There are many African Americans and Hispanics in need of organ donations in the Chicago area but even fewer giving.
And, according to Gift of Hope – a nonprofit, organ procurement organization that coordinates organ and tissue donation and provides donor family services and public education in Illinois and Northwest Indiana – a lot of those individuals in need of organs live in the south suburbs of Chicago.
There’s this trend of migration from the city to the south suburbs by African Americans and Hispanics, said Jack Lynch, community affairs director for Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network. “And the problems we’re seeing with a large volume of African Americans and Hispanics are them ending up on dialysis,” Lynch said. “The number of organs needed to put lives back in some sense of order has not change.”
To change that, Gift of Hope’s “Mayors for Hope” initiative was started to make more people aware of the need for organ and tissue donation and how they can donate. A news conference is planned for Wednesday, March 11 at Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey to announce the “Mayors for Hope” initiative.
By having south suburban mayors, clergymen and businessmen involved in the initiative, residents in those communities will see that their leaders are standing behind this and it is something they need to do, said Marion L. Shuck, Gift of Hope’s manager of community affairs. “They also will see people in their communities that needed organs. It only takes one minute to register,” Shuck said.
African Americans and Hispanics make up 14.7 percent and 16.5 percent respectively of Illinois’ population, yet account for 49 percent of those waiting for organs, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. Of the 5,242 people on the Illinois Donor Registry, 4,508 are awaiting a new kidney. Thirty-four percent of that number are African Americans.
Lynch said the ultimate goal is participation. “We’re asking particularly African Americans [to participate] because through donation [of organs] of loved ones or their own organs when they expire, they can save someone in the family, on their block or someone on [a] dialysis machine waiting for that phone call,” Lynch said. “With so few African American and Hispanic donors … those two groups need to donate to help their own. We believe when the general population of those ethnic groups know more, they will do more.”
Those involved in the initiative include: Secretary of State Jesse White; Gift of Hope’s Kevin Cmunt, CEO; Jack Lynch, director, Community Affairs; Gregory Alford, director, Marketing and Communication; Marion Shuck, manager, Community Affairs and Raiza Mendoza, manager, Hispanic Affairs; Southland Regional Mayoral Black Caucus, headed by: City of Markham, Mayor David Webb, Jr., president; Village of Hazel Crest Mayor Vernard Alsberry, Jr., vice president; City of Harvey Mayor Eric Kellogg, City of Dolton Mayor Riley Rogers; and Village of University Park, Mayor Vivian Covington; Gerald E. Wyche, chaplain, Ingalls Memorial Hospital; Apostle Dr. Carl L. White Jr., chairman, Southland Ministerial Health Network; Monica Fox, Advocate for Hope; LouEster Petty, president, African American Task Force; Joyce Carter, president, South Suburban Chicago Chapter, Links, Inc.; Jennifer Artis, director, Public Affairs, St. James Hospital; and Nate Llewellyn, director, Public Affairs and Marketing, Advocate South Suburban Hospital.
To help, go to http://www.giftofhope.org.