23rd Annual Street Wise Gala Review - Impacting Lives And Making A Difference

In spite of the rainy weather conditions, the 23rd Annual StreetWise Gala, which convened on Thursday October 6, 2016, drew over three hundred benefactors to this year’s event. The Gala took place at the stunningly designed Museum of Broadcast Communications, located at 360 N. State Street. Upon arrival, attendees were given the opportunity to support a few streetwise vendors as they entered the building. Registration took place in the brightly lit two- story glass and steel atrium. Registrants were given their seating assignments, a bidding paddle and a complimentary magazine. The event was comprised of a reception, which included passed hor d'oeuvres and cocktails, followed by live entertainment from the local rock band Covergurl, a lavish three-course dinner and a delectable variety of desserts.

 

Throughout the event, those in attendance were able to purchase raffle tickets as well as bid on items that were up for auction. The live auction featured coveted tickets to upcoming United Center concerts, a getaway to a stunning Breckenridge log cabin, a White Sox VIP experience, a trip to charming Galena, and the adoption of an adorable and loving animal from the Anti-Cruelty Society, and more. This year’s goal was to raise more money than last year’s event; which raised over $100,000.00 to assist StreetWise in continuing their mission of providing essential support services such as employment training, housing assistance, and financial literacy to Chicagoans fighting the crisis of poverty.

 

As I listened to the narrative of Street Wise’s mission and it’s commitment to helping those who are in need, it inspired me to want to do more in the community. I am fully aware of the stigmas that are associated with poverty and homelessness. Far too often, people equate the misfortune of these individuals with negative connotations, without realizing that behind every person who experiences poverty and homelessness, there lies a story. Although not all stories have happy endings, it doesn’t necessarily imply that they end in doom and gloom. Many success stories generally go unnoticed, but at the 23rd Annual Street Wise Gala, I was privy to a few remarkable stories of those who endured hardships and triumphantly prevailed.

 

State's Attorney Mrs. Kim Foxx

The first speaker of the evening was our very own newly elected State’s Attorney, Mrs. Kim Foxx. During her speech, she disclosed details of her life that she rarely mentions. As I listened to her peel back some of the layers which revealed her past ordeals, I admired her courage to shamelessly take us on a brief journey and give us a glimpse inside life for her as a young girl who grew up in the housing projects of Cabrini Green. She also outlined a few obstacles her family faced during their period of homelessness. In her speech, she went on to say that one of the biggest misconception people have regarding her is that she has it all, but that was not always the case. It took a lot of hard work, focus and dedication to get where she is today. I also had the opportunity speak with her briefly and I asked her what advice she would like to give to the homeless men and women who are attempting to improve their circumstances. Mrs. Foxx’s response was, “Take it one day at a time. Don’t be discouraged, because it’s a fight and a struggle to have people recognize you as well as listen to what it is that you are asking for, so continue to stay in the fight.”

The Keynote speaker of the evening was Mr. Eugene Monroe, retired offensive tackle of the Baltimore Ravens. Mr. Monroe is the youngest of 16 children and grew up in the projects of New Jersey. He spoke candidly of his life story and discussed how the struggles he faced as a child fueled his desire to excel in all aspects of his life. With an emphasis not only in sports, but also academics, he graduated in the top ten percent of his high school class and was recruited by every college and University in America to play football. He was ranked #3 best high school football player in the nation. In 2009, Monroe graduated University of Virginia with a degree in Sociology and was then drafted into the NFL by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Although retired at the age of 29, he says that he still has a lot of life left to live. Mr. Monroe is also a humanitarian who now dedicates a lot of his free time to charitable endeavors geared towards lifting children out of poverty.

During the affair, the audience was not only enlightened to the diligent efforts of StreetWise magazine, but also given the chance to see the faces of some of the people who lives it touches. There could not have been a better way for Board member Ray Gillette to spend his wedding anniversary, than to be presented with the catalyst award for his exceptional work in helping continue the efforts of the Magazine. Another highlight of the evening was when vendor of the year, Mr. Lewis Hale proposed to his girlfriend during his acceptance speech. Overall the 23rd Annual StreetWise Gala was an enjoyable evening, which I am sure was memorable for many people as well as myself.

 

Photographs by LaRita S. Smith

 

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