Women's Connection Summit of Hope Goes Above and Beyond

June 1, 2023

By Tyline Burgess, Communications Manager, AFC

CHICAGO, IL – This year’s Women’s Connection Summit of Hope truly lived up to its name by restoring hope and helping to connect women to the resources they need. The free expo was thoughtfully curated and, hosted by AIDS Foundation Chicago’s Dept of Community Partnerships & Special Projects Headed by Cynthia Tucker and includes, L’Oreal Bailey, Tamika Foust, Donnise Gafeney, Nicole Baldwin, and Anthony Dupree and partners brought together local service providers in one space to offer a unique experience for women looking to reenter society after experiencing hardships including incarceration and homelessness. 

The sounds of chatter and laughter could be heard echoing throughout the stairwell of the packed Jumphire Venue located at 328 Albany Ave in Chicago’s West side. The event was filled with women (75 participants + 40 Vendors) eager to take advantage of the opportunities the expo was sure to present. "We had people here before the doors even opened. So that was enough to be excited about. This summit is a shining example of the exceptional work that AFC can accomplish along with cooperative partners." said Nicole Baldwin, one of the event’s coordinators.

The attendees of the event represented a wide range of women but mostly consisted of Black and Brown women, both cis and trans. They were treated to a welcoming environment where they received information on practical issues such as sexual health, job opportunities, and training. They also received spiritual and emotional support in the form of religious outreach programs and traditional spiritual healers and life coaches. "I'm inspired. You can't walk into here and not come out with something good and beneficial," commented one of the event participants.

At the opening of the expo, the women were all provided with a form that listed each station. Upon visiting a vendor, the ladies were given a sticker showing completion; as a reward for completing the forms individuals were treated to a complimentary full body massage on the second floor where they also were given access to free jewelry, handbags, and other accessories. It was lovely to see that participants weren’t just given a complimentary meal, some information, and then sent out into the world. The beauty of this expo was that the women were provided an experience of comfort and community and the opportunity to address their needs as a whole human, mind, body, and spirit. Not only was this an informative event it was an enjoyable one. These women were able to get the information they needed and then some.  " I think the turnout was good, seeing the ladies and the vendors come together just warms my heart. It reignited my passion and fire and reminded me of why we do what we do. We need every chance to love on the people that we serve and to let them know that we are with you." said Tamika Foust, one of the event’s organizers.

The Women’s Connection Summit of Hope was an event that left one not only filled with a feeling of hope but also motivation and inspiration. “Hosting the Women's Connection Summit of Hope was an opportunity for us to create a one-stop shop for women to come in, and get all the information and resources they need from case management, housing, employment, and mental health. And also to get some empowerment tools to help them and make sure that they can really thrive in their lives. And it shows the community can come together and care for those we serve." said Dr. Cynthia Tucker, Senior VP of Prevention & Community Partnerships at AFC, when asked about the event.

By providing the summit’s attendants access to vendors offering case management, employment, housing, prevention, and legal support the Women’s Connection Summit of Hope embodied many aspects of AFC’s Strategic Plan, especially its objective to team up for justice and change. This summit united the community and not only brought about change for a day in the lives of these ladies but potentially change that impacts the rest of their lives and the lives of those around them. It’s not enough to plant seeds and to expect a garden to grow, we must also water and nurture them. This summit sowed seeds of change in every woman in attendance that day while also pouring into them spiritually and mentally. By also connecting them to services to support their mental health and a little pampering too, this summit helped nurture an environment where growth is possible and where hope can flourish as change takes place.

The Women’s Connection summit of hope was sponsored by AFC, the IIllinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), the Public Health Institute of Metropolitan Chicago, Jumphire and the Women Connection taskforce.




Categorized under AFC news, Chicago, Inside Story, Prevention and Special events.

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