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Weekly community cookout in South Shore provides free meals, neighborly connections

Lawrence Hall's community cookout is a neighborhood hit
Lawrence Hall's community cookout is a neighborhood hit 03:15

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Head to the South Shore neighborhood any Tuesday and you'll see a true show of neighbors helping neighbors. 

South Shore is home to Lawrence Hall, a community-based service agency focused on helping heal the effects of childhood trauma through various services and programs. 

In 2020, they decided to expand their mission by holding a weekly food giveaway, where anyone in the neighborhood is welcome to show up for a free meal and more. 

Nearly three years later, the Tuesday community cookout has become a neighborhood staple. 

"Every Tuesday, they're here. Every Tuesday, I'm here," said a woman who called herself Miss B.

Lawrence Hall chief program officer Sean McGinnis said they started the community cookouts in June 2020, after the murder of George Floyd, and the subsequent protests and looting in Chicago.

"Our windows had been broken. We were watching police fly by, and going, 'How do we help? What can we do?' So we pulled out a grill and started grilling, passing out hygiene products, and we just haven't stopped," he said.

"They just make you feel at home; you know, really they do," Miss B said.

"I think it started with about 50 to 75 meals, and then the next week we increased that, and steadily we've done about 150 meals, which has been equivalent to about that amount of people every week," said Breanna Hollie, Lawrence Hall vice president of youth and community development.

"We're a community-based organization, so this is a way to give back to the community, welcome people, and make relationships and friends," McGinnis said. "I think, to some extent, it's helped us get kids involved in programs as they come down the street, and they see what we're doing, and they get a meal. We start talking with them, next thing we know they're involved in programs, hopefully getting jobs, getting a mentor; but this is all about being a member of community, finding ways to engage your neighbors, and give back when you can."

"A lot of people that we've connected with are just driving by down the streets, stopping by, seeing what's going on, and getting to know us, getting to know each other, and it's just been really fun," Hollie said.

"I grew up in Chicago, South Shore neighborhood, and I see a lot of consistent people not in the best situation, and I feel like I may not be able to do much, but being able to do this, it makes me feel like I'm doing something important and worthwhile," said Jo E McAllister.

"How much does it help, you say? It helps fill your stomach if you're hungry, number one," Miss B said.

Lawrence Hall's community day takes place every Tuesday, starting at 1 p.m., outside their South Shore location at 1818 E. 71st St.

It's open to anyone, and it's not just food being given away. The organization hands out everything from school supplies to hygiene kits, knitted winter gear, and even Christmas trees during the holidays.  

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