Meg McElroy, former Manager, Policy and Advocacy
On March 10th, 2022, AIDS Foundation Chicago (AFC) said goodbye to a wonderful team member, Meg McElroy, as she takes her next career step. She worked at this organization for the past three and a half years as the Manager of Policy & Advocacy. Although she was known for her work on Getting to Zero Illinois, Meg had her hands in many legislative and coalition projects working towards reproductive health access and HIV decriminalization. In her last few days as a member of the AFC team, Meg reflected on her work, her environment, and how they helped mold her into the person she is today. When asked about how working at AFC aided in both her professional and personal growth, Meg opened up about how the diversity at AFC, and the lack of diversity in her previous career spaces, had a significant impact on her.
“Growing up, at school, and through my early tenure in my career were white-dominated and focused on issues impacting and prioritizing the dominant white culture. These institutions, and in turn I, did not examine or explore the intersectional identities people brought into spaces. In my early 20s was fortunate to be able to do some endurance work with Team to End AIDS (T2), and it opened my eyes to a world and an experience I never walked through. AFC has brought such amazing people into my life with rich and vibrant histories, experiences, and identities. These colleagues, and now friends, have allowed me to examine, work and look through a lens much more critical of intersectional identities and focus on race and racial health equity.”
To be an ally in this line of work, especially one that supports those most impacted by systemic racism and health disparities, it is important to leave space for the hardships that are outside of your own to uplift those who need it most. This was a mindset Meg made sure to strengthen in her time at AFC. Working here pushed her to critically examine the diverse needs and experiences of the communities AFC has the honor to serve, while also confronting her own privilege. While Meg was overwhelmingly positive in regard to her experience and work, she was able to be critical of areas for growth.
“AFC, for all the wonderful work we do, needs to continue to prioritize and elevate the communities we engage with. This paradigm shift, which AFC is already working towards with the Racial Equity Action Plan, needs to honor its communities in a way that is reciprocal and meaningful. The organization should reflect those most impacted by HIV, as community knows what they need best.”
This thinking ties into the kind of legacy Meg wished to leave behind at this organization. With a clinical background, Meg valued the importance of active listening, validating feelings and experiences. To her, a work environment should allow its staff to be their complete selves, not requiring them to segment or hide certain parts of their identity out of fear or discomfort.
“Nadeen Israel and Kim Hunt have created a culture within our team in which I’m valued as a whole person. To be truly connected with one another allows us to be more authentic advocates and allies. When you can show up and feel not only accepted but celebrated, this allowed me to focus on the complex work we were doing. I never had to be worried about being a member of the LGBTQ community, or being married or being a parent, or being a woman. Those intersections inform how I walk through the world and engage at the tables I sit at. I could show up knowing all of me is valued and celebrated.”
AFC has nurtured a work environment that allows its employees to carry an air of transparency and empathy towards each other. Staff have been known to discuss not only their work-related hardships and goals, but personal ones as well, learning and growing from both. Because at this organization, we are more than just our job titles, we are people with unique experiences and backgrounds that can be brought to the table. Meg had spent many of her years creating those tables and hopes they will continue to be utilized even after she is gone.
“Everybody shows up as their unique selves and in my mind and experience, that authenticity is what makes AFC this beautifully interwoven community.”
AIDS Foundation Chicago wishes Meg McElroy the utmost success in her future career endeavors, as we will always recognize her as a part of the family. The work she was able to accomplish, and the relationships she built will leave a lasting impact on this organization.
Categorized under AFC news.