We have been so happy to be able to highlight some amazing men, women and charities throughout the first half of this month…but we still have a few weeks left to go! To kick off the second half of March, we want to showcase a local Chicago organization, Inspiration Corporation, that is assisting more than 3,000 people affected by poverty and homelessness each year. Right in our very own Windy City, 1,500 volunteers as well as paid staff like Training Manager Sharon Ako work to provide employment and housing services, as well as specific training in foodservice. Ako comes from a distinguished culinary background and she has been cooking up goodwill with Inspiration Corporation for over a decade. She helped us learn more, and is showing everyone how to get involved with a cause you love!
TELL US A LITTLE MORE ABOUT THE INSPIRATION CORPORATION.
Inspiration Corporation is a social service agency assisting individuals affected by homelessness and poverty by providing services such as employment training and career counseling, training in the culinary arts, meals, and housing. Inspiration seems to embody what we in society aim to support: treating people like people. Helping your fellow man or woman get back up on their feet so they can be a productive part of society.
We also run two social enterprise restaurants called Inspiration Kitchens in Uptown and East Garfield Park where our Foodservice Training students get real experiencing working in the kitchens, and we have our own catering business that allows us to bring our food and mission to luncheons, dinners, weddings and other events all over Chicago.
HOW DID YOU BECOME INVOLVED WITH THIS PHILANTHROPY?
Initially, I always loved helping people. During and after college I had the opportunity to work with the elderly, children and with the homeless population. I love serving and am very passionate about food so it seemed natural for me to gravitate towards this type of work.
WHY IS THIS CAUSE SO IMPORTANT?
It is important because we as members of society should want to see our communities improving. It is like building a house: you can’t just take all the bricks and throw them together. You build a house one brick at a time. Now, to rebuild society where it is more productive, people are successful and barriers (poverty, homelessness and unemployment) are overcome you build it one person at time.
HOW CAN OTHERS GET INVOLVED?
There are many ways to get involved. One could donate, volunteer, refer someone to our programs and services. They could like us on their Facebook page, or attend one of our fund raising events. You could also get involved by coming to one of our restaurants for a meal or have us cater one of your upcoming events.
WHAT IS THE BEST PART ABOUT WORKING WITH A CHARITY?
The best part of working with a charity is helping people. I got a post card from a participant that I have not heard from in years and they wrote, “Thank you for your continued philanthropy, Sharon Ako at IC. I plan to achieve self sufficiency.” It makes my eyes tear up and my heart melt when I see that the people I serve are accomplishing their goals or are making an effort to work towards them. Everyone needs hope and if all I did was give them a little hope to believe that they can, then the mission was accomplished.