BY KATHY ROUTLIFFE firstname.lastname@example.org | @pioneer_kathy
A Wilmette couple will be honored for decades of activism on behalf of open housing and social justice at a June 10 Open Communities award ceremony, one that also honors an Evanston clergyman for his social justice leadership in his parish and beyond.
The Tuesday ceremony, whose “Say Yes” theme highlights the message that anyone can take action for social justice, begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Woman’s Club of Evanston, 1702 Chicago Ave. in Evanston.
Disability rights activists Ed and Ellen McManus of Wilmette will receive Open Communities’ first annual Jean R. Cleland Award, given to those who make their neighborhoods more welcoming and inclusive.
The Winnetka-based Open Communities’ annual Rayna and Marvin Miller award will be presented to Rev. Bob Oldershaw, pastor emeritus at St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Church in Evanston, for his work on behalf of peace and social justice, including immigrants’ rights.
The evening awards, and its call to everyday action by North Shore residents, also marks the organization’s march toward July 25, 2015, which is the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s housing rights address in Winnetka.
On June 5, Open Communities director Gail Schechter praised the McManuses, calling them visible, outspoken and well-liked people active in North Shore efforts on behalf of people with disabilities and others. They most recently have been part of efforts to bring affordable housing into any development that rises on Wilmette’s 611 Green Bay Road property, and support to revive the village’s own housing subsidy program.
“I’ve known Ed and Ellen for the 20 years I’ve been here,” Schechter said. “Ellen has a respect and breadth of contact in Wilmette that I am so impressed by, and Ed is remarkable. They think that they’re not of the caliber of Jean Cleland, but she would laugh if she heard that.”
Schechter also lauded Oldershaw, saying his leadership in bringing immigration rights and social justice needs for growing Latino communities on the North Shore has been inspiring.
“St. Nicholas is known as an open and welcoming church … we wanted to think of somebody whose been exemplary in issues of social justice going beyond housing and we look at him as a leader in his own right,” she said.
Jes Scheinpflug, outreach director for Open Communities, said June 5 that Oldershaw told the organization that he didn’t deserve the award for just himself, “because he said he just led from the rear. When others ‘Say Yes’ to a call to get involved, it is a group effort.”
Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin will make a Jean R. Cleland proclamation at the ceremony, in honor of the late Wilmette housing activist and Open Communities founder.
However, the evening will encourage even more active ways to honor her memory and to recognize this year’s award-winners, by inviting attendees to pledge to get involved in a number of ongoing projects or initiatives, Scheinpflug said.
Each table at the event will have sign-up sheets, where attendees can provide their contact information, and let Open Communities know what efforts they’re willing to work on.
“It’s a way of reminding people that you can go beyond writing a check, that progress is made by people willing to say yes to getting involved,” she said.
Event sponsors are: BMO Harris Bank, Congregation Hakafa, First Bank of Highland Park, First Bank & Trust, The Hudson Company, North Shore Community Bank, NSBAR.org, Temple Jeremiah, Winesellers, Ltd., Rev. Robert & Shirley Burkhart, and Nancy & Bill Goldberg
Tickets for the June 10 ceremony are $75; for more information call Scheinpflug at 847-501-5760, ext. 502, or email email@example.com. People can also contact Open Communities if they would like to attend, but cannot afford to do so.