The Table is Set for the 2018 Future of Promise Dinner

January 31, 2018 | Chicago, IL

Erie Neighborhood House will host its annual Future of Promise awards dinner on Thursday, March 1, at Chicago’s Radisson Blu Aqua. The event is being co-chaired by ComEd president and CEO Anne Pramaggiore and PNC Illinois president Scott Swanson.

“We have a shared mission with many nonprofit organizations in demonstrating our commitment to making communities stronger and more vibrant by helping our neighbors most in need, including low-income families, immigrants, senior citizens, people with disabilities, and students who need a helping hand,” says Pramaggiore.

Future of Promise

“Erie Neighborhood House is one of those exemplary partner organizations,” she adds, “and I could not be more proud to serve as co-chair of the upcoming dinner with Scott and PNC.”

“The programs and services Erie House provides have empowered people across the city for nearly a century and a half, so it’s an honor for us to invest in their work as co-chair of the Future of Promise awards dinner,” says Swanson. “We believe that success in our great city starts with strong communities, and giving back is one of the most important components.”

The dinner program will highlight STEM initiatives that cross the spectrum of educational programming at Erie House, from its NAEYC-accredited preschool program to after-school options for students in grades K-12 to job skills training for adults.

“This focus is building a foundation for our participants,” says executive director Kirstin Chernawsky. She cites the hands-on activities and workshops Erie House provides as well as exposure through its TEAM mentorship program, which has placed a priority on recruiting mentors currently working in STEM fields.

“Right now our community is underrepresented in the STEM workforce,” she explains, “but we are working to change that narrative. Our staff and volunteers are creating opportunities for our kids and adults to imagine themselves in a variety of STEM-related careers and providing them with the support they need to reach their potential.”

Alex Roman, an Erie House TEAM mentoring program alumnus who is now working as an engineer at Solberg Manufacturing, is one such example. Roman began attending Erie House as an adolescent, having migrated to Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood from his native Puerto Rico. He will share at the awards dinner how Erie House helped him pursue his dream of a STEM career following college graduation. 

Alex Roman

Humboldt Park resident and Erie House alumnus Alex Roman is an engineer at Solberg Manufacturing. He will speak about his experiences at Erie House during the Future of Promise awards dinner on Thursday, March 1. PHOTO BY MELISSA FOX

The program will also honor three community partners with Future of Promise awards: Cheryl Harris, senior vice president, will accept the first-ever Diversity and Inclusion Award on behalf of Allstate Insurance Company; CEO Ron Kaminski will receive the Community Innovator Award on behalf of HBK Engineering; and Charles Matthews, president and CEO, will accept the Corporate Impact Award on behalf of Peoples Gas.

About the Honorees

Cheryl HarrisAllstate Insurance Company | Diversity & Inclusion Award

accepted by Cheryl Harris, Senior Vice President

The Diversity & Inclusion Award is a new honor at the Future of Promise dinner, and Erie House is excited to recognize Allstate Insurance Company for its efforts to support a diverse, inclusive work environment.

Allstate’s commitment to diversity is core to its corporate identity. They believe they’re stronger because of their individual strengths, ideas and perspectives. The collective differences, backgrounds, educations and cultures create an inclusive environment where diverse perspectives are encouraged and embraced. The company believes every voice at Allstate counts.

The relationship Erie House enjoys with Allstate runs deep. In addition to the financial support the organization receives, Erie House board member Randy DeCoursey is vice president of agency service at Allstate, and Heather Mejia, emerging business risk director at Allstate, serves on the Erie Associate Board. Several Erie House staff have participated in the Allstate Fellows program, and volunteers have donated time to the organization through Allstate's Helping Hands initiative.

Last fall, Allstate facilitated a half-day workshop at Erie House entitled Leveraging Inclusive Diversity, making this award particularly timely and appropriate. “We identified diversity and inclusion as one of main agency goals in our latest strategic plan,” explains Chernawsky. “Support from partners like Allstate who have such a wealth of experience in this area has been really valuable in building a more inclusive environment at Erie House.”

Ron KaminskiHBK Engineering | Community Innovator Award

accepted by Ronald G. Kaminski, CEO

Ron Kaminski founded HBK Engineering in Chicago in 1998 and has served as CEO ever since. Two decades later, HBK is licensed to practice in 47 states and has earned a reputation as a respected, trustworthy leader in providing utility infrastructure solutions.

“We could not feel more honored to be recognized by Erie Neighborhood House with the Community Innovator Award,” says Kaminski. “Coming from an organization who has been impacting lives as a community innovator since 1870, it is truly special.”

Kaminski is proud of the way his company has built connections with the communities in which it works. “This award is reflective of the work our employees do every day. HBK is spoiled to serve the region’s utility providers, so that takes our professional services to every neighborhood, no matter how well or underserved that location might be. This experience has provided perspective, motivating our employees to do more and resulting in HBK impacting over 120 not-for-profit organizations annually.”

Supporting the work of an organization like Erie House makes sense to Kaminski and his HBK colleagues. “Our goal is to hire from all the communities our work serves,” Kaminski explains, “so by providing education and quality programming to some of the neighborhoods that have the greatest need, Erie Neighborhood House and HBK are perfectly aligned.”

Charles MatthewsPeoples Gas | Corporate Leader Award

accepted by Charles Matthews, President & CEO

Peoples Gas will receive the evening’s third and final honor, the Corporate Leader Award, in recognition of the company’s deep-rooted relationship with the city of Chicago that dates back more than 165 years.

“Peoples Gas is proud to support Erie House and its longstanding commitment to helping immigrant families succeed and thrive in Chicago,” says Charles Matthews, president and CEO of Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas. The two companies he oversees are part of WEC Energy Group and deliver natural gas to 1 million customers in the city of Chicago and 54 communities within the northern suburbs.

Peoples Gas values the leadership role it plays in the communities it serves, investing in and supporting health and human services, education, community and neighborhood development, the arts, and environmental projects. Given the company’s commitment to STEM education initiatives in particular, the partnership with Erie House feels like a great fit.

“By nurturing the growth and development of our children, Erie House builds stronger, more vibrant communities,” says Matthews. “Erie House’s programs are helping prepare the workforce of tomorrow for the challenges and opportunities they will face in an increasingly competitive labor market.”

“It’s not often that we get to present an award to a partner who has been here longer than us,” says Chernawsky, whose organization began serving Chicago’s West Town neighborhood in 1870—twenty years after Peoples Gas became the city’s first utility company. “We are so grateful for the work Peoples Gas does on a daily basis to help our communities grow stronger.”

The event kicks off with a 5:30 pm cocktail reception in the lobby of the Radisson Blu Aqua’s Atlantic Ballroom. At 6:30 pm, the dinner program begins inside the ballroom with welcoming remarks from Chernawsky and Erie House board president Patricia Perez Gaytan.

Roman will also speak following the debut of brief a film highlighting his success, after which Erie House will host its annual paddle raise auction. The three awards will be presented following dinner.

For more information on attending the dinner or becoming an event sponsor, please visit or call PJH & Associates at (312) 553-2000.


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