Earlier this month, more than 450 guests attended The Night Ministry‘s annual Lighting Up The Night Awards Ceremony. The gala, held at the Standard Club, recognized Paula and Gordon Addington, Windy City Times, and filmmakers Kirsten Kelly and Anne de Mare of Spargel Productions for their work to support those living in poverty in Chicago. The honorees were presented with Lamplighter Awards during the program led by master of ceremonies Neil Steinberg, Chicago Sun-Times columnist.
According to Night Ministry communication coordinator Stacy Massey, Lighting Up The Night raised 5% of the organization’s budget in one evening. This will go to aid in the organization’s many initiatives, such as their four youth shelter programs, street-based youth program, and health outreach program. However, even more than fundraising, Massey said that the ceremony is really a chance to recognize people who have been exemplary of the organization’s mission.
Massey stated, “The Addington’s have served on the board for quite some time. Windy City Times currently partner with us to do a youth homelessness summit every year, and they are also on the ground doing an assessment of what people need and then initiating programming that will address those needs. Finally, Kirsten Kelly and Anne de Mare, filmmakers of The Homestretch, featured The Night Ministry’s work at The Crib in the film which has been featured in film festivals nationally and on PBS…They’ve [all] been awesome!”
President and CEO of The Night Ministry Paul Hamann shared that same sentiment He said that he was proud to recognize the awardees. He added that it was heartwarming to have “generous, devoted supporters” in the room that night, because the organization’s work would be “impossible without them.”
Hamann also made a big announcement at Lighting Up The Night about a new partnership to serve students experiencing homelessness and instability in Chicago. Through a partnership with North Lawndale College Prep, The Night Ministry, and Old Saint Patrick’s Church, they will develop an operated housing program for students battling homelessness. The housing is projected to go up in fall of 2016 and will be gradually expanded in the future.
“This housing program will be the first of its kind in Chicago,” said Hamann. “In Chicago, about half of the young people who experience homelessness do not have a high school diploma or a GED. Academic success is hard to achieve when students don’t have a safe place to sleep each night. The opportunity for the Night Ministry to address this concern will result in exciting, groundbreaking work.”
The new outreach nurse, Linda Tanni, gave a few words to guests that evening. She spoke about how the organization has been able to expand services and staff through the generous support of donors to better serve those in need.
Additionally, Syncere St. Jamyz ,who is now a full-time youth worker for The Crib, gave a heartwarming testimonial to his experience as a homeless youth in Chicago and the importance of places like The Crib that provides support and community.
“When I first experienced homelessness… in addition to not having place to sleep at night, I was also dealing with complicated personal struggles and difficult family issues.”
He said that too often he would find programs that would offer support, but pushed him into pre-determined goals. He didn’t understand how they wanted him to think about higher education when his life was so unstable.
“At The Crib, we build relationships with young people to help them create hope that they can still live a successful life. This process takes time, but the outcomes are beautiful. ”
The Night Ministry is a necessary entity that “with an open heart and an open mind, accepts people as they are and works to address their immediate needs while affirming their sense of humanity.” For Syncere St. Jamyz and many countless others they have supported in a time of need in the past and up to this point, the organization strives to provide basic needs that they cannot otherwise provide for themselves.
“The most important thing for people to understand [about The Night Ministry] is that we’re really a safety net for a lot of Chicagoans,” said Massey.
To learn more visit www.thenightministry.org.