Oak Park Regional Housing Center Honors ‘Heroines of Housing’

Photo: Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson (left) presents an award to Cook County Bureau of Economic Development Director Susan Campbell (center) as Oak Park Regional Housing Center Executive Director Athena Williams (right) watches during the March 24 “Heroines of Housing” luncheon held at The Nineteenth Century Club in Oak Park.

The Oak Park Regional Housing Center honored more than 50 women who have advanced fair and equitable housing as “Heroines of Housing” at a March 24 event at the Nineteenth Century Club that also celebrated the Center’s 50 years of service to the community.

Speakers at the event included Oak Park Village President Vicki Scaman, Chicago Ald. Emma Mitts and Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson. Participating via recorded videos were State Sen. Ann Gillespie, State Sen. Sarah Feigenholtz, State Rep. Delia Ramirez, and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. The event was emceed by radio personality Doris Davenport. Oak Park Regional Housing Center Executive Director Athena Williams presented the awards.

“Each of these honorees has provided tremendous service to the community and has been on the front lines in the fight for fair and equitable housing,” Oak Park Regional Housing Center Executive Director Athena Williams said. “The Oak Park Regional Housing Center is honored to recognize these remarkable women who have worked so hard and achieved so much over so many years.”

Distinguished Service honorees were:

  • State Sen. Ann Gillespie
  • State Sen. Mattie Hunter
  • State Sen. Sara Feigenholtz
  • State Rep. Delia Ramirez
  • Marisa Novara, Commissioner, Chicago Department of Housing
  • Tammie Grossman, Director, Development Customer Services, Village of Oak Park

Leaders in Innovation honorees were:

  • Angela Hurlock, Executive Director, Claretian Associates
  • Donna Clarke, Chief Operating Officer, NHS Chicago
  • Claudette Soto, President and CEO, baso, Ltd.
  • Eleanor Gorski, Executive Director, Cook County Land Bank Authority
  • Gail Schecter, Executive Director, H.O.M.E.
  • Gianna Baker, Co-Executive Director, CAFHA
  • Gwendolene Newton, President, Dearborn Realtist Board
  • Kristen Komara, VP of Lending and Co-founder, TRP Lending, LLC
  • Lynda Schueler, Executive Director, Housing Forward
  • Margaret Wooten, Vice President Housing and Financial Empowerment, Chicago Urban League
  • Molly Surowitz, Designated Managing Broker, Baird & Warner
  • Nicole Wheatly, Community Development Consultant, NJW
  • Patricia Fron, Co-Executive Director, Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance
  • Sharon Legenza, Executive Director, Housing Action Illinois
  • Tiff Beatty, Program Director of Arts, Culture and Public Policy, National Public Housing Museum
  • Tonika Johnson, Creator, Folded Map Project
  • Paula Bush, Associate Director, Northwest Housing Partners
  • Yolanda Fields, Executive Director, Breakthrough
Heroines of Housing Chicago Defender
Commissioner Marisa Novara of the Chicago Department of Housing (left) speaks after accepting an award from Oak Park Regional Housing Center Executive Director Athena Williams at the “Heroines of Housing” luncheon March 24 at The Nineteenth Century Club in Oak Park.

Outstanding Achievement honorees were:

  • Amber Hendley, Home Buyer Outreach & Training Specialist, Lawndale Christian Development Corporation
  • Cynthia McDowell, Mortgage Loan Originator, Fifth Third Bank
  • Deborah Moore, Director of Neighborhood Strategy and Planning, Neighborhood Housing Services
  • Deborah Wess, Coldwell Banker
  • Jeannette Vigil, Mortgage Specialist and Community Lender, Associated Bank
  • Karen Woods, Director, Homeownership Services Neighborhood Housing Services
  • La Shone Kelly, Director of Housing, Garfield Park Community Council
  • LaVerne Collins, OPRHC Property Provider
  • Letrusia May, Vice President of Mortgage Lending, Guaranteed Rate
  • Melanie Herron, Greater Austin Development Association
  • Nevila Halili, Mortgage Loan Officer, US Bank Home Mortgage
  • Norka Escobedo, OPRHC Property Provider
  • Rosie Dawson, Director, Real Estate Development, Westside Health Authority
  • Sheila Sutton, Housing Policy Organizer, Housing Action Illinois
  • Shirley Fields, Real Estate Agent, Coldwell Banker
  • Tonisha Brown, Program Director, South Suburban Housing
  • Valerie Lester, OPRHC Property Provider
  • Whitney Ellis, Senior Vice President, Development Manager, Brinshore
  • Allison McGowan, Real Estate Agent, @properties

Stars of Excellence Appreciation honorees were:

  • Bibian Cristino, Capacity Building Specialist, Housing Action Illinois
  • Dena Bell, Managing Director, Development, IFF
  • Jennifer Pallas, Capacity Building Specialist, Housing Action Illinois
  • Stephanie Socall, Managing Director of Lending, Affordable Housing, IFF
  • Wanda Collins, Capacity Building Specialist, Housing Action Illinois
  • Michelle Gilbert, Legal Director, Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing
  • Allison Bethel, Clinical Professor and Director Fair Housing Clinic, The John Marshall Law School
  • Becca Goldstein, Founder and Managing Principal, Consultant
  • Irma Morales, Deputy Commissioner, Chicago Department of Housing
  • Linda Greene, Development Consultant, NHS
  • Mary Rosenberg, Senior Attorney
  • Cathleen O’Brien, Housing Policy & Organizing Coordinator, Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago

Honorable Mention honorees were:

  • Susan Campbell, Director of Planning and Development, Cook County Government
  • Linda Greene, Director, NHS Redevelopment Corporation

Williams also remembered the late Roberta “Bobbie” Raymond, the founder of the Oak Park Regional Housing Center, who was represented at the event by her son, Oak Park’s Charles Raymond.

The luncheon, held during Women’s History Month, celebrated the Illinois Affordable Housing Omnibus Bill and the women bringing positive housing change to fruition. Attended by nearly 150 guests, the event also recognized the 50th anniversary of the Oak Park Regional Housing Center, which began serving the community in 1972.

The Oak Park Regional Housing Center offers free resources to housing seekers and housing providers, providing education, advocacy and proactive strategies that promote fair housing throughout the Chicago region. Learn more at https://oprhc.org/.


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