Gary-Ortiz Elementary School in Little Village gets makeover before hosting Taste of Chicago event

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Gary-Ortiz Elementary School campus in Little Village got a massive makeover Wednesday.

Old shrubs were dug up and new ones put in. A mural was touched up, and every inch of the soccer turf got a deep cleaning.

A small army of volunteers was brought in to beautify the property before it becomes the backdrop of Taste of Chicago this Saturday. It's one of three neighborhood-based mini-fests before the main event next month in Grant Park.

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My Block, My Hood, My City was just one of the organizations lending a hand.

"This is the first time that it's here in arguably the biggest Latino community in the Midwest," said Ernesto Gonzalez.

The Chicago Fire soccer club also provided lots of help with beautifying the property.

"It is very hot, but we are Chicago Fire, so go Fire," volunteer Leslie Mojica said.

Putting in some work was Chris Mueller, a forward with the Fire, doing his part to put a fresh coat of paint on the school's fence.

"Being from Chicago, a kid from Chicago, I think it's important we take care of these places that can bring people together," Mueller said.

Jackie Covarrubias with Little Village-based organization Beyond the Ball said the cleanup will benefit families looking for an inviting place to play with their kids.

"If there's garbage everywhere, if the fences have no paint on them or the paint is chipping off, the space doesn't feel safe anymore," she said. "And if the space doesn't feel safe, people aren't going to come out and play in it."

Once the work here is done, not only will the grounds be ready for this Saturday, organizers say this will be a new and improved place the community can take pride in.
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