2019 Social Justice Award Winners

Feeding the hungry, offering second chances while healing communities, and furthering interfaith understanding—these are just a few examples of the amazing work being done in our community that will be honored at the 2019 McKinley Foundation Social Justice Awards Gala on March 30.

Now in its 10th year, the awards were created to celebrate the amazing work by the honorees, and affirm McKinley’s commitment to social justice work, one of its core missions.

This year’s winners:

  • Omar Kashow, Individual Student Award winner, is honored for his leadership in furthering interfaith understanding and relationships on campus. Now in his second year as President of Interfaith in Action, a dynamic registered student organization, Kashow regularly works with both student and professional leaders across campus to plan thoughtful events, strategize with a team working toward ambitious interfaith goals, and to use his significant interpersonal skills to help build relationships of trust and cooperation. Kashow is a senior in bioengineering at the University of Illinois and will be attending medical school in the fall.
  • Johnell Bentz, creator and manager of Jubilee Café, will receive the Community Individual Award. Jubilee Café, located in the basement of the Community United Church of Christ in Champaign, is a volunteer based café that provides free home-cooked meals every Monday to college students, community members and neighbors without permanent addresses who struggle with food insecurity. Jubilee Café served its first meal to local guests on October 2, 2017. Since then the café has served more than 2450 meals, with more than 400 guests attending at least once.
  • Feeding Our Kids will receive the Community Organization Award. Feeding Our Kids was started in 2013 by two local moms to address food insecurity needs among a small group of students in two Champaign Unit 4 schools that did not qualify for the Eastern Illinois Foodbank backpack program. Since that time, EIF has transferred their successful School Backpack Program along with the associated grant funding to FOK. Through the end of the 2017-2018 school year, FOK reached 908 students at 36 schools in Champaign County and Tuscola. Four more schools have applied to join the program this year.
  • FirstFollowers is the second recipient of the Community Organization Award. Founded in 2015 by Marlon Mitchell and James Kilgore, FirstFollowers is a community-based, nonprofit organization that operates a drop-in center at Bethel A.M.E. Church in Champaign. Their mission is building strong and peaceful communities by providing support and guidance to the formerly incarcerated, their loved ones and the community as a whole. FirstFollowers offers peer mentoring, assistance with employment searches, job readiness training, family reunification, and service referrals. Recently, they started a GO-MAD program that targets 18- to -24-year-olds to learn skills such as carpentry, electrical and dry walling.