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!
The Associate Board of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless will once again host an afternoon of indoor rock climbing at the Brooklyn Boulders at the Lincoln Park location (2121 N. Clybourn).
The event runs from 3 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 16. Tickets are $30 per person and can be purchased here. $20 of each ticket goes to support CCH’s mission to prevent and end homelessness.
Included with the ticket is an instructional demonstration by the venue staff and all the necessary gear for the climb. Guests are welcome to bring their own beverages to be consumed after the climb. This event happens rain or shine because it is indoors!
CCH’s Associate Board has been active since 2008, staging fundraising events to support CCH’s mission and spreading awareness of the work that CCH does. Anyone interested in learning more about how to become involved with the efforts of the Associate Board is welcome to contact the membership co-chairs through this interest form.
Today’s essay is written by Associate Board Advocacy Chair Lindsay Welbers.
Part of the reason that I volunteer to support the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is because they don’t normally ask me for direction. CCH believes that the best people to understand homelessness, and the work that needs to be done to eliminate it, are people who understand that experience. That doesn’t include me, because I have never experienced life on the streets, in a shelter, or doubled-up with someone else. In working with CCH’s grassroots leaders, who do have that experience, I’ve learned a few things: Homelessness is not a moral failing on anyone except the society that allows it to exist, and the kinds of people who experience homelessness are more like me than I thought.
Today’s essay is written by Associate Board President Sara Szwankowski.
Hi! I’m Sara Szwankowski, a member of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless Associate Board. I have been a member since 2016, serving a few roles during my time on the board. I began as a general member, moved into leadership roles with the exec committee, and am currently serving a second term as President of the Associate Board.
By Sophie Babcock, Associate Board Co-Vice President, Events
Do you have a talent or fun skill you’re proud of? Or know someone in your network who does? We are now recruiting participants for the CCH Associate Board’s second annual virtual Variety Show on Thursday, December 16 starting at 7 p.m.
Whether you are a singer, dancer, musician, comic, or just someone who loves to take on a fundraising challenge, we invite you to participate! Last year’s show featured talents ranging from pie-eating to juggling, so please don’t be shy and feel free to think outside of the box.