Nov. 30 – Dollie Brewer retired Monday.
And it seemed a little too quiet this week without her upbeat personality in the office.
A senior community organizer, Mrs. Brewer staffed the Women’s Empowerment Project for almost 19 years. Over the years, Dollie reached thousands of homeless mothers with young children or single women. In recent years, she also helped mobilize low-wage men for the Fight for $15.
A staff breakfast honored Dollie and Executive Director Ed Shurna, who also retired Monday.
Gloria Davis, a CCH leader, pointed out that for many, Dollie’s name is synonymous with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.
“Isn’t that the place where Miss Dollie works?” people would ask.
Dollie has been among five current staff members who experienced homelessness in their personal lives. In the late 1990s, she lived in an abandoned building for six months – with her husband, five younger children and a grandchild – after a fire hit her family’s suburban Oak Park home.
Dollie recalled that after participating in CCH outreach, “I learned I was homeless – I was in denial.” Dollie became an active leader in the women’s project, and was asked to join the staff in February 1997.
Dollie fostered rapport, trust and hope among the women she met. Her shelter outreach helped homeless women change their lives, creating a supportive atmosphere in which their voices were heard. Participants learned to be advocates for themselves and leaders for other families also struggling with homelessness. In the past year, she ran monthly outreach at 11 facilities, eight serving families and three for adults.
Dollie is excited to start her retirement, with plans to spend time with her extended family. Dollie and her late husband raised eight children, and she looks forward to visits with her children, 28 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
– Photos by Adriana Scurto and Dasia Skinner / Anne Bowhay, Media