Here for Each Other

Quick shout-out to Madhurima Chakraborty and husband Kris Stokes, who organized an online hyperlocal crafts fair to support local artisans and Oak Park Mutual Aid — all the artisans donated at least 10% of sales (some a lot more) to OPMA as part of the project. (Madhurima is now on the ballot for our local library board, and I encourage you to vote for her in April; she’d be terrific on the board.)

These are a few of the packages I have out for porch pick-up today as a result of her fair, and more importantly, we’ve raised over $800 to support OPMA, which has been offering grocery deliveries, small direct grants of cash, winter coat donations, and more, since the pandemic began.

If you missed the fair, you can still donate directly — we’re currently at a little over $40,000 of a $50,000 goal. And we’re always looking for more volunteers.

Here’s a little more information on what OPMA has done so far, and what we’re hoping to do going forward. Give if you can, and if you need a hand right now, ask.

We’re here for each other; we can get through this pandemic winter, together.


COVID-19 affects all of us, but it doesn’t affect everyone equally. We want to help those in greatest need.
– Some of your neighbors have lost their jobs and are unable to purchase groceries or pay for basic living expenses.
– Others are immuno-compromised or are actively quarantining because of sick family members and need help picking up groceries or prescriptions.

– State-level unemployment benefits are expiring for many, and future Federal relief remains unknown.

Oak Park Mutual Aid is dedicated to mitigating the ongoing impact of COVID-19 through dynamic economic and social support.
We strive to provide the following services:
– Referral to Federal, State, and other local sources of ongoing assistance
– Food Assistance
– Medication Pick Up
– Grocery Pick Up
– Limited Financial Assistance
– Referrals for Mental Health Support
– Clothing Drives
– Wellness Phone Check-ins

– Tutoring/Homework Help

Thanks to generous donors and Oak Park Mutual Aid’s volunteer network as of November 15th, 2020, we have raised more than $37,649 through GoFundMe and $16,545 through other channels.

These funds have made possible:
– $35,890+ in limited financial assistance, food, personal protection equipment, cleaning supplies, medication , and clothing
– 465+ deliveries of healthy food and other items
– 312+ online requests for assistance and referrals reviewed and fulfilled

– Help for more than 200 families and individuals in and around Oak Park, River Forest, and Forest Park



Website to learn more, request help, become a volunteer:

The craft fair is over, but we may bring it back in the spring — you can still take a look, if you’re curious, to see what sorts of items were available, and many of the artisans have their own online stores where you can still shop:

The Irish Shop

Persimmons are in season, hooray! Joined by a breakfast fresh-made scone (they bake on Fridays, but have them in the freezer other days), slathered in rich Kerrygold butter, from The Irish Shop (on Oak Park Ave, just a little south of Lake).

Not a local restaurant, exactly, but totally worth supporting, especially since in addition to the various sausages (bangers! blood pudding!), pot pies, etc. in the freezer, AND all the imported Irish tea and cookies, etc., you can easily get quite a bit of holiday shopping done as well, with items for everyone on your list. Stay warm with Irish wool this winter…and that knitted ceramic teapot and cookie jar? I die.



The Laneways

Good morning, folks. Coming out of this morning’s iGov meeting, I had an idea that I wanted to run past people, something that might help out some of our struggling businesses. (This is mainly aimed at locals, though others with relevant experience are welcome to weigh in!)

In Melbourne, there’s an area called the Laneways. (Also sometimes referred to as the arcades.) This is a vibrant shopping district in the alleys behind buildings. It is utterly charming, full of cute little restaurants and tiny shops, plus lots of great graffiti-style street art. I think sometimes businesses split the back of their space to rent to a separate business that operates out of the alleyway, and sometimes it’s all the same business, street side and alley side.

We’ve had a tough time here with street construction + COVID seriously affecting local businesses. I heard that while some businesses are about to have to close down their sidewalk patios for construction, they may be allowed to set up alleyway options.

