‘Chicago Tonight’ in Your Neighborhood: Chatham

Chatham, on Chicago’s Far South Side, is a predominantly African American community with a high population of senior citizens. The Dan Ryan Expressway separates West Chatham from the rest of the mostly residential community, which is known for its bungalows.

The 60619 ZIP code, which includes most of Chatham and parts of surrounding communities, has a 7.7% positivity rate as of Nov. 28, according to city data.

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Last month, the Walmart Supercenter in West Chatham reopened after closing because of looting during civil unrest in May. The remodeled location now has a health center, offering a variety of services, including primary medical care and optometry.

More from the neighborhood: COVID-19 Across Chicago: Chatham

The health center has transparent pricing – meaning residents who don’t have insurance know upfront what they’ll have to pay. A primary care visit costs $60 for adults and $35 for children.

Stacey Webb, Walmart Health market director for Chicago says the health center grew, in part, from conversations about what the community needed after the civil unrest.

“They needed to see affordable, accessible health care here in the community. It’s about the relationships that we have with the communities themselves, the members of the community, and about answering the needs based on what other services are available in this area,” Webb said.

Richard Wooten, president of the Greater Chatham Alliance, said he is thankful for the partnership Walmart has shown with the community, reopening after the looting with new health resources.

“We are almost like a medical desert here I’d like to say,” Wooten said. “Walgreens was the only thing that was actually in our community where we were able to actually get prescriptions from. Then we had Jewel-Osco. Those were two long standing companies that have actually truly shown their support in our community, but CVS is closing stores down. Target is closing stores down. So a lot of places that we were relying on have actually started back and walked away from us.” 

South Side resident Tiffany Cartwright is excited to see the store reopened.

“I was so happy when they reopened it, especially with all the different events because I love this Walmart. It’s close to home. It’s more beneficial than having to travel all the way to Cicero, which is where our nearest one would be for the city,” Cartwright said.

Walmart also opened a health center in Austin last month.

As for other businesses in Chatham, 6th Ward Ald. Roderick Sawyer said they are doing well, considering the changes they’ve had to make during the pandemic.

“They’re adapting and adjusting just like all the businesses in the city, and I think we’re actually thriving right now,” Sawyer said. “Overall we are doing well. We could do better obviously, once we get back to normal, but it’s also been an opportunity to taste and experience food that they haven’t experienced before with the new delivery systems.”

One of the prides of Chatham: Brown Sugar Bakery. Founder Stephanie Hart couldn’t find anyone who made pineapple coconut cake like her grandma used to. She came up with her own recipe, and friends loved it so much she decided to make it a business.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Hart said figuring out how to operate, while also protecting the health of her employees was a challenge. Initially, the bakery shut down. Several weeks later, once Hart rethought how the bakery could operate, it reopened.  

“It’s frightening when you have people that depend on you, and you’ve gotta make decisions whether to be open, whether to stay closed. How do you keep them safe?” Hart said.

It's forced her to modernize, and that's been a savior. The bakery teamed up with a third-party delivery app that charges a fee only to the customer, unlike many services that also charge the restaurant.

Next week she’ll start shipping her famous cake nationwide.

Community Reporting Series

“Chicago Tonight” is expanding its community reporting. We’re hitting the streets to speak with your neighbors, local businesses, agencies and leaders about COVID-19, the economy, racial justice, education and more. See where we’ve been and what we’ve learned by using the map below. Or select a community using the drop-down menu. Points in red represent our series COVID-19 Across Chicago; blue marks our series “Chicago Tonight” in Your Neighborhood.

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