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Southeast Chicago Center’s Holiday Luncheon celebrates community partners

Community partners, from board members to program partners, empower Metropolitan Southeast Chicago to serve more than 5,000 clients each year. At its annual Holiday Luncheon, Community Board Chair Shirley Carter joined Metropolitan Southeast Chicago Executive Director Vanessa Schwartz to honor a few of the outstanding partners who make our programming possible.

View our photos from the Holiday Luncheon here.

In her keynote remarks at the luncheon, Alderwoman Susan Sadlowski-Garza spoke about the importance of supporting the whole family.

“You don’t just treat the kid, you treat the whole family, and that’s so important,” she said. “If you don’t treat the whole unit, you’re not going to get better.”

Alderwoman Garza’s involvement with Metropolitan predates her work as Alderman – as an elementary school counselor in the neighborhood, she would refer cases to our Southeast Chicago Center. Throughout her career, she has been a strong advocate for Metropolitan, and we are grateful for the work she does across the 10th Ward.

She also spoke highly of the work our Southeast Chicago Center staff does.

“They have bolstered the strength that lies within each person,” she said. “They provide hope for a brighter future and they have helped countless individuals and families reclaim their dignity and their purpose.”

Our community partners work collaboratively with our staff to provide that hope; we are proud to recognize a few outstanding people in the tight-knit Southeast Chicago community who empower Metropolitan:

Maria Avila, Case Manager Assistant, Chicago Family Health Center
Maria has collaborated with Metropolitan’s Healthy Families Program for the past 5 years, referring over 100 families to the program. Maria is one of the first people that all New and Expectant Mothers meet when they apply for services. Metropolitan Family Services has enjoyed a rich and rewarding relationship with Chicago Family Health Center but without people like Maria, our program would not enjoy the robust influx of families into our program. Maria has been a staunch advocate of our program going out of her way to promote the benefits of Healthy Families but also assisting staff in obtaining resources and appointments at WIC.

Brandon Cook, CEO Beyond Limits Media Group
Brandon Cook feels that his true calling is to empower and educate the budding artists in Chicago and in 2015 opened the Beyond Limits Media Group, formerly 8ShotzMusik. Mr. Cook opened his Studio Recording Program at Bowen High School. The program provides students with opportunities for expression through the art of written word, beats and poetry while allowing them to experience the life of a true musician. Students visit a live music studio where they are inspired to write their own lyrics, create beats, develop their stage names and create a CD of their personal works.

C.Gary Gerst, Metropolitan Family Services Board of Directors
Gary Gerst is a past chair of Metropolitan and the longest-serving Board
member. He and his son, C. Graham Gerst, are both champions and steadfast supporters of the Gerst Family Young Father’s Program. The program was renamed in the family’s honor in 2016 in recognition of the family’s support and leadership. Thanks to a generous investment by the family in the Campaign to MPower Families, the program has now doubled in size and serves nearly 179 fathers each year. Nearly 80% of our fathers become employed, and 75% of our fathers increase their financial support to their children.

South Side YMCA of Metro Chicago
For two years, the YMCA has aligned with Metropolitan’s Mind Your Body initiative (formerly InSHAPE) under the Adult Behavioral Health Program to provide reduced cost gym memberships to our adult clients in need of building skills to maintain healthy lifestyles. Our participants speak highly of the supportive environment the YMCA staff have provided, which encourages participants to increase their own commitment to utilizing the gym. The Member Experience Director of the YMCA, Kenne’quia Jefferson, has been instrumental in ensuring this partnership continues and is flexible to address the needs of our program and the people we serve.

Special thank you to our Southeast Chicago Community Board members, whose contributions Mpower our Southeast Chicago Center in so many ways:

  • Shirley Carter, Board Chairperson, High School Guidance Counselor-Retiree
  • DaLina Bailey, District Manager, Department of Family and Support Services
  • Tevonne Ellis, Director of Programs, Manager of the South Chicago Neighborhood Network, Claretian Associates
  • Loraine Moreno, RN, Director of Women’s Health Programs, Chicago Family Health Center
  • Alyssa Morgan, Constituent Service Coordinator, Alderwoman Susan, Sadlowski Garza, 10th Ward
  • Laurentino Ramirez, Senior Program Manager, Spanish Coalition for Housing
  • Xavier G. Thompson, Branch Manager US Bank – South Chicago Branch
  • Alnierys Venegas, Community Relations Strategist, City Colleges of Chicago