CHICAGO (CBS) — Beginning May 1 under Gov. JB Pritzker’s order, everyone will have to wear a mask in public when they can’t social distance.
But not everyone can get one. So St. Sabina Church in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood has joined with businessman and philanthropist Dr. Willie Wilson to launched a push to arm the community with face coverings.
As CBS 2’s Jermont Terry reported Thursday night, the sign on the door to St. Sabina tells the story: “We’re out of face masks.” Everyone is looking to get a face covering, and that’s even harder to come by in some low-income areas.
The Rev. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina said there is more than one factor as to why.
“They can’t afford them,” he said. “When you’re trying to get food for your family and keep a roof over your head, masks become a luxury – and now they’re a mandatory source.”
So Pfleger hit the corner of 79th Street and Racine Avenue armed with something people in Auburn Gresham need badly.
“People were so thankful, I mean, they thanked us over and over again,” he said.
During the giveaway, 10,000 masks were provided. This was St. Sabina’s second time standing at that corner filling a void.
“I couldn’t go out and purchase these. I don’t have the money for it,” Pfleger said.
The money and donations came from Wilson, who owns a medical supply company.
“We must continue to fight together, and those of us who are fortunate enough to have resources, we must share with others who may not have it,” Wilson said.
Wilson has spent the past weeks standing outside the Cook County Jail and near fire and police stations, not to mention going inside hospitals. Each time, he brought boxes of masks – sometimes by the truckload – to those who needed them, free of charge.
“I’m a part of Chicago. I am Chicago,” Wilson said. “It’s part of our community – all of us, we’re in this together.”
And as Gov. JB Pritzker prepares to mandate people to cover their faces whenever in public, Pfleger said Wilson’s efforts often go unrecognized.
“We’ve gotten over 100 calls since we stopped today – people are still asking for a mask that didn’t get them, and people are desperate to get hold of them,” Pfleger said.
Wilson ran twice unsuccessfully for mayor. Mayor Lori Lightfoot recently called him out for trying to get the city to pay $1 million cash upfront in order to buy masks from him.
Wilson said the mayor misunderstood. He said a payment was needed before China would ship the goods.
Wilson has also started a $1 million cash giveaway to help churches and those in need.