2023 Award Recipients
Since 1968, Care for Friends has been empowering Chicagoans to build community and live their best lives.
In 2017, our Community Awards program began recognizing individuals who are making their communities stronger, creating hope and adding zest to the lives of those around them.
We are excited to introduce the winners of the 2024 Power Hope Awards below, and hope that you will join us on September 7th to celebrate their accomplishments. Tickets can be reserved at the event homepage.
Kristen's contributions to the Chicago community are robust and widespread. She is currently the Executive Director of Friends of Prentice Women’s Hospital, committed to superior healthcare spanning the full spectrum of a woman’s life. She also provides community engagement and public service consulting services to clients including the New Coast Foundation, Lincoln Park Community Services, Lawndale Christian Legal Center, and The Women's Justice Institute. She served as Chief of Staff to the CEO of Lifeway Foods, specializing in civic and community engagement work. At Step Up, a mentorship nonprofit for girls, Kristen worked extensively in strategic partnerships, fundraising, events, community relations, professional development, all while supporting high school girls from under-resourced communities in Chicago become confident, college bound, and career-focused. She also provided consulting services to support Step Up’s national expansion.
Kristen is active in the Chicago Irish American community as a member of the Executive Committee of the Ireland Network. Kristen has a MS in Public Service Management from DePaul University, a Non-Profit Executive Certificate from University of Notre Dame – Mendoza College of Business, and a BA in Political Science from Eastern Illinois University. Kristen’s passion is social justice & advocates for peace, healthcare, & equality especially concerning women, children & refugees.
In late 2020, Kristen was named 26 Most Influential Chicagoans for her extensive contributions to the community. Spreading light and love through her activities with far-reaching community involvement, Kristen positively impacts the Chicago community. She is effective and compassionate, an absolute delight to work with, and tireless in her devotion to improving the lives of girls and women in the community.
Friends of Prentice Hospital
Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias was sworn into office as Illinois’ 38th Secretary of State on
January 9, 2023. He is committed to transforming operations through modernization efforts, which improve customer service, expand online services and reduce wait times. In addition, he is seeking to strengthen state ethics laws to curb corruption, protect voter rights and increase registration opportunities, and enhance public libraries to make learning resources more accessible across the state.
On his first day in office, Secretary Giannoulias signed a wide-ranging Executive Ethics Order to
improve transparency, enhance protections afforded to victims of sexual harassment or threats of
violence, and simplify the public’s ability to submit complaints to the Inspector General’s office.
He also released his Transition Team’s comprehensive report that serves as a blueprint for modernizing
the office, expanding services and transforming operations to best serve the people of Illinois.
Secretary Giannoulias graduated cum laude from Boston University with a degree in economics and
earned a law degree from Tulane University’s School of Law. He is a lifelong Chicagoan and still calls
the city home along with his wife and their three daughters.
Illinois Secretary of State
Reginald Hicks is a consultant whose focus is to bring attention to the importance of male involvement within the lives of children, families and communities, while enhancing the parenting skills that fathers possess. In his professional career Reggie has worked as a system navigator for fatherhood programs, as a school based mentor, an afterschool site director, a workforce development trainer and mentor, a male involvement consultant, community based mentor, and as a re-entry project manager.
Reggie is currently the Senior Resident Service Coordinator for Catholic Charities of Chicago and served on the Community Violence Prevention Program steering committee, the Duly Involved Youth committee for the State of Illinois and the Bronzeville Youth Consortium committee. He began partnering with Care for Friends while at Fathers, Families, and Healthy Communities and continues to partner with them in his role at CCC. Mr. Hicks has expertise on a variety of issues related to men, boys, and family strengthening. He holds a M.A. in Inner City studies from Northeastern Illinois University.
Catholic Charities of Chicago
The cofounder of Derkin and Kula, Colleen is a licensed Clinical Therapist helping patients find skills and tools to find peace and healing. She previously served as the CEO of one of the largest national behavioral healthcare treatment facilities - providing high quality treatment and specialized care to women and girls in a 42-acre holistitc setting.
Colleen expertly recognizes the complexity of mental illness and the power of its associated biological and genentic underpinnings. She is dedicated to the development of new and effective treatments, recognizing that too many are lapsing to unhealthy conditions.
With this background, Colleen is not doing just one act of hope, she is spreading hope daily. She volunteers her time to better the community, cheers on new businesses, supports a friend, and most importantly brings joy and positivity to wnatever she is doing.
