Wrigleyville has been eerily silent since the COVID-19 pandemic began, but on Thursday the Cubs jumped into the pandemic fight in a big way announcing that Wrigley Field would serve as a processing and distribution hub for Lakeview Pantry and the Hotel Zachary would be reopened to house healthcare workers from Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center.
On Easter Sunday I reflected on meals, abundance and celebration at a time when millions in the United States have lost their jobs and are facing food insecurity. I highlighted the work Chef José Andrés is doing in Washington, D.C. and the partnership between his non-profit, World Central Kitchen, and the Washington Nationals to prepare and deliver food to residents in the nation’s capital.
This is not a problem that is isolated to Washington, D.C. The stunning lines at food banks continue to grow across the country. Scenes like this one with people social distancing in masks as they wait for food near Boston in Chelsea are becoming commonplace.
Walking by Wrigley Field as it was temporarily converted to a food bank for the Pantry took my breath away:
Since March 16 demand for the Pantry’s food programs has increased 140 percent.
According to the Pantry, Wrigley Field is uniquely suited to help in the fight against food insecurity due to the pandemic because it has enough space for in-kind donations while providing volunteers room to socially distance while they work. They are currently seeking volunteers for three hour shifts Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wrigley Field will serve as a distribution hub for Chicago’s residents on Tuesday and Saturday between 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. You can sign up to volunteer or donate to help the effort at: lakeviewpantry.org.
In addition to the ballpark’s temporary conversion to a food bank, the Cubs also announced that the Hotel Zachary will provide complimentary accommodation for medical staff from Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center through April 30.
“We are forever grateful for the nurses, doctors and hospital workers who have gone above and beyond the call of duty,” said Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts in a statement. “We are proud to help the heroes of Illinois Masonic recuperate after their difficult shifts on the front lines and to help them rest easier knowing they are not exposing their families to the virus.”
Since the Ricketts family purchased the Cubs they have stressed the importance of being good neighbors in Wrigleyville. This use of the Hotel Zachary aligns with that mission while being practical, impactful and locally focused. There are obviously additional health and safety concerns with using the hotel in this way and additional precautions will be taken. Those details were spelled out in a press release from Hickory Street Capital:
To ensure the health and wellbeing of guests and team members, Hotel Zachary is implementing additional measures for sanitization and disinfection of guestrooms, common areas, and paths of travel, all in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) guidance. In addition, frontline workers will receive the same room for the duration of his or her stay.
Hotel Zachary is bringing back a reduced team of staff, including Pivot Hotels & Resorts management, housekeeping, and 24/7 security to support the limited service available. All team members are following social distancing guidelines and are required to wear personal protective equipment, which will be provided, while working. Hotel Zachary is not open to the general public during this time, and The Bar at Hotel Zachary, as well as many of the Gallagher Way restaurants, excluding McDonald’s and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, remain closed. However, healthcare workers can have food delivered from local restaurants to the hotel.
It will likely be a long time before baseball and parties return to Wrigleyville, but as the neighborhood famous for both is transforming itself into a hub to assist healthcare workers and the food insecure during the COVID-19 pandemic I couldn’t help but think of the 2018 Cubs hashtag: #EverybodyIn.