Chicago House 2 days of Brunch and Fashion


This past weekend CHICAGO HOUSE  hosted their Annual Spring Brunch and Fashion Shows. This hugely popular event is always well-attended and this weekend,  lots of money was raised for this awesome charity group.  Hot models, hot fashions, music by Phil DaBeatz ,  flowing brunch drinks and brunch food and a sunny warm day  made for a spectacular celebration!

Even with the best laid plans and  countless sound checks, fill a venue with 800-900 people and something is bound to go wrong!  The acoustics at the Harold Washington Library wreaked havoc on the speakers messages and sadly, most were not audible by all in attendance, depending on where you were sitting.

Rev.  Stan Sloan delivered a great speech, and we wanted to share it here, in case you missed it.

The author Elizabeth Srout says every person deserves to be remembered for his or her better moments. I think what she is trying to say is that every one of us has aspects of our lives that we are proud of, and every one of us has aspects of our lives that we wish we could do over…and this time smarter, do better, do with more integrity .  Many of you may have read the obituary a few weeks ago for Jim Dohr. For those of you that didn’t know or read about  him, Jim became HIV+ in the mid 80’s when AIDS was a near immediate death sentence for nearly everyone who syro converted. His response to watching his friends and peers with HIV die while he was spared for over two decades was to spend his life making life better for men, women, and children affected by AIDS. Here are just a few lines from his obituary in the papers:

it was Jim’s HIV diagnosis which perhaps had the most profound impact on his work, and his desire to help others. Says Judith Johns, former executive director of Howard Brown and former assistant commissioner of health for the City of Chicago, “Jim was one of the men who survived for many years after diagnosis – this was encouragement and hope for others…For the last 18 years, Jim consistently provided outstanding services to co-workers, community-based organizations, and all persons living with HIV, he truly understood the impact this epidemic has had on individuals and our community as a whole.” 

 Every person deserves to be remembered for his or her better moments, and that was easy to do for Jim Dohr. . Chicago House and our clients are just a small portion of the lives he touched in his work with the Chicago Department of Public Health, The HIV/AIDS communities will miss Jim and his life of better moments for decades to come.

Every person deserves to be remembered for his or her better moments. After seeing thousands of lives affected by HIV/AIDS over the last ten years at Chicago House one life stands out for me in haunting contrast to Jim’s. The beginning of that life  story is actually not atypical of most of our clients. It is the story of a woman who showed up at the door of our supportive living program exhausted, defeated, and finally ready to try working toward a different way of life. What made her story so unique, though, was not its beginning but its ending. Kirsten, our staff person on call that day, learned during the intake interview that the woman grew up on the streets of Chicago and lived her life hustling on those streets for her 42 years of life. Forty two years old and she had never had a job, or an apartment, or even a bed to call her own. She answered the questions honestly and completely until she was stumped toward the end of the interview when Kirsten asked her for the name and number of an emergency contact. 42 years old and not one relative, not one friend to call in the case of an emergency. Kirsten left those questions blank and showed the woman to her new room and home at Chicago House.

The rooms at our Supportive Living Program are our only ones that are just that: private bedrooms with shared living spaces and shared bathrooms, but Kirsten told me that when the woman first saw her room  she turned with tears in her eyes and said that it was the first home she had ever had. A few hours later Kirsten went to check on her and found her passed out on the floor. We called 911 and she was admitted to Cook County hospital. When she woke up later that day Kirsten was there at her bedside, and she asked Kirsten for the only other favor Chicago House was able to provide to her:  “please don’t let me die alone,” she said. And Kirsten kept that promise, staying with her until the next morning when she died. The Supportive Living Program held a service for her, and although none of our other residents had met her, they all attended.  Every person deserves to be remembered for his or her better moments. The silence that filled that room was deafening.  Could it really be that after forty two years of life there were really no “better moments” to remember?

In your bags as you leave today you will find a cookie from Chicago House’s Bakery:  Sweet Miss Givings :  Unquestionably Kind. Unreasonably Good!  As most of you know by now, Sweet Miss Giving’s is the best made from scratch bakery in Chicago, and over 50% of its profits go immediately back to help the men, women, and children in our care. But you will find something more about Sweet Miss Giving’s in your departure bag. The bag will also hold a one-page story of RJ, one of our recent graduates of Sweet Miss Giving’s Bakery Internship program.  Before joining the SMG internship program seven months ago, RJ’s life was not much different from the woman who died in Kirsten’s care. He lived on the streets for his first 30-plus years of life, and after nine years in prison he had returned to those streets. But RJ, too, was finally ready to try a different way of life. Chicago House and SMG have provided that opportunity. Next month he will not only become a full time employee of Sweet Miss Giving’s, but he will move into his own apartment with his now life partner…an apartment  where the son he has never known will visit and fill in voids that he in his previous life never knew he had.

Every person deserves to be remembered for his or her better moments. It’s a nice thought and an easy one to fulfill when you, like Jim Dohr and I can only imagine most of us here, have lived a life full of moments encouraged by family and friends. Kirsten’s client lived without knowing those moments, and she died before Chicago House could help her learn how amazing it feels to have hope, and integrity, and sense of accomplishment. But thanks to Chicago House she died with a home to call her own, and she died in the company of someone who cared. RJ’s just now beginning a new life filled with better moments, but I am confident with the help of Chicago House and Sweet Miss Giving’s that life will continue to grow and unfold. And I am confident that one day…hopefully many, many years from now, there will be plenty of better moments to remember as his friends and family look back on his life. Your support here and your support of Chicago House and Sweet Miss Giving’s is what allows us to provide those better moments to those who have never had the chance to build them. So thank you from RJ and thank you from all of us. Life by life. Moment by moment, your support is making such a difference.  Chicago House. We were there at the beginning. We will be here until the cure. Thanks again.

In my talk I stressed the importance of being remembered for your better moments, and now it is time to do just that for a dear friend of mine and a dear friend of Chicago House’s and Sweet Miss Giving’s Bakery, Brad Werner.  Brad Werner came to hear of Chicago House through our dear friends Mary and Larry Boeder, and he has been a source of constant blessings for us since that time.  Brad served Chicago House well as a board member and major donor until the time that we asked him to step down in order to assume an even larger role for our mission and our clients:  that of becoming the largest investor of Sweet Miss Giving’s Bakery. 

Brad, Gus Atsalis, and Jay Deratany stepped up to the plate to help give Sweet Miss Giving’s its start, and Brad has continued to guide and nurture the bakery to assure its success.  In addition, he has brought additional friends and investors to Sweet Miss Giving’s, and it is safe to say that there would be no SMG without him.  Brad, the life of Chicago House and the lives of our clients are forever changed because of Sweet Miss Giving’s and because of you.  In recognition of your outstanding contribution the Chicago House Board of Trustees is making you the seventh…and when I say seventh…I mean seven out of our 25 year history…our Seventh Lifetime Trustee.  Know how grateful we are to you, and know how much we love you here.  Thank you Brad Werner!


The events were a great success and  we look forward to the next  Chicago House event, 

Birdhouse Art Auction      June 24, 2010    @  Room & Board Chicago Store

The  Best  of Gay Chicago