.
Since then, the Crisis Team has been meeting regularly via videoconference to determine ways of assisting community members with the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The organizations immediately focused on identifying and contacting the elderly and other community members to ensure that they were not having difficulties.
It soon became evident that some community members were at risk and in need of help. The organizations each immediately contributed seed money to create a fund used to provide food, medicine and other supplies to these vulnerable community members. The Crisis Team also launched the Chicago Armenian COVID-19 Relief fundraising campaign on GoFundMe which has raised over $1300 in addition to the initial funds donated by the constituent organizations.
With these funds, the Crisis Team has been purchasing food and supplies and delivering them to community members. Among the items being distributed are fresh produce, pasta, peanut butter and paper products. The group is also working to understand the needs of the community once the stay-at-home restrictions are lifted.
The Crisis Team has also been seeking out Chicago Armenian community members who are on the front lines of the pandemic, including doctors, nurses and first responders to recognize them and thank them for their service. Every Sunday during church services which are broadcast on Facebook, All Saints pastor Very Rev. Ghevont Pentezian offers a special prayer and extends his gratitude on behalf of the community to these individuals who are putting themselves at risk to keep everyone safe. Other similar initiatives are in the planning stages.