Celebrating Women...Transforming Lives
Date: April 27, 2012
Time: 11:30 AM - 1:30 PM
Two extraordinary women will be honored at Celebrating Women…Transforming Lives, a luncheon celebration on Friday, April 27 at Danada House in Wheaton. Diane Nilan, founder of Hear Us, Inc., will be recognized for her humanitarian efforts to transform the lives of other women. Courtney Simek will be recognized for her courage and strength in overcoming homelessness and her resolve to make a difference in the lives of other homeless women and their families. Tickets for the luncheon are $50 per person and are available at www.bridgecommunities.org.
In November 2005, having sold her house, car and most of her possessions, Nilan purchased an RV to set out on an extraordinary venture. By the end of June 2006, she logged more than 20,000 miles through 34 states, conducted over 75 interviews, and produced a powerful documentary entitled “My Own Four Walls.” This video is now distributed nationally, targeting school districts responsible for identifying and assisting homeless students. Diane’s 25+ years of experience with the issues of homelessness includes running emergency shelters in Joliet and Aurora. She continues to travel the country, capturing the stories of our nation’s most vulnerable population and is a much sought-after speaker on the topic of homelessness.
“You would be hard-pressed to find a more passionate, dedicated advocate for the homeless than Diane Nilan,” affirms Joyce Hothan, Executive Director of Program at Bridge Communities. “Diane travels the country educating and inspiring others to take strides to help homeless families get on a better path.”
Courtney Simek was the typical suburban teenager, active in sports and cheerleading and focused on college. Everything changed when, at 19, Courtney became pregnant. Courtney felt alone, frightened and uncertain about her relationship with her boyfriend and her future. In May 2003, Courtney’s beautiful son Collin was born. After two years of continuous struggles and living at nearly poverty level, Courtney decided to leave Collin’s father. With nowhere to go and no money, Courtney found herself in a nightmare situation. She heard about Bridge Communities and made a very difficult phone call for help. Almost immediately, her case managers saw her potential, drive, and determination to turn around her life. During the two-year program, Courtney learned important life skills and saved money for the future. She earned her associate’s degree at College of DuPage and went on to complete her bachelor’s degree at National Louis University.
Graduating from the Bridge Communities program in July 2008, Courtney and her son purchased the condo where they had been living during the program. With her future now secure, Courtney was determined to help other young women who were in the position she had been in, finding the ideal position as a Program Manager for Teen Parent Connection, an organization dedicated to serving teens as they navigate the challenges of parenthood. Her work at there has inspired other young mothers to complete their goals and work toward self-sufficiency. Courtney is passionate about helping others, and never turns down a challenge to connect a young mother with resources and support.
“Courtney’s smile is contagious, and so is her energy,” Hothan beams. “She is a resilient, motivated, kindhearted young woman. We are so very proud of Courtney and her accomplishments.”
Also featured at the luncheon will be keynote speaker Lisa Nigro, founder of Inspiration Corporation, an organization dedicated to transforming the lives of homeless people in Chicago and across the country. She started by handing out sandwiches and coffee from her nephew’s red wagon, and along the way learned the stories of the homeless people she compassionately served. From a red wagon to a mobile kitchen to a storefront restaurant, Lisa grew her vision of reaching out to homeless men and women to give them meals, dignity and hope. The Inspiration Corporation has since grown into a $3.8 million agency assisting thousands of individuals each year. Today, in addition to serving as the public face and guiding spirit of the Inspiration Corporation, Lisa travels the country speaking about volunteerism, nonprofit management and personal growth. In 2010, Lisa was invited to the White House to be presented with the Presidential Citizens Medal, the highest honor a civilian can receive, cited for her tireless service to her fellow citizens.