One of the state’s wealthiest towns, the southwestern suburb of Burr Ridge, is now home to a dozen mostly Venezuelan migrants at a local hotel.
As of Thursday, 64 people were staying at a Hampton Inn. The group is made up mostly of families who were transported by the state to the nearby hotel after arriving from Texas last week.
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Burr Ridge Mayor Gary Grasso criticized Chicago and Illinois officials for not notifying the village of the migrants’ arrival in advance, and said that at this point his office was working actively with businesses and the school district to help families staying at the Hotel.
According to Grasso, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has since contacted him, but still no word from Gov. JB Pritzker.
“I was upset with both of them that they didn’t extend the same courtesy to us,” Grasso said. “I haven’t heard from the Governor, but I heard Lori Lightfoot at the Bears game on Sunday…it turned out to be a very professional conversation. She also followed up on Tuesday and wanted to know if there was anything else she could do.
Grasso added that Burr Ridge residents shouldn’t worry.
” Things are going well. They seek freedom. They want a better life. We are all products of immigrants and here in Burr Ridge we call it a special place in large part because we are such a diverse community,” Grasso said.
The Illinois Department of Social Services has said since late August that it has been scrambling to find homes for more than 500 migrants.
“Finding a block of rooms for 100 people usually takes over a year and as the governor said, sometimes we have three hours, sometimes we have 12 hours,” said Grace Hou, secretary of DHS. “So in addition to just availability, we want to make sure those areas also have access to support services and we’ve also returned to hotels that previously hosted Afghan refugees earlier this year.”
Burr Ridge was one such community that provided temporary housing for Afghan refugees.
Video: Watch our full interview with Burr Ridge Mayor Gary Grasso.
The village of Burr Ridge was formerly called Harvester. It currently has a population of 11,000 and is described as a small residential community.
It is a predominantly white neighborhood with an Asian American population of 14% and about 4% Latino.
Bob Irmen, a local resident, said the area has changed rapidly over the years.
“When I was growing up, there were a lot more cornfields, cow pastures, horse farms,” Irmen said. “When the population grew rapidly in the 1990s, the retail movement took hold. When I was a kid, you couldn’t buy a pack of gum in Burr Ridge; it was a very rural setting.
Irmen volunteers at a food pantry run by HCS Family Services.
The organization has been around for decades and offers a variety of aids.
The executive director said the organization opened a second pantry at a local school in 2018.
The food bank borders Burr Ridge in Willowbrook, also serving families in the Burr Ridge community. Since the pandemic, they have grown from helping 50 families to over 100 families per week.
“Hunger is also not defined by wealth, because unexpected life happens to everyone,” said Wendy Michalski of HCS Family Services. “We have a woman who came to the pantry two weeks ago, just got divorced, moved into an apartment and didn’t have a piece of food in her cupboard and was so grateful for the services we provide here .”
The HCS Pantry has also partnered with churches like the Burr Ridge Community Church. The congregation has existed since 1967.
President Hannah Sundwall said the church provided the foundation for the tight-knit community and at the height of the pandemic she had to get creative.
“[We’ve] really created the space for people to go online and share their thoughts and feelings and that kind of momentum for the organization,” Sundwall said.
Pastor Alicia Reese said the church offers a variety of events and meetings, including bereavement counseling, AA meetings and women’s wellness groups.
She started in congregation during the pandemic and said there was an emotion that people continued to struggle with.
“Loneliness has become like a second pandemic,” Reese said. “There are people who are alone and who are looking for a community. They’re looking for a place to be honest about everything they’re going through, whether it’s grief, pain, the loss of a loved one and more, so we really want to be a place that says “You are welcome here”. ”
Reese added that they will meet to see how they can help recently arrived migrant families who are looking for new opportunities in the community.
Meanwhile, another community staple is Harvester Park, where many families gather on a typical summer evening.
Barbara Dohrman, president of the Burr Ridge Community Park Foundation, said she is doing everything she can to support the local park district and special projects on the ground.
“Everyone comes here,” Dohrman said of Harvester Park. “The park and its facilities are open not only to its residents, but to everyone in the region. Our park district is actually larger than the village of Burr Ridge… [the] The Route 66 Playground is our newest. We are so thrilled with Jim Pacanowski, our park district manager, creating these wonderful and very exciting facilities…He has gone to great lengths to portray the history of Burr Ridge in the playgrounds.
Video: Watch our full interview with Barbara Dohrman, President of the Burr Ridge Community Park Foundation.
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“Chicago Tonight” is expanding its community reporting. We’re taking to the streets to talk with your neighbors, local businesses, agencies and leaders about COVID-19, the economy, racial justice, education and more. See where we went and what we learned using the map below. Or select a community using the drop-down menu. Dots in red represent our COVID-19 Across Chicago series; blue marks our “Chicago Tonight” series in Your Neighborhood.