Good Evening Friends and Supporters!

Welcome to the Trellus 45th Anniversary Gala,
“A Celebration of Voices.”

Whether you’ve been a steadfast advocate of Trellus for many years or are just beginning your journey with us, we are thrilled to have you join us.

Forty-five years ago, a remarkable group of individuals from Cambodia responded to a crisis faced by their community, the plight of escaping internment camps in Vietnam. Their commitment established a bond of trust and rooted us firmly in the refugee community, eventually extending to other communities in need. It is because of their enduring commitment that we stand here today, devoted to welcoming newcomers to our city.

Tonight, our focus is on amplifying the voices of those who often go unheard and acknowledging individuals who embody our values: Embrace Community, Advance Opportunity, Bolster Learning and Growth, Honor Diversity, Foster Collaboration, and Champion People.

We extend our heartfelt thanks for your support. We extend our appreciation to our exceptional staff and dedicated teachers, whose unwavering commitment to our clients and scholars forms the very essence of our organization. And to our Board of Directors, we thank you for your leadership, guidance, and expertise. Together, we can continue to remove barriers and provide supports that create opportunities for life.

Chris and Rebecca

A Celebration of Voices

Keynote Speaker

Ishmael Beah

Ishmael Beah is a bestselling author and UNICEF advocate for children affected by war. His #1 New York Times bestselling memoir A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier has been published in more than 40 languages and sold over 2.6 million copies. As The Washington Post urged: “everyone in the world should read this book.” A rare firsthand account, A Long Way Gone was hailed by Entertainment Weekly as “a clear-eyed, undeniably compelling look at wartime violence” and the book was named by TIME as one of the top 10 nonfiction books of 2007. He is at work on a follow-up memoir that picks up where A Long Way Gone left off, recounting his time living in South Africa and other far-flung locales before ending up in New York City. Radiance of Tomorrow is a tender parable about postwar life that was named one of The Christian Science Monitor’s best fiction books of 2014. His latest, Little Family, is a post-colonial coming-of-age novel that The Washington Post praised as “an empathy-expanding story without the heavy gears of polemical fiction.” A vocal activist for children scarred by violence, Beah has testified before the United States Congress, as well as spoken for the United Nations and the Council on Foreign Relations. He was appointed as UNICEF’s first Advocate for Children Affected by War, and currently serves as the Vice-Chair of Narrative 4, a global organization founded by Colum McCann and headed up by some of the world’s most renowned and influential authors, artists, and community leaders who have come together to promote empathy through the exchange of stories. Beah’s writing has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, TIME, The International Herald Tribune, The Globe & Mail, and The Guardian. He lives with his wife and children in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

A Celebration of Voices

Mission in Motion Award Recipient

Noordin Shahab

Originally from Kabul, Afghanistan. He was one of many Afghanis who participated in the 2021 Kabul airlift after the Taliban took over. After waiting in Abu Dhabi for a year to process his paperwork, he found his way to Chicago and to Trellus as a client. Shahab studied graphic design at Kabul University in Afghanistan. He used his design skills as an activist, advocating for women’s right to read at a local NGO and as a graphic design intern for the development department at Trellus. Shahab has recently been promoted to work as an operations assistant at Trellus. In addition to that role, Shahab works full time at O’Hare assisting passengers. He enjoys the way both of these roles connect him with many different people and cultures. In the future, Shahab has a goal to continue his education at one of the universities in Chicago.

A Celebration of Voices

American Airlines API Employee Business Resource Group Corporate Partnership Award

For the past year, the American Airlines Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Group Chicago Chapter have been staunch Trellus partners, in support of our Passages Charter School scholars. The American Airlines AAPI Group champions compassion, cultural sensitivity, and a sense of belonging for all, making it the perfect fit for an elementary school that focuses keenly on the needs of refugee, immigrant, and displaced students and families.

The relationship was spearheaded by AAPI Volunteer Global Lead Maria Gutierrez, whose father was a longtime art therapy student and attended high school in the building that now houses Passages. It was an auspicious sign that led to a partnership of great benefit to our scholars.

Since engaging in 2022, the AAPI Group Chicago Chapter has sponsored a book bag and school supplies drive, a fall festival, and a highly popular eighth-grade field trip to O’Hare Airport where our young scholars got a guided tour of the airline’s operations, including visiting the tower, meeting with two Chief Officers, and going aboard a 737 airplane. The Chapter also provided book bags and school supplies to our autumn 2023 scholars.

We could not be more grateful and look forward to continued partnership in the year ahead!

A Celebration of Voices

This Evening’s MC

Joanna Hernandez

Joanna Hernandez is a correspondent for “Chicago Tonight” who is excited to return to Chicago after reporting in New York for five years.

At News 12, she shot, wrote and edited stories and eventually became the station’s morning breaking news reporter, covering a variety of topics and launching the station’s first digital reporting initiative. Hernandez was raised in the Rogers Park neighborhood and has a passion for telling stories about the people and organizations making an impact in their communities. She received her degree from Columbia College Chicago.

A Celebration of Voices

Wine Pull and 50/50 Raffle

Wine Pull

Here’s how it works!

  1. Purchase a wine pull ticket for $25.
  2. Select or “pull” a random bottle of wine, which may be worth much more than $25.
  3. Take that bottle home with you knowing your participation helps fund the programs that refugees and immigrants rely on at Trellus!

50/50 Raffle

Here’s how it works!

  1. Purchase one (or several!) raffle tickets.
  2. At the end of the night, we will pull one raffle ticket from the bin and whoever has the corresponding ticket will win half of the proceeds.
  3. The other half of the money raised is contributed to Trellus to help fund Passages School, behavioral health, community health, adult education, and our workforce development programs!

A Celebration of Voices

Our Sponsors

Presenting Sponsors

Mission Sponsors

Vision Sponsors

Empowerment Sponsors

Opportunity Sponsors

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