Meet the Honorees of Haymarket’s 2023 Gala!

Haymarket Center’s annual gala exists not only to raise funds to treat substance use disorders, but to celebrate the work and accomplishments of our Center and its supporters. This year, Haymarket is honored to present awards to noted individuals who have done tremendous work to help people with substance use disorders.

This year’s honorees are Governor of Illinois J.B. Pritzker, President and CEO of the National Council for Mental Wellbeing Chuck Ingoglia, and CBS Chicago anchor Irika Sargent, who will also serve as the gala’s Master of Ceremonies. Governor Pritzker will be receiving the Father Mac Appreciation Award for his outstanding support for substance use treatment through policy, Mr. Ingoglia will be receiving the Visionary Award for his innovative leadership of the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, and Ms. Sargent will receive the Volunteer of the Year Award for her tireless work in support of our Gala, and for her coverage of issues pertaining to substance use on CBS News.

When asked how he felt about receiving the Visionary Award, Mr. Ingoglia expressed gratitude to Haymarket for the award and for its mission.

“I’m deeply honored to receive Haymarket Center’s prestigious Visionary Award,” he said. “None of us got into this field for the recognition, so it feels unnatural to receive any acknowledgement. But it also feels very flattering and fills me with gratitude. However, I’m the one who should be thanking Haymarket for its efforts. Haymarket’s work on behalf of people with addiction is more important than ever, and I deeply appreciate everything they do to help people understand that recovery is possible and then help them achieve that goal.”

Haymarket Center’s 2023 Gala will be held on Saturday, April 22 at the Sheraton Grand Chicago Riverwalk. Tickets are still available.

Meet Kenneth, a Real-Life Soup-er Hero

The COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath fell particularly hard on Kenneth. In May of 2020, Kenneth experienced an overdose and came to Haymarket Center for treatment. While he was receiving treatment, Kenneth became acquainted with his fellow patients and decided that he wanted to do more to help people in need once he left Haymarket.

“Addiction is a mental health issue,” he explained. “There are good people with substance issues who just need some help.”

After completing treatment at Haymarket, Kenneth had the idea to combine his new mission to support people in need with his skill and previous experience as a chef. Partnering with non-profit organizations in Chicago, Kenneth would station himself on CTA platforms and offer soup to people in need of a hot meal. After several months of feeding people experiencing homelessness, Kenneth decided that he was ready to take his calling to the next step. For Kenneth and his larger-than-life ambitions, the next step was creating his own non-profit organization, Souper Heroes.

Souper Heroes provides support to the many people who seek shelter on the CTA and in O’Hare International Airport. Through Souper Heroes, Kenneth not only provides hot and nourishing soup to people in need, but he also organizes clothing drives, collecting coats, socks, and blankets to help people without shelter survive winters in Chicago.

To Kenneth, Haymarket Center was the place where the incredible story of Souper Heroes began.

“At my lowest, the people at Haymarket were there for me,” he explained. “Haymarket helped me change my life. Going back to school to finish my bachelor’s degree, starting Souper Heroes, Haymarket made a huge difference in helping me do all that.”

Elizabeth Vargas to share her story at Haymarket Gala

Haymarket Center is honored to have veteran journalist Elizabeth Vargas as its celebrity guest speaker at the 2023 Haymarket Gala. The annual gala helps break down the stigma of substance use disorders and demonstrates that people in recovery can be tremendously successful; there are few people with a story of recovery as powerful as Elizabeth Vargas.

Elizabeth has been open about her struggles with alcohol use disorder and her subsequent recovery, and this year marks Elizabeth’s 10th year of sobriety. In 2016 she published a memoir, Between Breaths: A Memoir of Panic and Addiction, which described her experience in recovery and became a New York Times bestseller upon its release. Elizabeth has also won several awards for her career in journalism, including an Emmy Award, a Peabody Award, and multiple American Latino Media Arts (ALMA) Awards.

You can hear Elizabeth share her story of recovery on Saturday, April 22 at the Sheraton Grand Chicago.

