But the Weavers need our help. It's summertime, the lakefront's crowded, and Evanston restaurants are bustling. Wherever you look, friends and families have burst from their homes to meet face-to-face indoors and out for coffee, drinks, and ice-cream cones. For many of us, the pandemic has receded just enough (at least for now) that our lives feel close to 'normal.'
But Clarence and Wendy Weaver, who are thrilled that their Homer's ice cream treats are once again drawing cyclists, walkers, and kids in strollers to their corner-of-Church-and-Dodge C&W Market and Ice Cream Parlor (1901 Dodge), are also quick to remind us that for too many Evanston residents, 'normal' still means struggling every single day to put food on the table.
"The pandemic isn't done yet," says Clarence, who -- along with Wendy (his wife) and a cadre of stalwart volunteers -- has been distributing bags of groceries outside the store and delivering them to families in need since Saturday, April 12, just a month after the Covid-19 lockdown began.
Intending to hand out groceries for a month, the couple turned their store, which (like most businesses) saw a huge downturn in customers, into an acquisition-and-distribution center and began serving 53 families.
Today 200 families receive a weekly supply of fresh fruits and vegetables, staples such as bread, milk, eggs, chicken, potatoes, peanut butter and jelly, cereal, crackers, and more.
In the 15 months that they've been organizing, the team -- which includes Bryant Wallace, Lisa Altenbernd, Sydni Craig, Kelley Terrell, Chrissy Harris and many more committed community members who plan, pack, distribute, and deliver -- has missed fewer than a handful of Saturdays.
Volunteers didn't even miss a beat the awful week of last August 30, when the Weavers tragically lost their beloved son CJ in a drowning accident on Lake Michigan.
The work to feed families continued.
Click to move slideshow forward.
In the darkest days of the pandemic, the Weavers grocery giveaways received financial support from the Evanston Community Foundation's Rapid Response Fund, but mostly generous community members have donated, and continue to donate, to a couple of GoFundMe's the Weavers set up. The current campaign is just $22,000 away from its $100,000 goal and the funds raised to date have already been spent. Closing the gap and reaching the goal will support families for the rest of July and August. "There's just not enough for families," says Clarence, who with Wendy, is single-mindedly focused on relieving food insecurity in Evanston and chose to open their store a few years ago specifically in a neighborhood that's considered a food desert. "We can always do more and we're positioned to scale up." To that end, the couple recently established the C&W Foundation, which will allow them to begin applying for grants and allow donors to write checks and receive a tax benefit if they're less adept at internet contributing through GoFundMe. Wendy and Clarence hope to continue raising enough funds to keep volunteers filling grocery bags and feeding families for as long as families face food insecurity.
Last May, I spoke to Clarence--now retired from his career in IT and focusing exclusively on community (Wendy was at her full-time job as a student patient advocate at Northwestern University) about what it means to be a Black business owner, why they opened the store, how he thinks it's contributed to the community, and how Covid-19 has affected his family personally and professionally.
It's well-worth a listen.
The bottom line Please help the Weavers and their intrepid team of volunteers continue to serve families in need through August! Here again is the GoFundMe. You can also pay with Zelle or CashApp. Or, you can send a check to: C&W Market and Ice Cream Parlor 1901 Dodge Street Evanston, IL 60201