Community Organizing During a Pandemic
For 25 years, COFI has trained thousands of parent advocates to gather together and knock on doors in neighborhoods across Chicago and Illinois for grassroots and policy change. As you can imagine, being true to our family-focused community organizing model is a challenge in this time of social distancing. We have made the hard decision to cancel all trainings, in-person meetings, and door-to-door outreach for at least the next several weeks and have made arrangements for staff to work remotely. It is a whole new world for us – and is a particular hardship trying to hold bilingual meetings with the lack of Internet access and computers in the communities where we work.
At the same time, the parents and families most vulnerable to this pandemic need COFI more than ever. We have quickly adapted to ensure families who are already struggling receive the support and information that they need.
- We are working on ways to meet virtually with parents and to help parents keep in contact with and organize each other, such as using parent Facebook groups to communicate regularly.
- We developed a plan and are reaching out to every single POWER-PAC IL leader to share crucial resources and information about school meals, unemployment insurance, utility shutoff and eviction freezes, and sick leave. We are also talking with parents about how the response-to-date is working and gathering information about what parents need most to survive this public health and economic crisis.
- We are working with local partners to ensure the voices of families most affected by policy decisions are being heard at the city, state, and federal levels and advocating for measures that provide immediate relief. The moratoriums and grace periods on fees that Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Wednesday were a direct result of our advocacy with our partners on the Transit Table Coalition.
- We are collaborating with national partners to help shape elements of the massive plan being hammered out right now in D.C. to protect vulnerable families who are at the greatest risk of harm in this crisis.
The time is more important than ever for our mission. There is much work to be done to help our immigrant families, those who are food insecure and unstably housed, and those who work paycheck-to-paycheck whose next paychecks won’t come. Please sign up for our newsletter and keep an eye on the COFI Facebook page for updates.
Lastly, I want to express my deepest wishes to all of you to stay safe and healthy—and I’m sending especially warm wishes to all the parents taking care of children, grandchildren, family members, and neighbors in these stressful and uncertain times. Together, we will get through this.