She was known as the “Mother of Englewood,” and on what would have been her 72nd birthday, dozens of members of her community gathered to honor Betty Price, releasing 71 red balloons into a warm, fall Chicago sky.
“Red was Mother Price’s favorite color, so today we are releasing 71 balloons for the 71 years that we were blessed to have Mother Price,” said 16th Ward Ald. Stephanie Coleman, who helped organize the commemoration.
Price dedicated a large portion of those 71 years to bettering the Englewood community, through her non-profit organization Feed, Clothe, Help the Needy. She died of cancer in early September. Clergy, Price’s family, and dozens of community members came to Sunday’s event, where Price’s daughters, husband and alderman vowed to keep the non-profit running.
“For over 30 years, she had fed, clothed, and helped the needy, which was truly her assignment. She’s been on this corner for over 30 years,” Coleman said.
In the mid-1960s Price left her job of 23 years and began feeding and clothing people out of her home. She’s been operating out of an old meat-packing plant at 59th and Elizabeth streets since 1997, according to the organization’s website.
Sunday’s celebration was a testament to multiple multi-generation legacies in the 16th Ward. Coleman’s own mother had served as Price’s alderman when FCHN opened, and was on hand Sunday for the memorial.
“During that time, the city really encouraged new development and we were able to get her moved into this facility,” said former 16th Ward Alderman Shirley Coleman. “And so now as my daughter heads the 16th Ward, and [Price’s] daughters head this organization, let us pray: God we are so grateful.”
Price’s daughter, Sheila Price, will now lead the non-profit organization on Chicago’s South Side.
She said she’s working with local lawmakers as well as soliciting donations, in order to keep the center running.
Her first task, she said, will be an interior make-over of the building, which she wants to turn into a voter registration center, and a cooling/heating center for people experiencing homelessness during extreme weather conditions. The center will also continue to provide food to those in need.
“Because my mom would not allow us to ever stop feeding,” she said. “So while we’re under construction we’re still going to be giving out soup and sandwiches.”
Mariah Woelfel is a general assignment reporter at WBEZ. You can follow her on Twitter at @MariahWoelfel.