Cheers! For Systemic Change

11 years ago, the Associate Board of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless was trying to brainstorm a name for their newest fundraising event, a guest bartending night.  “The prevailing joke was, we needed to come up with a better name than my first suggestion: Carousing for Housing,” remembers current Board Secretary, Shane Hopkin.  Eventually, the name Cheers for Change was suggested.  “We were celebrating systemic change, not your spare coins,” explains CCH’s Director of Development, Michael Nameche.  

The first Cheers For Change event was held at smartbar in April 2012 and featured a DJ set by Chicago DJs Intel & Maker as well as a drag performance by Silky Jumbo.  But the real stars were the 17 people that agreed to campaign for a month ahead of the night to collect virtual “tips” aka donations to CCH for the privilege of playing at being a bartender for one hour.  That first event raised over $16,000 and as Michael Nameche is fond of saying, “Success demands a repeat!”  To spur on the volunteer fundraising efforts, the Bartender Hall of Fame was created to encourage participants to raise $1,000 or more.  

Over 90 other supporters have since taken on the role of guest bartender, raising a cumulative $175,000 at establishments like The Owl, aliveOne and Woodie’s Flat until the pandemic put in-person events on pause.  But last month marked the triumphant return of Cheers For Change at a new location, Central Park Bar in Logan Square. 

On July 13, eight CCH supporters spent an evening in Central Park Bar’s beautiful and spacious beer garden taking drink orders from their friends and family, eventually raising $8,000 to support the work of CCH.  Although Central Park Bar was a new venue, we felt right at home thanks to the team supporting the effort: Four Entertainment Group embraced CCH and this fundraiser over a decade ago and has welcomed us at their other establishments like The Owl and aliveOne time and time again. 4EG says they “enhance neighborhoods” but we also feel like they improve communities with their partnerships. 

Here are a few moments from the evening that helped us restart our favorite fundraiser: 

Nikki DelZenero considers herself “an excellent listener and conversationalist,” so it is no surprise that she entered the CCH Bartender Hall of Fame before the event even began. 

Callie Gilsenan is definitely excited to follow in her older brother Patrick’s footsteps as a Cheers for Change Bartender. 

Ralph Tobias captivates his audience as they wait for their beverages.  Is he telling a joke?  A story?  Or ruminating on a mystery of life?  If you want to be a bartender, you have to be able to do all three. 

Conrad Weres is such a cocktail maestro that he performed in our 2022 Virtual Variety show as well.  This makes it the SECOND time he has utilized his mixology talents to support CCH and we could not be more grateful!