We congratulate AACF Executive Director, Evelyn Mensah, for winning a seat in the Chicago Foundation for Women (CFW) 2022 Willie’s Warriors Leadership Initiative cohort. CFW is dedicated to serving women and girls in the Chicagoland area through grantmaking, advocacy, leadership, and organizing for change. CFW’s Willie’s Warriors Leadership Initiative, created in honor of Reverend Willie T. Barrow, Civil Rights activist, minister, co-founder of Operation PUSH, and generational mentor, brings outstanding women leaders together to support and learn from each other and to continue the fight for economic and health empowerment of women and girls.

The 2022 Willie’s Warriors cohort, of 17 members, will work together to co-create a curriculum focusing on systems change, economic empowerment, communications, and building alliances across movements and communities, learning from experts and each other throughout the year. This will be an opportunity for our director to build strong connections with other outstanding African American women leaders across the Chicago region, strengthening our connections with other organizations committed to economic and health equity in Chicago.

Much deserving of this honor, Ms. Mensah is dedicated to empowering women, girls, and youths in her fight to serve our low income Cook County community members. A lifelong humanitarian champion, Ms. Mensah brings a deep commitment to community and public service to everything she does. Serving as Executive Director of AACF initially as an unpaid volunteer, Ms. Mensah works tirelessly to provide low income community members with education, job training, paid internships, job placements, and financial aid in the support of program participant economic growth and empowerment. Through Ms. Mensah’s leadership, 150 youths have succeeded in completing training courses, educational pathways, and secured jobs in the past year, in spite of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Throughout her career as a financial professional, academic administrator and community leader, Ms. Mensah has worked to increase access to opportunity and build safe, thriving communities for all Cook County residents. As a 15-year veteran of the African American Christian Foundation, Ms. Mensah has seen firsthand the challenges facing low-income residents, but also the strength and resilience of our communities. While leading AACF as the Executive Director, Ms. Mensah built strong relationships to connect community residents with resources and make government more available to the people it serves. And as an administrator of our vocational school, KAM Institute of Healthcare and Technology, Ms. Mensah has worked to create an environment in which students and staff could achieve their goals and succeed.

AACF has built a strong service model that has allowed the organization to form new alliances, and launch new and innovative programming. Ms. Mensah is the ideal leader to advance AACF’s mission at this pivotal moment, and we are excited to build on those achievements with her at the rein. In her own words: “Maybe I can help a participant get a clear idea of where they want to go, identify an expansion of opportunities that they have not considered before, or perhaps foster business relationships. Together we will work to discover the next level which is about progress and add to our skill level.” Ms. Mensah thrives on building a community and world in which all women, girls, and youths have the opportunity to achieve their full potential and live in safe, just, and healthy communities.

“With the hard work of my dedicated team members we have addressed the issues of equity and justice by placing 240 low income community members in living wage jobs over the course of the year; providing 1082 supportive services to our youth intern participants and 56 supportive services to working single mothers. We serve a client base of 89% Black and 10% Hispanic, with 56% of our clients being women. I am proud of my dedicated team’s accomplishments yet I know there is much more to be done - especially during the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic-created economic recession. We are gearing up for the new year and excited for what we can accomplish to serve our low income community members - women, girls, and families.” - Evelyn Mensah

Learn more about CFW’s 2022 Willie’s Warriors.


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