Thank You League Of Women Voters

“To the wrongs that need resistance, to the right that needs assistance, to the future in the distance, give yourselves.” Carrie Chapman Catt, founder of the League Of Women Voters.

Catt’s quote is as true now as it was when the League of Women Voters was founded in Chicago over 90 years ago. And the League still provides the best source for unbiased analysis of election issues that could help assist rights, resist wrongs, and create a better future for all.

The Illinois League of Women Voters just celebrated 100 years of voting rights for women. We thank them for their continuing good work.

The members of the League of Women Voters take a moment to join with the League Lady for a picture from left to right: Barbara Marsh, Henrietta Saunders, Sheri Latash, Joan Ziegler, Mary Hummel, Janet Kittlaus, Jane Ballengee

Impact 100 Chicago Awards $100,000 to Umoja

Marybeth Lernihan Impact 100 Chicago, Lila Leff Founder of Umoja, Ted Christians CEO of Umoja and Michele Polvere, Impact 100 Chicago

Marybeth Lernihan Impact 100 Chicago, Lila Leff Founder of Umoja, Ted Christians CEO of Umoja and Michele Polvere, Impact 100 Chicago

Impact 100 Chicago is a women’s philanthropic organization that annually awards $100,000 to a deserving organization.  This year, they awarded $127,000 to four Chicago-area nonprofits at their annual Grant Award Celebrations on June 6th.

This year’s main winner–the recipient of $100,000–was Umoja, an organization that partners with Chicago’s most challenged public high schools and helps reduce school violence, promotes academic success, and increases college enrollment.  The grant will be used specifically to expand its Restorative Justice Program at two high schools.  Kudos to them.

The remaining three finalists were ENLACE Chicago, La Casta Norte, and Sarah’s Inn, each receiving $9,000 for their work.  Find out more about Impact 100 Chicago and its amazing women here.



Last night I judged the Public Speaking contest at Build, Inc., a wonderful nonprofit serving 3500 students in 22 of Chicago’s worst communities – including Cabrini Green and Austin. Nine high school students each stood up in front of a large crowd to share their life story, emphasizing the difficulties which brought them to BUILD, Inc. and how the organization has helped.

Talk about troubled childhoods!

The winner, Carissa Knox, who is standing just to the right of the banner in the photo below, moved me to tears with her journey from being unable to ever speak in the first person because she had been molested by her uncle as a child and no one believed her. “I came from a family of separation… BUILD, Inc. awakened my inner poet, helped me speak with my own voice, become social and have ambition.”

Hector Rodriguez is the youngest of 4 boys and 1 girl, raised by a single mother. His two oldest brothers joined rival gangs. The eldest was in prison by the time Hector was 7. The second oldest has been shot – “laying covered in his own blood” – 10 different times, usually by his brother’s gang. Hector called himself “short, fat and frightened” when he found his way to BUILD, Inc. He’s now tall, fit, confident and has great smile as you can see in the photo. He is just to the left of the banner.

LEFT SIDE OF BUILD BANNER – Dr. Roslind Blasingame, Executive Director; Christine Bakkalar, Highland Park; Lavelle Rodgers, Gala Dinner Speaker; Rachel Gray, 3rd Place; Hector Rodriguez, Honorable Mention and Gala Dinner Speaker.
RIGHT SIDE OF BUILD BANNER – Carissa Knox, 1st Place and Gala Dinner Speaker; Marci Klein, Winnetka; me; Aramis Pates, 2nd Place; Amarian Pates; Ron Libman, US Messenger President.

My admiration, and society’s thanks, go to the North Shore’s Marci Klein and Christine Bakkalar for many years of passionate and creative work to build BUILD, Inc.’s capacity. It’s new colorful, light filled facility should attract more youth too. Thanks also to Ron Libman, US Messenger President and Rik Vazquez, BUILD, Inc.’s Positive Youth Development Coordinator who worked most closely with the speakers too. Thanks to their hard work, every teen who spoke should feel like a winner.

BUILD, Inc.’s annual gala dinner will be May 3rd at Soldier Field’s United Club. Make It Better is proud to be the media sponsor.

For more information on BUILD, Inc. or the event, please see

Selected Quotes on Build, Inc.:

“BUILD helps protect Chicago’s at-risk youth and empowers them to rise above the influence of drugs, gangs and violence. BUILD’s many programs give children the support and tools they need to achieve their dreams and be a positive, driving force in their community.” – Illinois Governor Pat Quinn
“When I hear the stories of our youth, I know the importance of why BUILD exist. Our youth are my inspiration to continue to provide a place where they can find their voices and realize their God-Given potential.” – Dr. Roslind Blasingame-Buford –
“I have respect for BUILD’s vision and programs and commend them for their long history of commitment to provide assets-based assessments and services that empower youth and communities. I have confidence in BUILD’s ability to be an asset within the Austin Community with the overall impact of transforming highly “at-risk” youth at the margins in our community into greatly “at-hope” youth who will enter and enrich the mainstream of our society.” – Deborah Graham Alderman, 29th Ward

Helping Rahm Help Kids

Rahm Emanuel’s goal to unite the city’s business community to raise $50 million to help our at risk kids is spot on.

Courtesy of the Sun Times

Chicago is great because Chicago is good and our civic community knows how to collaborate for the better. Focusing that effort on our most important resource – our kids – is brilliant.

We will help and we recommend that you do too.

We also want to point out that many outstanding organizations are already in place which are already doing this important work, like the By The Hand Club For Kids, and World Sport Chicago, which was represented at Obama’s Hyde Park School gathering last Friday.

Hopefully, Chicago won’t try to reinvent the wheel, but rather will use the funds raised to grow programs which have already proven their effectiveness.

Picasso and Chicago at The Art Institute

Chicago established Picasso as a great artist in the United States.

Picasso proved Chicago knew great art.

The new exhibit at the Art Institute brings the prolific artist to life, and reminds us of our great city’s visionary and taste making history.

Don’t miss it!


Thanks to Lili Gaubin and Laura Bay for Chairing Last Night’s Opening Gala, and to BMO Harris for sponsoring the blockbuster exhibit.

Learning From and Cheering Mark Falanga

Venture philanthropists and capitalists alike can learn from Mark Falanga. In only 1/1/2 years the MMPI President reorganized Chicago’s flagship property to return it to 96% capacity and exceed income expectations, as well as turn it into a tech and venture philanthropy hub.

Not to gloat, but we predicted this kind of success when we wrote about him in the article linked below.

Mark just announced that he will be moving on to new ventures. Whatever they are, we will continue to learn from and cheer him on too.

Link to Make It Better article here.