Learn more about our gala.

Haymarket Center’s Associate Board Steps In

Since its inception last Summer, Haymarket Center’s Associate Board has been hard at work with projects to support Haymarket patients. The board consists of 13 emerging leaders between the ages of 23 and 40 who are passionate about volunteering and raising funds in support of access to substance use disorder treatment services.

The Associate Board held its first event in October, which served as an opportunity to kick off the board, bring members together and recruit. The event was a success, driving additional members to join and helping build momentum for their end of year project.

For that project, the Associate Board supported patients in recovery who are seeking employment. The Ann F. Baum Family Enrichment Center (FEC) at Haymarket Center provides patients with job training and placement after they complete treatment. A major obstacle faced by our patients is a lack of professional clothing for interviews and everyday work attire. To that end, members joined together to host a career clothing drive and set up a career closet for patients. The drive was a great success, and the closet is now filled with suits, dresses, and other pieces of professional clothing for Haymarket’s patients who are seeking employment.

With so much success in just under a year, the Associate Board has even bigger plans going forward.

“The Associate Board is excited to continue to execute quarterly volunteer projects that provide value to the space and clients of Haymarket in different ways,” explained Associate Board President Kelly McKay-Lumbreras. “Next up for us is providing support to enhancing the exercise room, and after that we will provide volunteer, fundraising and operational help for key Haymarket events like its Gala and West Loop Fest.”

The Associate Board looks to double its membership by the end of the year.

Learn more about our Associate Board and how to get involved.

Outreach Program Featured in the Chicago Tribune

Haymarket Center’s outreach program was featured in a recent article from the Chicago Tribune on the influx of people in the city who are experiencing homelessness and seeking shelter at O’Hare International Airport. Jessica Dubuar, Haymarket’s Director of Health and Specialty Services, was interviewed for the article, and detailed the role that Haymarket plays in helping people who are experiencing homelessness access resources.

“We have a number of resources available on site from food and coffee, water, hand sanitizer, masks, those things. We also have clothing available, hygiene products and a few other things,” Jessica said in her interview. “What weʼll also do is invite people to come in and sit down and talk to us. And we do a small assessment with them, exploring all sorts of things from health care, mental health care, substance use, benefits and IDs and all of those things.”

Read the full article.

Meet our new Board member, Heather Way Kitzes!

Last month, Haymarket Center welcomed Heather Way Kitzes to its Board of Directors. Heather was selected for the Board due to her long career of public service, her work with multiple non-profits and community organizations such as Lakeview Pantry and Lakeview YMCA, and her previous service to Haymarket as a volunteer and member of its Leadership Council.

Heather is the Assistant Director of Government and Community Affairs for the Chicago Cubs, and through her position she works with institutions both public and private to build consensus on local issues and maintain strong relations within the community.

Heather sat down for an interview to discuss what brought her to this point and what excites her about Haymarket’s future.

Q: There is no shortage of organizations in Chicago that do excellent work, so what was it about Haymarket Center and its Board that attracted you?

HWK: There were many factors. I believe strongly in Haymarket’s work and its mission. I started volunteering here in 2008 and I joined the Leadership Council soon after that. I feel that Haymarket and the resources that it provides are indispensable, and to be a part of the solution to this public health crisis is an honor.

Q: Your past experiences in public service sound very impressive. Is there a particular position or experience that you feel uniquely prepares you for your role at Haymarket?

HWK: I’ve done fundraising projects in several of the organizations that I’ve worked with and those always excite me. Working on the gala committee for Haymarket is quite fun and I’m looking forward to doing that again.

Q: If you were able to eliminate one falsehood or misconception that people have about substance use disorders, what would it be and why?

HWK: I would get rid of this idea that overcoming substance use disorders (SUD) is a matter of willpower, or that experiencing one exhibits a lack thereof. People with SUDs don’t have choices, and the idea that if people wanted to stop then they just could isn’t true.

Q: What are some of your personal hobbies? What do you like to do when you’re not working with Haymarket?