I think that’s great, but I’m a little worried that unless there’s a concerted effort to support that, people just won’t even think of venturing into the alley to find their open-air dining (and I know it’s rainy today, but with a canopy, I think you could eat outside for another month at least, maybe more with a patio heater or two?)

I’m wondering whether we could use a local community group to work on a Laneways project here, something that might extend beyond the pandemic time, and add a rich additional bit of cultural bustle to the shopping districts. It would beautify the relevant alleys too. They might have to shut down for winter, but once the pandemic is no longer an issue, hanging walls might also help extend the season.

I’m trying to think about what downsides might be. Would neighbors object? It’d be a little extra noise in the alley, but that might be counteracted by additional safety with more people around. It’d likely feel a bit more urban, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing?

This is just a brainstorming post (cross-posted to Shop Local Oak Park and Oak Park Development Watch, as well as my own wall). I’d love to hear people’s thoughts.

If it seems worth pursuing, I’m envisioning a coalition of business owners and interested consumers coming together to discuss and shape the project, defining parameters of a first test alley or two, to present a plan to the Village Board for their approval, to perhaps raise funds to help businesses who need financial assistance with supplies, but mostly to help get the word out and patronize those businesses once it’s up and running.

(I cannot take on another thing to run, but I’d be happy to be part of the committee, at least for the initial brainstorming, which is my strong suit. :-))

Photos of Melbourne’s Laneways for inspiration.

Sewing for Librarians

Sewing tonight for my librarians, who are getting ready to go back to work-in-the-library instead of work-from-home, whenever the governor decides we’ve entered phase 3. It could be as soon as June 1 (limited service, checking out items placed on hold, for example, no patrons hanging out in the library), which means they need masks pronto.

This morning, I spent a few hours cutting, and tonight after the kids went to bed, I spent a few hours sewing in elastics. These masks aren’t done yet — they still need to be pleated and have nose pieces attached, but I should be able to get that done in the next day or two.

We have 146 staffers at our three libraries (not all librarians, but all of great value to our community). I’m not saying I’m going to sew a mask for every single one of them before this is over…but I might. At least one from each of my fabrics, so hopefully they’ll have some fun picking out which ones they want. (This is about half of the fabrics I have on hand.)

I mean, our library can budget to buy them masks, of course, and will do so for any I (and one of the other trustees who is also sewing!) don’t manage to produce. The director will make sure staff go back to work protected. Thankfully, we seem to be past the phase when elastic couldn’t be had for love or money.

But I admit, I am feeling personally protective of our library staff, and maybe even a little superstitious about ironing a little good luck into each of these. This is not what I expected I’d be doing when I ran for office, but we serve how best we can; right now, this is where I have a useful skill. Thanks to those of you who bought masks from me — each purchased mask funds a donated mask, so this week, you’re funding protection for our librarians.

Don’t worry, I’ll also be virtually Zooming in for tomorrow’s monthly board meeting. I won’t even try to sew through it. 

Fundraising for the SLF

Folks, I need to do some fundraising for the SLF fairly urgently if we’re going to be able to keep giving out our grants, and I am very low on capacity for fundraising. If you’re able to help me with putting together a short campaign, let me know? It’d mean things like:

– requesting donated gifts (books, critiques, etc.) from prominent people in the community
– brainstorming other donor rewards (ideally ones that are cheap or free to produce and distribute)
– setting up the Kickstarter page for the Portolan Project (free online writing education)
– helping to coordinate the transcription and release of teaching videos we’ve already done during the campaign
– keeping me on track with all this!

Help? Drop a comment (ideally with your e-mail) or PM me if you can help out.

Opening Day Bagel

I had to go get myself an Opening Day bagel at The Daly Bagel, 130 Chicago Ave. Woot! Go, Amanda Daly! If you didn’t manage to pre-order, locals will be glad to know that they can walk in (between 8 and 2) and pick up a fresh, delicious bagel, chewable and luscious. Please wear a mask to help protect her staff! Shop small, shop local!

(Note: I had the lox in my fridge already; they’re not doing bagel sandwiches yet!)