By Zulema Herrera
URBANA—When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived many vulnerable communities were hit hard, and the neighborhood of Silverwood, Urbana was no exception. However, many homes received food and assistance thanks to the collaboration of their fellow neighbors who call themselves the “Silver Hearts.”
Giovanna Dibenedetto, resident of Silverwood, is the founder of the Silver Hearts organization and says it was formed years before the pandemic to host events and provide resources to the low-income members of the community. Many of the residents suffer from food shortages, housing insecurities, and are dependent on public transportation—a detrimental constraint once quarantine began.
“We have these people who live in poverty that can not leave their homes, some are at-risk, without driving how are these people going to get to the food pantries?” said Dibenedetto, “So we switched our focus to providing food for that community. Once a month we deliver food to every single apartment.”
Following the shut down in March 2020, they were able to create care packages for 200 apartments and raise almost $1,000 for their cause with the support of organizations like Quest Church and the Krannert Center for Performing Arts. Dibenedetto says that the unification of the community was necessary in order for them to make progress.
“The community works just like any other community, having lived on the other side of the fence where I wasn’t poor, I think we work better because we have to in order to survive.” said Dibenedetto.
Their efforts continued since quarantine, distributing hundreds of more meals to those in need and hosting holiday events such as their Christmas food drive and their Halloween costume drive to increase community engagement. Dibenedetto says the Silver Hearts have much more work to do which requires extra assistance and funding.
Their most recent event, “Spread a Little Love,” started Feb. 7 and will continue until Valentines Day on Feb. 14. The Silver Hearts will be distributing “bags of love” which consists of fresh produce and dairy for 250 residents of Silverwood. They are still looking for volunteers to help with deliveries and are best reached through Dibenedetto’s email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by following their Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/520141362025530/permalink/720075695365428.
“We are not poverty, we live under the financial constraints because we have to” said Dibenedetto, “Just because I had to have help didn’t mean that’s who I was and it doesn’t mean it’s who I have to be and is definitely not who I am and it is definitely not who the residents of Silverwood are.”