The 2015 Heartland Health Outreach ( HHO ) Holiday Brunch, held at the Four Seasons Hotel Dec. 6, brought together board, staff, volunteers and supporters of the 30-year-old organization that has been a resource for Chicago's marginalized, low-income, homeless, immigrant and refugee populations.
For many, the event has become a fixture on their social calendars not merely in solidarity with programs like the Vital Bridges food pantries ( which offer the hungry nutrition and a team of volunteers whose welcome is always enthusiastic ) but because of the warmth pervasive throughout the event.
"This is exactly the type [of organization] we need more of in the State of Illinois," Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner said, adding that Heartland would be a major part of his and his wife's donations in the coming years. "I wanted to say 'thank you' for helping those in the community most vulnerable. We face many challenges in our community. We will solve them by coming together as a community, listening, learning and working with each other."
HHO Interim Executive Director Ed Stellon reminded the audience why they were there.
"You are helping us provide food, housing and medical care to nearly 3,000 people living with HIV and AIDS," he said before describing four clients featured in an HHO video as "resilient."
"They could not have survived without our health center and our housing," he noted.
HHO Chief Development Officer Debbie Hinde presented the Food for Life award to Minding Your Business ( MYB ) leaders and longtime HHO supporters and volunteers Max Suzenaar and John Folks.
"Honestly, we would not be standing up here without the friends and family that we have reached out to in order to help support this extraordinary organization," Suzenaar said. "We have so much but we step back and remember that there's very fundamental, basic needs that people don't have. [HHO] isn't just food and shelter, it provides people with a sense of pride within themselvesthat they are valuable."
For more information about the HHO, visit www.heartlandhealthoutreach.org .