Sisters Form a Brotherhood

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The ladies of the 7th District Women’s Advisory Committee joined U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-7) to host a town hall meeting on March 30 at the Westside Center of Truth. The meeting was to explore women’s issues and celebrate Women’s History Month. It also was to highlight the achievements of female leaders in the community.

Davis began the meeting by saying, “Americans have made a lot of progress but we still have a long way to go.” He went on to note that not so long ago, women weren’t considered citizens with the right to vote. In 1920, a constitutional amendment was passed to allow women the right to vote. African Americans, however, had to wait until 1965 for discriminatory laws to get nixed by the Civil Rights Act. Before then, they were cut completely out of the primaries and were charged a poll tax of $2 when they did vote. If you worked in the field, $2 was an entire day of work. Davis remarked that it’s important to know history and the changes that have been made.

The 7th District Women’s Hall of Fame was created to honor those women who have made great contributions to the community. Women such as C. O’Quinn, who started the Young Peoples’ Club; Ida Mae Fletcher, who founded a day care center; and Earline Lindsey, who created the Mile Square Health Center and other health programs for the West Side, were all awarded a place in the Women’s Hall of Fame at the meeting. Among these women was also Belle Whaley, who established Operation Brotherhood (OB) with the help of her husband.

Operation Brotherhood is an organization that was formed because of the urgent need for the basics like food for the elderly. The desperate and depressing way some of Chicago’s elderly and the handicapped were living gave Belle and Eugene Whaley the idea for the organization. Its aim was to aid and assist a group of people that had been neglected by society and the government. In 1970, this West Side operation began providing for and protecting the elderly by teaching them how to be self sufficient.

Some of the people are separated from their families; some have no family at all. These people are cut off from any human contact except from those in the organization. Staff and volunteers provide basic needs to the community in a way that enhances the quality of their lives and which helps to make each person independent.

In 1975, OB incorporated as an Illinois non-profit corporation and received their federal tax-exempt status. Belle Whaley served as Operation Brotherhood’s director for 15 years until she died in 1990. OB is now governed by a board of directors and staffed by individuals who receive a minimum wage. The organization’s advisory board includes the Rev. Jack Bomar, Dr. Sarah Harper, Marsha Harrris, Mark J. Maluga –MA, LCPC, Marvin Philpot, and the Rev. Vernon F. Ward, Jr. The staff includes Floyd Allen, Matthew Bell, Flora Brockman, Crystal McGee and Cecelia Mckenzie and numerous volunteer members who mostly live in the Lawndale community.

OB supports the low-income and no-income by offering employment to low-income seniors, placing people on parole in jobs in the community, initiating programs for the homeless and assisting with payment of utility bills for those in financial need. They have purely social programs where the people of the community go on field trips or visit museums and city-sponsored events and ethnic festivals. This is considered a great way for the community to bond and enjoy each other’s company. Most importantly, they always serve lunch.

The True Life volunteers are seniors who also receive the services they provide. Other volunteers come from nearby churches and organizations. Volunteers help with the daily tasks that keep the operation running smoothly.

OB gets extra help from donations, foundations, clothing and food that is donated by individuals as well as from America’s Second Harvest – the nation’s food bank network. OB also has ties with different clinics, hospitals and other organizations which allow OB to offer on site-health services. Once a month, Dr. Scholl’s College of Podiatry Medicine examines and treats people for free. Moreover, an optometrist is available and OB has staff who periodically check blood-pressure, blood-sugar and cardiopulmonary rates.

In addition to health services, OB has a range of classes that teach exercise, dance, music and arts and crafts. Currently, OB is planning a culinary program. The new cooking classes will be run in conjunction with the Chicago Public School system and will teach students how to cook and serve in a real setting.

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