By Steven Graves

CHICAGO (CBS) — The financial toll of the COVID-19 pandemic has not slowed down, and most business owners would agree that any help is welcome. For the second year, community group My Block,My Hood, My City is giving away hundreds of thousands of dollars of dollars in grant money.

Now some business owners are encouraging others to ask for help.

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At Pump High Energy Fitness in South Shore, young people don’t pick up just weights and boxing gloves but life lessons as well. 

“Help these children over here with conflict resolution. You don’t always have to pick up a gun. Just working on your body, it gives you self discipline,” said owner John Coleman.

But when the pandemic hit, Coleman could not offer what he used to. 

“I shut down. Like any small business, I started to hurt,” he said.

He was down, but not out; he asked for help. 

“It helped me immensely, a lot,” he said. “It helped me get new floors, equipment, exposure.”

He showed CBS 2 the new boxing bag and machines all bought with a $25,000 grant in a relief fund from My Block, My Hood, My City. 

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The fund – developed last year by leader Jahmal Cole – handed out 219 grants to Chicagoans. The focus was on South Side and West Side businesses and organizations struggling financially because of looting and the ongoing pandemic. 

Now for the second year 1 million donated dollars is for grabs.  

“Sometimes you have to. You have to reach out and say ‘Hey, can you help me?'” said Sara Phillips of Chef Sara’s Cafe.

She did just that. Her family-owned South Shore cafe received $10,000. She bought a computer and much needed grill to replace one on its last leg. 

“Without that money, I would have had to close down for a couple of weeks,” she said.

With a never-give-up attitude to provide fresh food for her neighborhood, she is now thriving because of the help. 

“Sometimes a bad can turn into a good situation. We took lemons and made lemonade.” she said. “There are people in this world who will help you. Reach out.”

And the grants go a little further. They also go to people who have ideas for community events, specifically ones in the summer time to give young people something productive to do. 

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Applications are now available. Here is how to apply:

“The Small Business Relief Grant is the largest effort from M3, totaling $500,000 focused on helping small businesses who have struggled to stay afloat during the Covid-19 pandemic. In order to be eligible, small businesses must be registered with the IRS and the State of Illinois with a revenue cap of $1 million providing services or products that have a positive impact in the community. Priority will be given to businesses located on the South and West sides of Chicago, BIPOC and women owned businesses, businesses that offer direct pro bono services for the community and with a proven track record or social capital. The Small Business Relief Grants will total up to $25,000 per request. Applications will open April 30, 2021 and will close on May 30, 2021 at 11:59 p.m.”