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StreetWise Gala awards service and vision

Thu, Nov 1, 2012

Suzanne Hanney
StreetWise Editor-In-Chief

Bruce Crane [left], Alyson Horwitz (wife of the late Judd Horwitz) & StreetWise Executive Director Jim LoBianco

As a StreetWise volunteer, former executive director and board member for the last 17 years, Bruce Crane said he has done almost everything for the organization. During the September 27 gala, Crane had a task he called “a bittersweet honor: to acknowledge the contribution of a dear friend who recently passed away, the steady hand on the tiller.”

Judd Horwitz helped to found StreetWise in 1992 and for the past 20 years served as board treasurer. He died August 18 at age 62.
Crane said he couldn’t remember his first meeting with Horwitz. Rather, his quiet, pensive and dependable personality traits were those that stood out over time.

“He was a cross between a fly on the wall and E.F. Hutton,” Crane said. “He would make an observation and the whole room would go silent.”

Judd Horwitz

Crane called Horwitz the organization’s most dedicated board member, someone who rarely missed a meeting and who never came unprepared. During tough times, he never abandoned StreetWise and he never complained when he and Crane met weekly on finance issues. “If he had an ego, he always checked it at the door.”

As an example of Horwitz’ unassuming yet high-impact life, Crane described his interaction with Greg Pritchett, who is now director of vendor services but who initially knew Horwitz only as someone who bought StreetWise from him. Pritchett didn’t learn Horwitz was a board member until he himself became the vendor representative to the board of directors and walked in to find Horwitz at a meeting.

Last year Pritchett became the father of a premature baby girl who lived just a year. During her lifetime, Horwitz would inquire about her. After her death, he asked about Pritchett, Crane said.

Horwitz was motivated by concern for people he never knew, Crane said. Citing the Jewish tradition they share, Crane said that “the highest form of mitzvah – a calling, an obligation – is where neither the giver nor the recipient know each other.”

“For all the thousands of men and women who benefited” from his work, the Horwitz family was presented with a special memorial in his honor. His widow, Alyson Horwitz and his father, Irwin Horwitz, accepted it on behalf of the family.

Chairman of the Board Jon Reinsdorf [left], U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky & StreetWise Executive Director Jim LoBianco

The StreetWise Service Award is henceforth named the Judd R. Horwitz Service Award. This year’s recipient was U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Chicago), who was first elected to Chicago’s 9th congressional district in 1998. She now serves the House Democratic leadership as chief deputy whip.

StreetWise Chairman of the Board Jonathan Reinsdorf described Schakowsky as “a lifelong consumer advocate and champion of what she sees as the disappearing middle class.”

She helped to pass legislation for universal health care coverage. As a member of President Obama’s 18-member fiscal commission, she offered her own bill, the “Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act,” that would create 2.2 million jobs: in corps to improve schools, parks, health care, early childhood care and in housing rehab, weatherization, recycling and rural conservation.

In 2007 and again in 2011, Schakowsky participated in the Faith Food Stamp Challenge, in which she lived on $31.50 of food, the average benefit, in order to highlight the difference the program makes between hunger and health for 45 million Americans.

As Schakowsky accepted the award, she said that as she listened to LoBianco describing StreetWise opportunities and people wanting to work she thought to herself, “Take that, Mitt Romney. Of course people want to work as opposed to just standing around. When I listen to Will [Allen] and the extraordinary work he’s doing to bring healthy food to our community, bring more jobs, it’s thrilling to think about the opportunities that lay ahead.”

Schakowsky described the latest issue of StreetWise, with its story on A Just Harvest, which operates aquaponics in her district. She said that government wasn’t creating dependencies when it worked with the business community in urban agriculture to create jobs. “I am just honored and blessed to have the opportunity to do whatever I can to be a partner to this great revolution of the 21st century that makes people’s lives so much better, healthier, and that gives them dignity.”

Michael Clune, CEO of Clune Construction and recipient of the Philanthropist of the Year Award

StreetWise Vice Chair Pete Kadens next presented the Philanthropist of the Year Award to Michael Clune, CEO and chair of Clune Construction Co.

“If you Google his name plus ‘Chicago’ you would expect to see ‘corporate titan,’ but instead 16 of the first 20 hits are for his philanthropic endeavors,” Kadens said of Clune. Fifteen years ago, Clune made a promise to himself to never pass a StreetWise vendor without giving him the largest bill in his pocket.

Clune is also the largest single donor in the history of StreetWise. A few years ago when StreetWise was on the verge of bankruptcy, Clune called within 20 minutes of the news appearing in the online Chicago Tribune, and within another 20 minutes he had wired $75,000 to the organization’s bank account, Kadens said. “We couldn’t have done it without it.”

In accepting the award, Clune said he always believed that “those of us who have, as opposed to those who do not, have a strong moral obligation to give back. I have achieved this success with the help of other people and the opportunity to give something back to the city that has been so good to me is so important.”

The Irish-born Clune came to the United States in 1978. His construction firm supports Mercy Housing Lakefront, Rebuilding Together and Chicago House; he is a co-founder of C.R.A.S.H., a non-profit formed by construction executives to help those less fortunate.

“It’s important to write a check to StreetWise,” Clune said. “You can’t pick a better organization because you can’t walk any block without engaging with the vendors. If they are not there, I miss them. I learned a lot from them. I have offered to help them, get them off the street, and have offered substantial amounts of money. In every case they have turned me down, which says a lot about dignity, pride and that they are sustaining themselves.”

Pete Kadens [left], William Rudnick, co-founder of Global FoodBanking Network and recipient of the Civic Leadership Award [center], and Jim LoBianco

Kadens also presented the Civic Leadership Award to William A. Rudnick, co-managing partner of the DLA seeks to end world hunger by supporting food banking where it exists and helping create it where it does not. Before co-founding GFN, Rudnick chaired the boards of Feeding America (formerly known as America’s Second Harvest) and the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

Rudnick is a great speaker, Kadens said, but “more important than his ability to speak is his ability to listen. He genuinely cares, listens, advocates for people in need.”

In accepting the award, Rudnick thanked the board and staff of StreetWise. He congratulated them on the organization they built, along with the other honorees.

“The people in this room care,” Rudnick said. “They may care about different things. They may care about hunger, but as we learned from Will [Allen], we can’t talk about hunger without talking about health care. We can’t talk about education without talking about economic development; we can’t talk about homelessness without again talking about hunger.

“In that circle we all find our spot,” Rudnick continued, “We all find what connects with us and where we want to put our energies. As we all leave tonight, I ask you to do two things. I ask you to be the voice of those you seek to help. Not in a sanctimonious way, not in a condescending way, but in a way that connects you to the humanity of the people you are trying to help and that connects them with your humanity.

“Second, I ask you to look laterally,” he said. “If you are working with hunger, think about homelessness. If you are working on economic development, think about health care. Figure out how to connect those pieces. They’ve been around a long, long time. If we are going to solve them, we have to put the pieces together.”

Written by Suzanne Hanney,
StreetWise Editor-In-Chief

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