HWK: I like to bake. I have a very strong Christmas cookie game that I’m very proud of. My daughter in first grade has started to help me in the kitchen, so we have fun together there.

Q: As the Assistant Director of Government and Community Affairs for the Chicago Cubs, what is your favorite memory of Wrigley Field?

HWK: Definitely winning the World Series and victory parade afterwards. The day of the parade, we left Wrigley and headed downtown. Going down Clark was amazing and seeing all the fans; and my son was with me for the parade. That was nothing short of incredible.

Above and Beyond: Lisa Latimer holds Clothing Drives

Lisa Latimer, President and CEO of Nortek Environmental, has consistently gone above and beyond for Haymarket Center and our patients. Lisa became a part of the Haymarket community as a result of a loved one’s struggle with substance use. In Lisa’s case, it was her stepson, who passed away in 2016 from an overdose. After her stepson’s passing, she was reconnected with her old friend Eva Delgado, a counselor at Haymarket, who offered her support and condolences.

“Lisa and I have been friends since grade school,” Eva explained. “Lisa’s always been such a kind and generous person, and I know she’s organized donation drives many times before. When I told her more about Haymarket Center and the work that I do here, she was inspired to start one of her donation drives in memory of her stepson.”

For six years, Lisa has organized donation drives in support of Haymarket Center, bringing in abundant supplies of clothing, toiletries, and gift cards for our patients. She spends several months promoting and collecting donations from her professional and personal connections. Impressively, each year’s the collection grows. Lisa’s sense of generosity is not limited to Haymarket. In addition to organizing her clothing drive for Haymarket, she also donates to other service providers, and even goes to Lower Wacker Drive in Chicago to directly provide people who are experiencing homelessness with winter clothes. For Lisa, her work is driven by a profound and enduring sense of empathy.

“You never truly know what someone is dealing with and the troubles they have, so if you can do anything in this world, be kind and give back,” she explained. “The more that you get involved with people experiencing homelessness, you realize that they’re somebodies’ family or friend. They can be veterans or someone unfortunate. If everyone can give a little, it would make a difference to a lot of people.”

AIDS Foundation of Chicago Partnership Expands Services

December 1st marked World AIDS Day, a day where the lives of those lost to HIV/AIDS are remembered and leaders from around the world pledge to find a cure for the virus. While treatment for HIV has improved significantly since the first World AIDS Day in 1988, with around 18,000 Americans dying of AIDS-related illnesses each year, there is still much more work to be done. Fortunately, organizations like the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC), with its dedicated team of staff and volunteers, are doing tremendous work in helping people with HIV/AIDS live full, happy, and healthy lives.

Given the considerable but often neglected overlap of people who experience both substance use disorders and HIV/AIDS-related complications, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and Haymarket Center are partners in providing critical health services throughout Chicagoland. AFC has generously funded Haymarket Center for 23 years. These funds provide a variety of services for patients in recovery, including HIV testing, risk reduction counseling, psychosocial support and much more. To build on these services, expanded grant funds will support trauma-informed case management services to help patients connect with and retain benefits.

“Since we specialize in substance use disorder treatment primarily rather than HIV treatment, we will refer HIV-positive patients with substance use disorders to the AFC for long-term care,” explained Gilberto Soberanis, Manager of Haymarket Center’s Health and Wellness Department. “They will then provide these patients with long-term care counselors, treatment for HIV, and even things such as financial support and transportation for treatment.”

Gilberto has a unique relationship with the AFC, having worked there before his career development led him to Haymarket. Gilberto continues to support AFC through the Team to End AIDS (T2), an endurance-training charity team dedicated to raising funds for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago by participating in high-profile athletic events such as the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

Working at Haymarket full circle moment for Raven Thomas

Raven Thomas works for Haymarket as a medical assistant in the Center’s triage space, but she was introduced to Haymarket as a young child at the age of 3, when multiple family members came to Haymarket for treatment.

