(Chicago) – With more than 300 guest in attendance, Illinois State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-3) and author and Walgreens executive Steve Pemberton accepted TASC’s 2014 Leadership Awards at the agency’s annual luncheon at the Westin Michigan Avenue on December 10.
“From supporting smart diversion policies to building up services in communities, Senator Hunter is a champion for the work that brings us all here today,” said TASC President Pamela Rodriguez in presenting TASC’s Justice Leadership Award to Senator Hunter. “She leads legislation that considers the core issues that contribute to cycles of criminal justice involvement, and steers public policy solutions to offer practical, meaningful responses for communities.”
Senator Hunter placed the issue of justice in context. “When we talk about justice, many people think of courts, jails, and prisons. But there are a lot of issues that lead up to criminal justice,” she said. “Poverty, behavioral health, education, unemployment. When we don’t take care of these issues, we don’t have justice.
“There’s no reason to have a revolving door of drugs and crime,” she said. “We all can be part of the solution. By strengthening services in the community, and by creating fair public policies, we shape a better society for people today.”
TASC’s Public Voice honoree, Steve Pemberton, is chief diversity officer and divisional vice president for Walgreens. Raised in abusive foster care situations, Pemberson details his experiences in his book, A Chance in the World: An Orphan Boy, a Mysterious Past, and How He Found a Place Called Home.
In spite of the pain revealed in its pages, “Steve’s book is far from tragic,” said TASC Executive Vice President and COO Peter Palanca. “It contains a powerful story of strength, resiliency, and hope. Steve’s story says that those still suffering are not alone, and it highlights the importance of connected and accountable systems of care.”
In accepting his award, Pemberton said that as he was growing up, he was called a lot of things — “that I’m ugly, I’m broken, and beyond repair. But as TASC proves, no child is ugly, no child is broken, and no child is beyond repair. They were born under circumstances and into situations that they did not ask for, that they did not create, and that none of us would really want for our own children.”
He offered encouragement and praise for organizations and people who help, saying, “The work is not glamorous. We romanticize so many things in our world today. This work is difficult and it’s eminently challenging.”
But there is hope, Pemberton emphasized.
“No one can bring my mother and father back to me, and no one can bring my childhood to me… but I can prove two things without a shadow of a doubt —that their life was not in vain, and that new beginnings are possible.”
“Steve Pemberton and Senator Hunter exemplify why we present our annual awards,” said Rodriguez. “We do this work with the partnership and support of old friends and new — from service providers to government leaders to corporate partners and individuals — and we succeed with the help of exceptional leaders.”
TASC thanks its many generous sponsors, organizations, and individuals who helped make this year’s event the most successful to date. Contributions to TASC suport the agency’s services across Illinois.
For more information on TASC, please visit tasc.org.