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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Chicago House prepares for Clinton's visit
by Ross Forman
2009-10-28

This article shared 5156 times since Wed Oct 28, 2009
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Chicago House & Social Service Agency has been throwing its World Tour Gala for 20 years. It's been a fun event and always attracted a nice, responsive, interactive crowd. Still, organizers wanted to offer something different.

So Chicago House's CEO, the Rev. Stan Sloan, suggested to the board of trustees that there are very few intellectual offerings on the topics of HIV/AIDS and homelessness in Chicago, and that a luncheon series featuring those topics would be a nice alternative to the tour.

"We discussed it for two years before we finally decided to go for it," Sloan said.

Enter Todd Hamilton, a member of Chicago House's board of trustees who also is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, named for former President Bill Clinton.

"In that role, he works with various dignitaries, and so we assembled a list of speakers [ for the luncheons ] , with Bill Clinton being at the top of the list," Sloan said. "Todd took the ball and ran, discovering that Clinton was going to be in [ Chicago ] on Nov. 11 for another speaking engagement. From there it just all fell in place."

Clinton will be the official luncheon speaker for the Chicago House Speaker Series 2009, a fundraiser on Nov. 11 at the Palmer House Hilton, 17 E. Monroe, 12-2 p.m.

"HIV/AIDS and homelessness are two of the top priorities for the Clinton Global Initiative, and they are at the core of Chicago House's mission and programs," Sloan said. "President Clinton is known for his enlightened views on the sum of social issues facing our nation and our world. We can't wait to hear his thoughts, and our hope is that it will further the dialogue on these issues in greater Chicago."

The two-hour event is expected to raise more than $300,000.

Sloan added, "Our goal [ for the Clinton speech ] is about so much more than just making money for our programs. Too often it feels like the only people who are concerned about homelessness and HIV in Chicago are the people directly affected by the issues. Our hope is that the broader community will become more concerned and involved as a result of the luncheon speaker series."

And Sloan confirmed that Chicago House is planning to host the Speakers Series annually with a high-profile guest.

"Our board meets for retreat at the end of October. Nobody gets in without bringing a list of people who they may be able to get to for our next speaker," Sloan said. "The fact that we were able to get President Clinton for the first speaker should make it more attractive for other potential speakers."

Windy City Times: Dealing with an ex-president, how has it been, logistically?

Stan Sloan: Clinton's staff has been fantastic, but we have to be very careful with our language and marketing. We also have to cut ticket sales off a full week before the event so that every person can be checked for security purposes. Supposedly, had Secretary of State Hillary Clinton not been in her post the security and vetting process for every sponsor, etc. would have been less intense but, again, Clinton's staff has been fantastic and has made it easy for us.

WCT: Were you truly shocked that Clinton agreed to speak?

STAN SLOAN: Honestly, I think we have the best board of trustees in the city, and I am never shocked at what they are able to accomplish on behalf of our residents and clients.

WCT: What is Clinton's speaking fee, and how much will Chicago House need to raise to make it worthwhile?

STAN SLOAN: We aren't allowed to disclose the fee, but I can convey that it was a fraction of his normal fee. I think the discount was a result of President Clinton's own commitment to the issues as well as to Todd Hamilton's connections.

WCT: How many people from Chicago House, including any freelance contractors you've hired, will be working on logistics for the event?

STAN SLOAN: Our special events manager, Jeremy Hilborn, is a seasoned professional. ( Hilborn is spearheading the program. ) We also have a large volunteer force. We have not currently spent any funding on freelance contractors, and if we have to for a few logistics, we will keep it to a minimum.

WCT: Was Clinton and/or his representatives curious about Chicago House before it was agreed he would speak?

STAN SLOAN: Yes, they fully vetted the organization, our history, our success, our reputation and our ability to pull off such a lunch. I'm happy to say we passed on all counts.

WCT: What do you see this speech doing for the LGBT community? And for AIDS awareness as a whole?

STAN SLOAN: We see it creating discussion and dialogue about the issues of HIV/AIDS and homelessness in communities where those issues are often overlooked. Of course the LGBT concerns are huge in both issues, with LGBT members having higher percentages for both homelessness and for HIV infections among GBT men.

WCT: Who do you see attending, meaning, meaning, what kind of people do you foresee in the crowd?

STAN SLOAN: We hope this event brings in a broad cross-section of Chicago. Our hope is that it will involve those who are not likely to attend a black-tie or evening event as well as those who typically do.

WCT: Any negative feedback so far to his appearance?

STAN SLOAN: None.

WCT: If you can ask President Clinton one question, what will it be?

STAN SLOAN: I am anxious to hear his talk, and I am open to his perspectives. I don't have a question as much as a need to thank him for caring about the issues that most people would prefer to overlook in our society and world. I guess the follow-up question would be, "How can we, as regular citizens, help you further the agenda of the Clinton Global Initiative?"

WCT: How much are sponsors, including title sponsor Harris Bank, paying for those rights?

STAN SLOAN: Harris has come in extremely generously, at $50,000. We have dozens of other corporate sponsors coming in at $25,000, $10,000 and $5,000 levels. We are thrilled at the response.

WCT: Do you foresee Hillary attending, too?

STAN SLOAN: I don't think it would be likely. She has a huge job, and [ I ] can't imagine she has time to travel with Bill for these events.

WCT: Anything else Clinton-related you'd like to add?

STAN SLOAN: We promise that you will leave inspired and hopeful rather than just tipsy from yet another black-tie [ event ] .

To order tickets for the President Clinton luncheon on Nov. 11, visit www.chicagohouse.org .


This article shared 5156 times since Wed Oct 28, 2009
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