“My mom was what I would call a “frequent flyer” here at Haymarket. She was in and out of treatment a lot,” explained Raven. In addition to her mother, Raven said she had extended family members who received treatment at Haymarket. Raven recalls visiting them and spending time at the Center. It was during her mother’s recovery that Raven was introduced to a friendly figure who helped comfort her during a challenging time, Father Mac.

“I still have very vivid memories of Father Mac’s smile and how he always carried butterscotch candies in his pocket,” Raven recalled.

Seeing the effects and impact of substance use disorders firsthand provided Raven with determination to push herself and become a provider of treatment and support for people in recovery. After college, she started a job as a phlebotomist at a laboratory with multiple locations. When she was told where exactly she would be working, she was astounded to hear that she would be returning to Haymarket.

“Coming back to Haymarket hit me like a ton of bricks,” said Raven. “The neighborhood has changed so much since I was little, but the kindness of the staff stayed exactly the same.”

Today, Raven is a staff member of Haymarket itself, and when she’s not providing medical care to the patients of the Center, she’s making sure that the children of Haymarket know that they’re in a good place.

“I practically live on Mater Hall, visiting the babies and little kids,” she said. “They’ll see me in the hallways and say, “Hi best friend!” and it just makes me so happy to see them. I just try to be the person that I needed when I was growing up for them, to let them know that they are special and loved.”

Finding a Recovery Community: Amanda’s Story

“I realized that I couldn’t do this by myself.”

Amanda had struggled with substance use for more than a decade when she lost custody of her two children. She wanted to get her kids back more than anything, so she came to Haymarket Center to help her make big, important changes and get her life back on track.

“I didn’t want to come to Haymarket at first, but I realized that I couldn’t do this by myself,” Amanda said.

Once she got settled into Haymarket and took her first steps into recovery, Amanda found something that she wasn’t expecting to find: a community. Haymarket Center introduced her to other women and mothers who were driven by their children and loved ones to live a healthier life. One person who played an outsized role in Amanda’s recovery was Melinda McMichael, Haymarket Center’s doula and Peer Recovery Specialist. Similar to Amanda, Melinda was motivated to seek treatment in order to be a more stable and supportive parent for her young son. After completing treatment at Haymarket, Melinda joined our staff to support other women and mothers who felt stuck in the same position that she was in.

“Hearing Melinda’s story helped me to try and become better,” Amanda explained. “Being truthful with Melinda about my experience helped so much in my recovery process.”

“Recovery is a hard fight to win, but it is absolutely, 100 percent worth it.”

Today, more than two years after completing treatment at Haymarket, Amanda is reunited with her children. While repairing the damage that had been caused by Amanda’s substance use disorder had been challenging, the progress made by the three of them has been remarkable.

“My kids and I had to get to know each other again,” said Amanda. “We’ve gone through phases and changes, but the kids have made terrific progress, and I attribute that to the evolution and progress that I made myself as a parent.”

Amanda’s recovery has not only allowed her to regain custody of her children, but it’s also given her the strength and experience to help others begin their own journeys from substance use. Amanda works as a Peer Recovery Specialist and through her work, she shares her story and inspires others to make changes towards healthier lives of their own.

When looking back on the course of her recovery journey, Amanda has three words of advice for parents who are in the same position that she was in: never give up.

“Recovery is a hard fight to win, but it is absolutely, 100 percent worth it. You’ll need to set boundaries with yourself and others and there will be challenges, but if you pick yourself up after each time you fall, you will make it.”

For a time, substance use split Amanda’s family apart. Today, she not only has her kids back, but she’s also gained back control of her life.

Amanda was able to reach sobriety as a result of her determination and dedication to herself and her children, and we at Haymarket are proud to have been a part of her recovery. However, we would not be able to do the work that we do without the generosity and compassion of our donors.

Please consider making a gift to Haymarket Center in support of patients like Amanda. Your gift can help someone get a second chance and close the book on substance use disorders. Any gift you make, no matter how big or how small, makes a world of difference to the people who we serve and support.

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