Taste of Hyde Park raises funds to aid families

Bethany Pickens performs during the 13th “Taste of Hyde Park” benefit on April 27. (Photo by Marc Monaghan)

Staff writer

Despite a late-April snowstorm, community members came out to try food from local restaurants in the neighborhood at the 13th annual Taste of Hyde Park.

On April 27, the Housing Transitional Project hosted the Taste at St. Paul and the Redeemer Church, 4945 S. Dorchester Ave. In addition to sampling the food, members of the community took part in a raffle and bid on special items during a silent auction.

Throughout the evening, Kenwood Academy alum and renowned pianist and composer, Bethany Pickens performed.

“Bethany Pickens has been performing at the last two tastes of Hyde Park, and her father actually performed at the 11 previous ones. So, it is a really nice continuity of performance and the Pickens family has been amazing supporters of the Hyde Park Transitional Housing Project,” said Brigid Maniates, president of the Hyde Park Transitional Housing Project.

The event featured food from local favorites like Eto’o Modern Asian Cuisine, Hyde Park Produce, Kikuya Japanese Restaurant, Maravillas Restaurant, Medici on 57th, Rajun Cajun, Siam Thai Cuisine, Snail Thai Cuisine and Vanille Patisserie. Beverages were donated by 57th St Wines and Kimbark Beverage.

According to Maniates, the organization asked local vendors from Hyde Park, Kenwood Woodlawn, South Shore if they would like to donate food to the event to represent the entire mid-south side as close as possible.

For silent auction items, participants had the opportunity to bid on having lunch with Cook County Board President, Toni Preckwinkle, or 4th Ward Alderman, Sophia King, and other fun prizes like collectible comic books donated by First Aid Comics.

From event tickets to items purchased in the silent auction, donations will be used to help families who have experienced homelessness. Since 2002, volunteer staff at the Housing Transitional project has been bridging the gap for families who lived in homeless shelters and living outside of shelters.

“Over the past 17 years, we’ve tried to help one to two families every year by making a two-year commitment of providing rental assistance, assistance for utilities and mentorship. We provide those two years of rental assistance and utilities. So, we pay the rent for two years. Hopefully, in those two years, they have a full-time job so that they can pay rent on their own and they have the life skills to keep moving forward,” explained Maniates.

The organization’s board of directors’ work is focused on affordable housing. In addition to finding volunteers to work closely with families, they have connections to provide families with resources. The housing project has mentors and a caseworker who works with families to support the family’s needs and provide financial guidance.

The Housing Transitional project rent market-rate housing to families that depend on the size of the family and where they have family ties. Due to current renting prices, the organization is looking for other housing prices for clients.

“The downside of renting market-rate housing is, as housing prices have gotten more astronomical, it means that we can help fewer families each year. Let’s say we had $2,000. At one point we were able to help two families every month. Now, it’s like $1,800 to rent a two-bedroom apartment for one family. Unfortunately, the same amount of money doesn’t go as far as housing prices as the mid-south side have gone up,” said Maniates.

Another problem that the organization faces is the lack of affordable housing and assisting clients who are on the waitlist for housing. “If a family needs to be on an affordable housing waitlist, most of those waitlists are even longer than two years,” explained Maniates.

The Housing Transitional Project has different volunteer options based on ability and time. Potential volunteers can choose from being a mentor, case manager, board member or working on the Taste of Hyde Park committee. Also, the organization accepts donations throughout the year.