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Thank you for your support at our #SpiritOfEmpowerment Gala!

Thank you for your support at our #SpiritOfEmpowerment Gala!

Dear AAFS Community,

The board and staff of Arab American Family Services (AAFS) thank our sponsors, friends, and attendees for your support at our #SpiritOfEmpowerment Gala this past Saturday! We were honored to share the evening with you in recognizing the contributions and achievements of amazing women in our local communities and around the world.

Our emcee, Khaled J. Elkhatib, carried the evening through a variety of presentations starting with a welcome by AAFS Board Vice President Denise Martinez, testimonies by AAFS beneficiaries, speeches by AAFS founders Itedal Shalabi and Nareman Taha, as well as a special keynote address by Cook County State Attorney, Kimberly M. Foxx. The event also included a fashion show by Nesreen Abulaban, the head designer and owner of Style Me Couture. We were also pleased to have Middle Eastern music performed by keyboardist and oud player, Samir Al Omar.

As part of the event, a group of six dynamic local women were recognized with AAFS Spirit of Empowerment awards for their extraordinary contributions to the local community and beyond. The awardees recognized included Cynthia Bajjalieh – Director, Office of US Senator Richard J. Durbin, Meha Ahmad – WBEZ Producer, Morning Shift, Vivian R. Khalaf, Esq., J.D. – Managing Partner, Khalaf & Abuzir, LLC, Fadwa Naji – Community Activist & Philanthropist, and Dr. Nina Shoman-Dajani – Assistant Dean, Moraine Valley College. We congratulate them again and thank them greatly for their impactful work. Mothers from the community were also recognized for their efforts in establishing the groundwork for a thriving local Arab-American community.

For many, one of the most moving parts of the event was hearing directly from AAFS clients about how the organization has enhanced their lives and empowered them – from Yolanda’s story about how AAFS stepped in and stepped up when she was afraid and needed immigration help and medical support, to Amy who was suffering in an abusive relationship but eventually found health and happiness with the help of the compassionate and dedicated work of AAFS staff.

People like Yolanda and Amy come to AAFS every day to find the support and services they can’t easily find elsewhere. We are honored to serve them and are eager to help improve peoples’ lives every day.

Whether it is gaining access to public aid, receiving elderly and disability services, domestic violence intervention and prevention, mental health counseling, immigration services, ESL and civics courses, youth programs, and so much more, AAFS has left a positive impression on thousands of people in the south suburban Chicagoland community since the organization began 17 years ago.

In her keynote address, Cook County State Attorney, Kimberly M. Foxx, underscored the important work of AAFS in building healthy and productive local communities through a spirit of empowerment. She shared about her experience growing up in Chicago’s Cabrini Green housing projects and feeling lucky to have found social services to help her during the trials and tribulations of being a young African-American woman from a low-income neighborhood. She explained that it was caring people, much like AAFS staff, that helped her create a path to a successful future which now includes becoming the county’s first female African-American state’s attorney.

Presenting on the nearly two-decade-long history of AAFS, co-founders Itedal Shalabi and Nareman Taha shared how a simple intention to fill a social services void in the south suburban Chicagoland area turned into an organization helping tens of thousands of individuals every year while managing a budget over one million dollars.

In 2017 alone, AAFS served 12,234 families in south suburban Chicagoland. That is a total of 47,568 individuals benefiting from AAFS services. On average, AAFS sees 1,055 families a month at an average of 50 families a day. AAFS clients’ ratio by gender is 8,035 female to 3,980 male – which highlights the importance of AAFS programs that primarily serve women. The number of clients is only increasing and AAFS is poised to take on more cases with your continued support.

The service that AAFS provides to its local community is critical to fostering a future that is full of hope, one that allows individuals and families to thrive in their personal and professional lives. We thank you again for making our Spirit of Empowerment Gala a great success and for moving and inspiring us to make a difference in even more peoples’ lives in the years ahead.


The AAFS Team

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