Social Justice Awards for 2015

When: May 2nd, 2015

Where: McKinley Foundation, Westminster Hall (2nd floor)

Who: This years honorees include…

Altrusa Club of Champaign-Urbana
Steve Higgins
Ellen McDowell
Gus Wood

How to attend: Call 217-344-0297 or e-mail  for more information or to make a reservation.

More information:

This award event is the sixth and is sponsored by McKinley Foundation at the University of Illinois. McKinley has long been known for its action in the social justice arena having been one of the first congregations to sponsor refugees from Laos, to offer sanctuary to war protestors, to host a men’s shelter and founded the Marilyn Queller Day Care Center. In 1911 Presby House opened its doors to 20 young women and now Presby House is a Leeds Silver Certified, university approved housing for 262 university students who have adopted several service projects in the community.

Six years ago we decided to reach out to the community and find other individuals and organizations that were working for social justice and reward them with recognition and a small monetary award. Past recipients include Interfaith in Action, Barbara Linder, Hope Community Health Center, Barbara Kessel, Smile Healthy, Engineers Without Borders, Education Justice Project, Aaron Ammons, Books to Prisoners, Dr. Laura Taylor, Champaign County Health Care Consumers, Illini Mentors and others.This year the recipients will be honored on May 2 with a dinner and awards ceremony held at McKinley Foundation in Westminster Hall at 5:30.This year’s awardees are as follows:

Altrusa Club of Champaign-Urbaba – Community Organization Award. Altrusa has been involved in a variety of projects in this community for fifty years.  This award  recognizes their work with the Eastern Illinois Food Bank, the literacy efforts with Champaign Unit 4 School District with the kindergarten children, providing Spanish to English dictionaries for translation and providing reading material for Books to Prisoners. For the last 10 years Altrusa has taken the children of migrant workers to a local bookstore to select books to take home. The GOALS Project which supports teen parents, has received financial support for MTD passes, and has been able to host a Holiday party supported by Altrusa.

Gus Wood – Student Award.  Mr. Wood is a graduate student the U of I and is co-president of the Graduate Employees’ Organization working for the rights of graduate students. He is involved in helping students register to vote, is the co-host of the WEFT Labor Hour and on the board of the AFL-CIO.  His work with the CU Citizens for Peace and Justice include organizing a rally following the killing of Michael Brown and is working with a program called Build Programs Not Jails that is to provide long-term solutions to the over-criminalization and targeting of men of color.

Ellen McDowell – Community Individual Award.  Ms. McDowell is the founder of the Daily Bread Soup Kitchen.  Since 1980 she has been the inspiration and heart of the effort to feed those less fortunate.  Last year the organization served 153,295 meals, each served with warmth and respect. At age 90 she continues to impact the mission of feeding the hungry by encouraging volunteers and communicating her spirit and values which include feeding the hungry and offering a generous portion of affirmation and dignity.

Steve Higgins – Community Individual.  Mr. Higgins is a social worker at Urbana Middle School. He focuses on empowering students from historically underrepresented groups as well as the LGBTQ community. Examples of his work include coordinating with community partners to provide group-mentoring programs for African American males and females, leading student leadership groups and beginning a Gay Straight Alliance at the middle school. High praise came from several fellow staff members and his principal who emphasized Mr. Higgin’s advocacy for students and their parents, especially those who are least able to advocate for themselves.

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