Free Events and Freebies For Shutdown Workers

There are more than 47,000 workers affected by the government shutdown in the metro Chicago area, and a number of business and cultural institutions ar stepping up to offer deals to those folks.

Lakeview Pantry in Chicago’s North Side is giving away two weeks of groceries for free to each person affected by the shutdown.

In Elmhurst, the Kiwanis Club is stepping up — expanding its Food for Thought program to cover families affected by the government shutdown. The club is donating lunch money to kids in need at Elmhurst schools.

Government Loans

Illinois is offering $100 million in state funds to finance low-interest or interest-free loans to federal workers going without pay during the record government shutdown, officials said Wednesday.   Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Treasurer Michael Frerichs announced that eligible federal employees will be able to visit participating banks for the loans. Pritzker also said he’s exploring some of the more aggressive approaches that his counterparts across the nation are taking to help the affected households.     Government employees, including approximately 8,000 in Illinois, are not getting paid because of the partial shutdown brought about by Congressional Democrats refusing to approve the government’s budget over his request for $5.7 billion for a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

Free workouts

Orangetheory Fitness, (50 locations in the Chicago area), is offering free workouts and a free heart rate monitor rental to affected workers at any of its area studios through Jan. 31, according to a news release from the company. For information on locations, visit

Free Haircuts

In East Ukrainian Village, Bishops Cuts/Color is giving away free haircuts to any affected federal government worker as long as they show their government identification card.  1809 W. Division St.

Free comedy show

Second City is offering one free ticket to each worker a comedy show. Workers can also get a meal up to $15 and a nonalcoholic beverage with a government identification card at 1959 Kitchen & Bar, located on the second floor. Workers can call 312-337-3992 or visit the box office at 230 W. North Ave.

Free museum admissions

Museum of Science and Industry, Workers can get in for free by showing a valid government employment identification card,.  Each employee can also bring along two guests who will also get free admission. 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive.

The DuSable Museum of African American History is providing free admission to affected federal workers and their families, who show their identification cards at the admissions desk.. 740 E. 56th Place

Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn, is offering discounted admission to $3 for each person including the federal employee, another adult and children. The discount is available Tuesdays through Fridays when the museum is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s located at 5100 Museum Drive in Oak Lawn.

At the Kohl Children’s Museum of Greater Chicago, families can get up to four free admission tickets every day during the partial government shutdown. To get the deal, the federal employee will have to show their government identification card. 2100 Patriot Blvd. in suburban Glenview.

The Adler Planetarium, is offering two free admissions to any federal workers with ID. 1300 S. Lake Shore Drive.


Free zoo parking

Lincoln Park Zoo is offering free parking to federal workers affected by the shutdown. Just show ID Card at the Searle Visitor Center to get a parking pass. Admission to the zoo, at Stockton and Webster drives, is free for the general public. It’s open daily from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Free zoo admission

Brookfield Zoo, 8400 W. 31st St. in Brookfield, is offering free general admission to federal employees with an ID, although parking fees and admission fees for other family members still apply.

Discounted opera tickets

The Lyric Opera of Chicago is offering discounted $10 tickets to the 2 p.m. Jan. 29 performance of, “La Boheme.” Federal employees affected by the shutdown can get the discounted tickets by showing their identification cards at the box office window two hours before the show starts. The Lyric Opera is located at 20 N. Upper Wacker Drive.

Lunch and $2 beer

In suburban Flossmoor, the Flossmoor Station Restaurant and Brewery is giving away a free lunch up to $15 to furloughed employees.  Workers can also get a 12-ounce craft beer for $2. The deal is available to workers daily from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., but workers must show a federal identification card.  1035 Sterling Ave.



Food assistance 

–The Lakeview Pantry on Chicago’s North Side opened its food distribution services to all federal employees affected by the government shutdown. Furloughed federal workers qualify for two free weeks of groceries with a government ID at the pantry’s main location, 3945 North Sheridan Road. (773-525-1777)

–The Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services program is providing meals for TSA and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers for the duration of the shutdown at O’Hare and Midway airports daily for all three shifts. (773-725-1100)

–The Greater Chicago Food Depository, a food bank that supplies Cook County’s food pantries, is bringing cases of food and $25 Jewel-Osco gift cards to the TSA’s administrative offices near Midway for employees to pick up on Thursday, Jan. 24. It is also organizing food distribution for prison workers, Coast Guard workers and TSA workers at O’Hare. (773-247-3663)

–The Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry is offering a week’s worth of groceries to any federal worker in need of aid. (708-386-1324)

West Deerfield Township, 601 Deerfield Road, Deerfield, is offering food and other assistance to furloughed workers. (847-945-0614).

Moraine Township, 800 Central Avenue in Highland Park, is offering food and other assistance. (847-432-3240).

–The Kiwanis Club of Elmhurst will cover lunch expenses for children of parents affected by the shutdown.

The Flossmoor Station Restaurant and Brewery is offering a free lunch up to $15 to furloughed employees. (708-957-2739)

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