By Steven Graves

CHICAGO (CBS) — Getting resources to struggling neighborhoods is more important than ever now, and people in neighborhoods on Chicago’s Southwest Side are getting creative doing it.

As CBS 2’s Steven Graves reported Thursday evening, the effort is benefiting the old and young.

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It’s no secret that life as a kid in Chicago is pretty different now.

“Since COVID-19 has come into our lives, schools are closed. Libraries are on a reduced schedule. Playgrounds are closed too,” said Jaime Groth Searle, founder of The Southwest Collective. “And it’s summer break.”

But at Catalpa Park, at 4324 S. Kedvale Ave. in the Archer Heights neighborhood, there is something to get excited about.

“Someone actually texted me saying., ‘Oh, we’re getting fancy now like the North Side!’” Searle said. “And I had to laugh, because I said, ‘Yeah, you’re right, we didn’t have these.’”

Little wooden book nooks, or little libraries, are nothing now. People can drop off a book, pick one up, or just take one, read it, and then return it.

It is a simple concept. But Searle said it is more helpful than ever now.

“We’re also using these boxes to communicate with people, ‘Hey, we’re giving out food every week. We have masks,” she said.

The Southwest Collective makes or collects masks that come sealed in bags. Information for food drives in Spanish and English comes on bookmarks.

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You can get plants too – succulents, for a sort of therapy.

“It’s super easy to grow and it’s been really rewarding sharing that with the community,” said Rolando Favela, the Greenspace lead at The Southwest Collective.

And the demand for these resources is high, specifically on the Southwest Side. Another good example is at Ruiz Park, at 3801 W. 45th St., where materials are taken faster than the can be stocked.

“And there’s not enough resources to go around,” Searle said. “I can’t tell you how many wait lists I’m on at libraries for books.”

Right now, the area’s Gage Park Public Library is completely shut down. And it is no secret that heavily Latinx neighborhoods, many of them on the Southwest Side, are struggling with COVID-19.

Any help is taken.

“You become sort of a resource in the neighborhood for people to say ‘Hey, I need,’ and they can get it to you,” Searle said.

Organizers will clean each book and encourage others to do the same. The goal is to have these libraries at every park on the Southwest Side by next year.

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