‘Chicago Tonight’ in Your Neighborhood: Garfield Ridge

Garfield Ridge on Chicago’s Southwest Side is home to small businesses like Weber’s Bakery and A Cup of Joe and the fantasy motel, the Rainbow Motel, formerly the Rainbow Pink Palace Motel. It also shares Midway Airport with the Clearing community area on its southern border.

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The area has a significant first responder and senior population many say the community is like the suburbs.

On Chicago’s Southwest Side, Garfield Ridge is home to Midway Airport. It has a significant first responder population and many senior citizens. (WTTW News)On Chicago’s Southwest Side, Garfield Ridge is home to Midway Airport. It has a significant first responder population and many senior citizens. (WTTW News)

Al Cacciottolo helped found the Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch 10 years ago, and says the watch is active in the community. Cacciottolo, who is also president, said crime is relatively low, and has decreased since the watch formed. He said he’d like to think it’s in part because of their work.

While the watch initially focused on neighborhood safety, its scope has expanded.

“Over the years it’s grown into more of a community organization, so we’ve gone from patrolling on the streets to holding large events,” said Janja Taylor, a board member of the watch.

The organization hosts a car show, yard sales and a Christmas event at Wentworth Park.

Another Garfield Ridge-based organization, Beat The Streets Chicago is working to empower youth through wrestling.

Michael J. Dixon of Beat The Streets Chicago said the organization is about helping to develop children off the mat too, offering tutoring, literacy help and life coaching.

“So wrestling is probably the best fit because life is difficult, wrestling’s hard. It’s not easy, when you first get in wrestling, you’re going to get your butt kicked, and you’re going to take a lot of beatings, but perseverance, hard work, dedication, learning how to fine tune your craft,” Dixon said

Beat the Streets opened a brand-new center in June and starts its fall program in September.

Archer Avenue is a main artery running through Garfield Ridge, leading to a range of small businesses, restaurants and bakeries. The community also has many at home businesses, from woodworking to children’s specialty items, said Mary Ellen Brown, president of the Garfield Ridge Chamber of Commerce.

Brown says the pandemic has been hard on some of those businesses as they deal with the cost of mitigations such as paying for PPE and now staffing challenges.

“They say that there’s all these grants out there that are available, but I have a lot more (business owners) on Archer Avenue who say they have applied, they have applied, and they have not received any grant money whatsoever,” Brown said.

Businesses small and large have all been affected. The airline industry is another that has been hit hard by the pandemic. However, travel at Midway Airport has been ticking up, said Elizabeth Granados-Perez, managing deputy commissioner for Midway Operations.

“Midway actually was one of the airports that rebounded quicker than others due to its leisure and domestic travel destinations,” Granados-Perez said. “In 2021 we actually have had days where the traveling numbers have equaled or exceeded 2019 numbers which were pre pandemic. So that gives us all hope that we are headed in the right direction.”

Video: Watch our full interview with Elizabeth Granados-Perez

But Garfield Ridge has felt more direct impacts from COVID-19.

“It’s hitting this neighborhood a lot harder compared to the general area. The positivity rate is higher and yet we’re struggling to get our patients vaccinated in this community. We are vaccinating about roughly half of our patients currently, whereas Chicago-wide I think is closer to 60%,” said Dr. Eunice Kim, regional medical director for Garfield Ridge’s Access Southwest Family Health Center.

The rate of COVID-19 in the 60638 ZIP code is 5.7%, and 49% of residents in that ZIP code are fully vaccinated, according to city data on Thursday. That’s in contrast to a 4.2% positivity rate in all of Chicago, and nearly 55% vaccinated citywide.

Kim says there’s no shortage of vaccine supply — she is working to give youth over 12 the vaccine when they come in for back-to-school physicals.

Ald. Silvana Tabares, (23rd Ward), agrees that the city needs to continue encouraging people to get vaccinated, but disagrees with the city’s methods.

“Mandate is not the right approach and I hope the city and the unions do come together to figure something out because many of them, like our first responders and our police, have been working hard since the beginning of the pandemic,” Tabares said. “They don’t have work from home. They have been out there on the front line keeping us safe.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Thursday that all city workers will be required to get vaccinated by Oct. 15.

Video: Watch our full interview with Ald. Silvana Tabares

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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