Colleen holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology. Previously, Colleen completed an undergraduate study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, with a Bachelor's Degree in Human Development and Family Studies.
Colleen Kula Hopkins
Derkin & Kula, Inc.
Scott has been happily involved with Care for Friends for more than ten years. He and his wife Kate volunteered initially with their daughter and her middle school Sunday school class. This grew into the family being regular participants and, soon after, he took on the co-leader role with Steve Clifford. In summer of 2021, Scott moved into the role of sole Team Lead C.
Not only is the food and health assistance Care for Friends provides important to Scott, but he really enjoys putting together a meal using the ingredients at hand with a group of friends. They have a fun time and it's great to see people enjoying the food they've prepared.
In his professional career, Scott is the Vice President of Information Technology Services at Smithbucklin, an association management company based in Chicago. He is also very interested in architecture, music and Chicago. He has volunteered at the Chicago Architecture Center as well as annually with Open House Chicago.
Care for Friends
Hot Meals Team Lead
Chicago local Violeta Podrumedic grew up in a restaurant family where she learned hard work, grit, and gained a passion for serving others. She began her radio career at WGN Radio where she worked as an associate producer in the Newsroom, a street reporter, and then on air personality/Traffic Reporter. Today you can catch the first generation Serbian on The Mix Morning Show on 101.9 The Mix from 5:30am - 10am.
Her passion for volunteerism started at a young age and continues today through her “Volunteer with Violeta” events that help highlight various organizations and show people how easy and rewarding it is to get involved. Once a month Violeta heads to a different part of the City and Suburbs with roughly 20 listeners to volunteer together and make a difference in local communities. Violeta has worked with the Well of Mercy, Boys and Girls Club, Community Building Tutors, Friends of the Chicago River, Shore Community Services, PAWS Chicago, Nourishing Hope, Lincoln Park Community Services, Care for Friends, and many other wonderful organizations.
Violeta’s mission each morning is to spread as much joy as possible and continue to bring people and communities together through active volunteerism. “I find people want to make a positive change; they just need a little help to do it. The more opportunities we make for people to get involved the more they will and it starts changing every aspect of their life for the better, we all start paying it forward” .
101.9 The Mix Morning Show
Robbie has been volunteering with the U.S. Citizenship Program of School District 214 as a “mock interviewer” and tutor for immigrants hoping to become citizens, for almost three years. In the 2022-23 academic year,
the District offered nine citizenship classes, which were taught in English, Spanish, Polish and Russian. Over 400 hopeful adult immigrants participated this year. Robbie conducts practice interviews for five of these classes, helping prepare students for their formal interviews at the USCIS offices in downtown Chicago. Each year she and her fellow volunteers conduct over 75 “mock interviews” (including repeat interviews) with an average 95% pass rate each year for those students who have completed their D214 course. Almost 200 students became naturalized American citizens this academic year!
With a BA in Cultural Anthropology and an MA in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago, Robbie appreciates the hard work these adult immigrant students and their families must do to learn English and adjust to American culture. Robbie understands her students’ fears and helps them practice
remaining calm under the pressure of the immigration officers who conduct the testing interviews.
Robbie also conducts mock citizenship interviews for the Hebrew Immigrant and Aid Society (HIAS) and in the past has taught beginner ESL classes for Oakton Community College’s VITA program, in addition to assisting in citizenship classes at Literacy Chicago downtown. Her previous professional work includes a variety of non-profit administration and informal education positions over a 30 year career.
U.S. Citizenship Program
Chris is the embodiment of hope, and it's hope that has driven him to reach for more, seek more, be more, and help and uplift others! Chris is the founder of the South Side-based foundation the L.Y.D. Foundation. One of his favorite places is the Monument to the Great Migration in Bronzeville, a space that brings him inspiration because it inspires so much HOPE, something he believes is the most important thing we can hold on to.
Among many other campaigns and initiatives, he is currently planning to do a campaign called Ten in Ten in which he runs 10 Marathons in 10 months to raise awareness and funds for his youth mentoring, financial literacy, and food insecurity initiatives he does throughout the South Side in Englewood, Bronzeville, South Shore, and other areas. Chris is an incredibly wonderful, giving, thoughtful, and powerful person who started this small foundation to directly impact his immediate community.
He works tirelessly, on his own, to give school supplies and backpacks to youth, fresh fruit and veggies to seniors, and provide financial literacy to struggling community members. He's also a marathoner and ultramarathoner who uses his sport to fundraise. He has a fascinating story of overcoming many barriers and staying in his community to make a difference.