CHICAGO — Dozens of volunteers came from across the city, shovels in hand, to clear away more than a foot of snow from sidewalks and streets on the South Side Saturday morning.
Marc Townsend has lived in a bungalow near the corner of Cornell and 79th for a quarter century. Watching the group from his door in delighted disbelief, he says he's never seen anything like it.
"I’m still in awe. I’ve been out here for about an hour just wondering, like, ‘what the hell?’ this is beautiful," Townsend said.
We measure snow in inches, but could just as easily measure it in pounds. Shoveling all that snow can be a back-breaking activity. But for the volunteers, it's a barrier-breaking one as well.
“I met somebody from Rogers Park, Lakeview, Hegewisch— they say Chicago is segregated, but obviously people care about other people in our city,” said Jahmal Cole, who mobilized the army of 120 volunteers through his community group My Block, My Hood, My City.
The volunteers shoveled the sidewalks at more than 50 addresses, mainly homes where the elderly live. For those residents, it would have been a monumental chore. For the volunteers, it was simple.
Among them was 26-year-old David Thompson, who came more than 15 miles from his home in Logan Square to help people who never asked. He and the others viewed clearing the snow as spreading goodwill.
"I said, you know what, ‘just go pay it forward," Thompson said.
Sometimes even the worst winter weather can bring out the best in our community.
"You don’t need a master’s degree to shovel snow, you don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to help out your neighbor, so this is all about just giving," Cole said.
The volunteers say they’ll continue helping people shovel out all weekend, and they may need more volunteers as another round of snow is predicted for Saturday night.
"For someone to come out and think of us like that, to think of a block like that and a city like that to bring these young people together to do this, it’s amazing," Townsend said.