Good News from Ravenswood: Bright Lights, Happy Holidays

Ravenswood’s business community always gives back around the holidays, but in 2020 they stepped up more than we could have imagined. While small businesses struggled with the impacts of the ongoing pandemic, many of them were also delivering food, donations, services and financial assistance to charities and neighbors across Chicago. Similarly, residents and community leaders stepped up to support one another through a tumultuous year.

As a part of our new series Good News from Ravenswood, we’re highlighting businesses and community members that made big impacts this past holiday season. Have some good news you’d like to share? Email us at with “Good News” in the subject.

My Buddy’s Feeds Frontline Workers and Neighbors in Need

The My Buddy's team deliver good news in the form of holiday meals for essential workers

When we stand together to help those in need there is nothing we can’t accomplish. We can all eat, we can all hope, and we can all get through this.

Brian BonDurant
Owner, My Buddy’s

In November, hangout and comfort food destination My Buddy’s (4416 N Clark St) announced a special single-serving Thanksgiving to-go menu. For each meal purchased, owner Brian BonDurant committed to donating a meal to a neighbor in need. By the end of Turkey Day, My Buddy’s delivered over 300 meals to nurses, essential workers, food pantries, service industry professionals, and out-of-work artists.

Inspired, humbled, and energized to do more, Brian and his team began making new plans. In December, he launched a wildly ambitious and equally successful 250 Gifts for 250 Kids in 250 Hours toy drive. After that, they announced another holiday meal donation campaign. This time, they brought more than 200 Christmas meals to shelters and essential workers. If someone in Ravenswood gets the Neighborhood Santa Award for 2020, it’s Brian and his elves at My Buddy’s.

Driven to Help

Many Chicago families got good news around the holidays thanks to food, toy, and winter clothing drives by Ravenswood businesses.

Since opening Juniper Dentistry (4555 N Ravenswood Ave) last fall, Dr. Jessica Rhodes and her team have been eager to connect with neighbors. In advance of the holidays, Juniper organized neighboring businesses to launch a food drive for Ravenswood Community Services. Longtime local anchor Beyond Design (4515 N Ravenswood Ave) found another creative way to use their courtyard for good; as a safe, outdoor collection center for donations. In normal years, Beyond Design offers their gorgeous greenspace to support groups like Common Pantry and the Ravenswood Community Council.

Just across the tracks, the crew at Feast Fitness + Nutrition (4510 N Ravenswood Ave) continued an impressive year of giving by providing hundreds of dollars in toys and gift certificates to The Children’s Place Association’s Adopt-a-Family program. Another new-to-Ravenswood business, Boulevard Veterinary (4646 N Damen Ave), stepped in to help four-legged neighbors. Throughout December, Dr. Dylan Frederickson and his staff collected pet food, coats, blankets, and toys for Paw Salvation. The organization aims to help care for those experiencing homelessness and their pets.

Surprises for Young and Old

Each year, the do-gooders at Commonwealth Barbershop (2041 W Belle Plaine Ave) collect donations for Toys for Tots. It’s usually a popular campaign with customers, however things started off very slowly. After sharing a video on social media of the few items he’d received so far, shop owner Mike Weinberg was moved by the response.

Commonwealth Barbershop owner Mike Weinberg

The [donation] box was running a little low this year. I thought it was due to COVID and everything else going on in people’s lives. I made a wish list… and posted on some neighborhood forums. The reaction I got was amazing and overwhelming. It really shows that we can come together as a community.

Mike Weinberg
Owner, Commonwealth Barbershop

In time for Christmas, Toys for Tots received a mountain of donations from the barbershop’s community and social media followers. The toy drive cap off a year of generosity from Mike and Commonwealth, which included offers of free service for veterans and first responders on multiple occasions.

Over on Malt Row, the “monks minus the vows” at Dovetail Brewery (1800 W Belle Plaine Ave) took care of neighbors old and young. Despite being closed for indoor service, the European style focused brewpub collected dozens of toys for a drive coordinated by Goodkids Madcity Englewood. Dovetail also organized an Ugly Sweater Letters for Our Elders campaign, supplying isolated older residents with pen-pals and holiday greetings.

Neighbors Light Up Ravenswood, Lift Spirits

To brighten an otherwise gloomy year, the Ravenswood Neighbors Association created a new, community-wide holiday tradition. The inaugural Ravenswood Light Up Nights invited residents to illuminate their homes, sidewalks, yards, and greenways.

Taking place over the weekend before Christmas, the event was a huge hit. For three evenings, Ravenswood was aglow in twinkling lights. Santa and The Grinch made appearances and neighbors used a wagon to collect pet food donations for Chicago Animal Care and Control.

Ravenswood Neighbors Association logo

After the drive-through holiday light shows quickly sold out, and after seeing the cost of them was unrealistic for some families, I didn’t want our community to miss out on anything else this year

Cassie Brehmer
Ravenswood Neighbors Association

A few businesses got in on the fun, extending their hours and planning a variety of special treats. River Valley Farmer’s Table (1820 W Wilson Ave), a sustainability-focused specialty grocer and restaurant, warmed visitors with boozy hot chocolate and spicy mulled wine. Kid-friendly cocoa was available at Bayan Ko, an acclaimed and family-owned Filipino-Cuban fusion spot on Montrose Ave.

Next door at Spoken Café (1812 W Montrose Ave), owners Will Goodwin and Sido Gaudé dreamed up a Campfire Latte, using smoked Oaxacan chile maple simple syrup, maple sugar, and smoked sea salt. Drooling yet? They also made special batches of sea salt chocolate chip cookies and savory Louisiana boudin hand pies. Oops! You may want to wipe your chin.

The celebration was such a success, the Ravenswood Neighbors Association is already making plans for next December.

Greater Together: Two Neighborhoods, One Community

Among the bright spots of 2020 was the way communities around the city came together to support one another. Mutual aid groups formed, block clubs mobilized like never before, and alliances were established across neighborhood boundaries. Alongside other ongoing efforts, the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Solidarity Network, an all-volunteer group that formed in response to the pandemic, conducted their first winter toy drive.

They demonstrated the effectiveness of community organizing in smashing their initial goal of 50, collecting over 200 donations to support the Pilsen Solidarity Network’s toy drive. To get involved with the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Solidarity Network, visit If you’re interested in what support is available for neighbors, you can find information about current resources at

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Gene Wagendorf III

Associate Director, Greater Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce | View Bio

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