LIFT-Chicago hosts Third Annual Regional Summit

By LIFT on March 12, 2013

Categories: Events, Our Work


The LIFT-Chicago Third Annual Regional Summit, held on Sunday, February 24, 2013, brought together over 100 LIFT advocates and community partners to listen to speakers and engage in discussion regarding the day’s theme: Tackling Poverty through Social Innovation.


To start the day, Diane Latiker, Founder and President of Kids Off the Block (KOB) and 2011 CNN Top 10 Hero Award Winner, gave the keynote address.  KOB is a nonprofit organization in Roseland, a neighborhood on the Southside of Chicago, that aims to reduce violence by providing at-risk low income youth tutoring, counseling, and other activities. Diane spoke about raising her eight children in Roseland and her tireless work to positively influence the community’s teenagers and give them hope.

“It was one of the most moving speeches I’ve heard in my life because of the journey and hardships [Diane has] encountered,” said Reed Von Mehren, a LIFT-Chicago advocate in the Pilsen office and freshman at DePaul University.

Another advocate said, “I found Diane very engaging and motivating.  Seeing how one person in a community can make an impact is powerful but also the idea that violence is connected to poverty was especially powerful.”

Advocates then attended one of four workshops, which addressed different social issues connected with poverty, such as mental health, urban education, recidivism, and homelessness.  Representatives from nonprofit organizations, including Community Counseling Centers of Chicago (C4), Match Education, The Empowerment Center, and Heartland Health Outreach, conducted the workshops to share their expertise.

A panel discussion in the afternoon featured individuals who are driving social change in innovative ways, including Declan Frye, CTO of Purple Binder, Colleen Harvey, Chicago Program Director at Playworks, Leah Levinger, Director of the Chicago Housing Initiative, and Sasha Ongtengco, Admissions Specialist at The Cara Program.  These leaders shared ways that their organizations are impacting Chicago residents and gave career advice for college students who are passionate about social justice.

Students then had the opportunity to develop their own topics for small group discussions.  One advocate commented, “It was like a melting pot of ideas.  I can’t believe how informed and opinionated everyone was. They were very stimulating conversations.”

LIFT-Chicago Executive Director Ben Reuler closed the day by thanking advocates for their dedication to LIFT and LIFT’s clients.  Ben spoke about his days as a social worker prior to LIFT, and how equally exhausting and rewarding the work can be.  He emphasized that advocates are the backbone of LIFT.

“Summit reinforced why I LIFT every day.  It was incredible to have all of our advocates and allies in one space.  They are truly the next generation of anti-poverty leaders,” said LIFT-Chicago Site Coordinator Mini Reddy.