“Take care” is a ubiquitous American pleasantry, but through a special program, Highland Park organizations really mean it.
The City of Highland Park has teamed with the local rotary club, park district and nonprofit SaLT to build “Take Care” packages for migrants arriving to Chicagoland. The organizations are asking residents to drop off donations (requested items) at any of a number of locations in Highland Park. From there, SaLT volunteers will package the items into care packages and distribute them to migrants who arrive in Chicago or to the migrant intake center in Chicago.
“We want to make sure individuals who are new to this country feel welcome,” City Manager Ghida Neukirch said. “And from Highland Park and Highwood receive a warm welcome to the area and feel comfortable and feel supported.”
Highland Park is one of numerous Chicago suburbs where buses of migrants — primarily sent without notice from Texas — have arrived over the last couple of months. Following the City of Chicago’s decision in November to crack down on bus operators that drop off migrants, the buses have instead showed up in the suburbs — usually near train stations.
Neukirch said during the first Highland Park dropoff on Dec. 16, the migrants exited the bus and were abandoned near Highland Park’s Metra station. The city used extra Pace buses from its Public Works Department to transport the migrants to Chicago’s migrant processing center.
On Dec. 31, two more buses carrying 78 migrants arrived at Highland Park’s Metra station and were able to board a train to Chicago’s Union Station, where procedures are in place to guide them to the processing center.
Highland Park officials were not made aware of bus arrivals on either day. During its Jan. 16 meeting, the Highland Park City Council will consider regulating unscheduled bus stops, Neukirch said. City staff is recommending that bus operators must notify the City in advance and fill out an application prior to dropping off passengers in town. Not following procedure could result in fines.
At the same time, Neukirch said, Highland Park hopes to do its part to support as many migrants as it can, tapping the Rotary Club of Highland Park/Highwood to kickstart a program. The rotary turned to SaLT — a student-led and adult-supported nonprofit — to help, and SaLT Vice President Brad Swanson said the effort aligned with the mission of his group, which also developed programs during the pandemic (Shop N Drop) and in the wake of the Highland Park shooting (Highland Park Strong).
“For us really it is about the fact that there is an obvious need that is presenting itself unfortunately,” Swanson said, “and people who are looking to change their lives for the better for very personal and complicated reasons are possibly going to be coming through our community and are going to be in need.”
“We wanted to help mobilize our community and at least offer a token of care and support at a time families are in deep crisis. We are in a position to do something.”
SaLT will distribute the packages to any migrants in Highland Park and leftover packages will be taken to Chicago’s migrant intake center. For more information, visit SaLT’s program web page. See below for requested items and where you can drop them off.
REQUESTED DONATION ITEMS
• Non-perishable food/drink: Bottled Water, granola bars, dried fruits and nuts, and packaged healthy snacks
• Hygiene products: Toothbrushes/toothpaste, soap/shampoo (travel size), feminine hygiene products, diapers and baby wipes, and hand sanitizer and wet wipes
• Clothing: Hats, gloves, socks and underwear
• First-aid kit: Bandages, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers and face masks
• General: Reusable water bottles, and flashlights with extra batteries
• Communication: Basic travel translation guides or dictionaries and prepaid phone cards
• Comfort items: Children’s books, magazines or puzzle books (Spanish language), and stuffed animals
• Gift cards for grocery stores or pharmacies (not accepted at park district sites)
LOCATIONS IN HIGHLAND PARK
• Highland Park City Hall, 1707 St. Johns Ave.
• First Bank of Highland Park, 1835 1st St.
• Highland Park Bank and Trust, 1949 St. Johns Ave.
• Recreation Center of Highland Park, 1207 Park Ave. W
• Centennial Ice Arena, 3100 Trail Way
• West Ridge Center, 636 Ridge Road
• Deer Creek Racquet Club, 701 Deer Creek Parkway
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