The Southwest Side neighborhood is a mostly residential community with many restaurants and a few small businesses. It has been hard hit by the pandemic, but today it is one of the areas where high vaccination rates – and, it’s the home of the now indicted former House Speaker, Michael Madigan.
Interactive map: More information on our community reporting series
It’s also a community touched by another quintessential South Side Chicago politician – first Mayor Daley.
president of the Richard J. Daley College Janine Janosky says the school is a beacon in the community.
Students can take hands-on courses at MTEC – Manufacturing Technical Engineering Center – for training in welding, CNC machine and robotics.
Chicago residents can even take classes for free, thanks to City Colleges of Chicago Future Ready Program.
President Janosky says jobs are waiting to end.
“Right now we are contacted by industry to find out when students are available to graduate as they are ready to enter the workforce with industry here in southwest Chicago. And the demand keeps increasing, especially after the pandemic,” Janosky said.
Students entering the workforce without professional attire can purchase free work clothes from the Career Wardrobe Shop.
It started a few years ago as a pop-up and opened as a permanent space last week. The store accepts donations.
Meanwhile, young families who need support can turn to Metropolitan Family Services.
Dawn Delgado-Mendez leads the organization’s home visits to West Lawn. They are designed to help parents-to-be and new parents.
Since Delgado-Mendez started more than a decade ago, she says the number of families signing up for the program has gone down.
For her, this is a sign of progress: more families have jobs and no longer need home visits; they are looking for a daycare center while they are at work.
“We reach out to these at-risk families and get them where they need to be to succeed, whether it’s individually, whether it’s education or employment, but also to have a safe home for their families,” said said Delgado-Mendez. .
For school-age children, Monday will be a changeover day at CPS. It will be the first day since the pandemic that masks are no longer required.
Judy Idrovo – who runs a vaccine ambassador program at West Lawn – says this motivates some parents to get their children vaccinated.
“Just because the masks are up doesn’t mean people are vaccinated. Now we are communicating to families that it is their responsibility to ensure their children are vaccinated, and keeping in mind that children 0-5 years old are still not eligible. But what I’ve heard is that people are taking this initiative now because it’s lifted, and they’re going to get this appointment,” Idrovo said.
As COVID-19 restrictions lift and the city hopes to take a new turn in the pandemic, Cook County Commissioner Alma E. Anaya, who represents the northern part of West Lawn, hopes lessons learned during this pandemic will be remembered.
“I hope that when all of this is over, we will continue to address the social issues that still affect communities. They were impacting them before the pandemic, but we’ve seen COVID made it plain and clear. We have to make sure we don’t forget about health inequities and disparities,” Anaya said.
Video: Watch our full interview with Alma E. Anaya
The Southwest Collective operates on the southwest side of Chicago, bringing a variety of programs and resources to the area. Board chairman Enrique Mendoza said they are working to expand food equity work to better support families in the area, especially as prices rise.
“Businesses are struggling and with everything going on in the world, with gas prices soaring. I’ve spoken with families and they’ve seen the price of wheat go up, it’s just getting more expensive d ‘buy groceries,’” said Mendoza, who is also a West Lawn resident.
Video: Watch our full interview with Enrique Mendoza
One of West Lawn’s main cultural attractions is the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture
“We are very connected to this area, because just east of here are the Stockyards. The Lithuanians have been an integral part of the development of the city. They have also contributed greatly to the culture of the city, they have operas and we held folk dance festivals. I would say from the stockyards to the stock exchange, Lithuanians have been involved in the fiber of Chicago,” said Sigita Balzekas, vice president and acting executive director of the museum. .
Friday is an important day: it is when Lithuanians celebrate the restoration of their independence.
This is poignant now, given what is happening in Ukraine.
So does the museum’s “No Home to Go To” exhibit on refugees and displaced people.
Balzekas says Putin’s efforts to expand Russia are comparable to Stalin’s – when millions died or were displaced.
She hopes the lessons of the past will guide leaders today, before history repeats itself.
“I don’t think the holocaust would have happened if people like Stalin and Hitler had been stopped in their tracks. Now we are seeing another tragedy unfold in a part of Europe – the same part of Europe,” Balzekas said.
Politics buffs may think another area of the building deserves exposure——
Madigan’s longtime office is located on the second floor. Madigan is known for sticking his nose in the grindstone and spending a lot of Saturdays at the office.
You can consider it as a kind of second home. His real one is about half a mile away.
Madigan was born in Clearing.
But has long lived in West Lawn and has represented the community in the state legislature since 1970.
West Lawn has changed a lot since Madigan’s first election – in the past decade alone, the Latino population increased by 10%.
Realtor Jose Gonzalez says it’s important for the community to have Latino representation in government.
“Latinos, we are very culturally rich, very attached to our family, and only other Latinos can fully understand our needs,” Gonzalez said.
The 22nd House District is now represented by a Latina — Rep. Angelica Guerrero-Cuellar, who was named to the position with Madigan’s backing, and is now running for office.
Community Report Series
“Chicago Tonight” is expanding its community reporting. We’re taking to the streets to talk with your neighbors, local businesses, agencies and leaders about COVID-19, the economy, racial justice, education and more. See where we went and what we learned using the map below. Or select a community using the drop-down menu. Dots in red represent our COVID-19 Across Chicago series; blue marks our “Chicago Tonight” series in Your Neighborhood.