DuPage MLK Advisory Committee debuts new funding source at the return of annual breakfast event

Flyer for the "Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I Have a Dream Breakfast".
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The DuPage County Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Advisory Committee hosted the return of the “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I Have a Dream Breakfast” and introduced a new MLK community fund.

Return of the MLK breakfast

In 1994, the President of Benedictine University Dr. William Carroll established the first Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast event. The annual breakfast ended after his retirement in 2015.

Eight years later, over 200 members of the DuPage County Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Advisory Committee worked throughout 2023 to bring it back.

A new Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Fund

Along with the return, the president and CEO of the DuPage Foundation Mike Sitrick announced the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Fund from the group, seeded by The Inland Real Estate Group of Companies.

The 1,200 people in attendance applauded as Sitrick announced this year’s event raised a net amount of $100,000. The first grant of 2024 will include $10,000 from the fund. 

“This is going to be a permanently endowed community fund that’s going to be focused on making grants in health, human services, and education to DuPage County not-for-profits all around, with a special focus on supporting black, indigenous, and people of color,” said Sitrick.

Regina Brant, Co-chair and founder of Unity Partnership spoke on the impact that fundraising, sponsorships, and funds like this can have on the community. 

“When you keep coming back, you’re feeding a less fortunate child, putting clothes on their backs, putting food in their mouths, putting education in their heads,” said Brant. “You’re giving them an opportunity that they never had before because many of them just wake up to lost causes.”

Illinois was the first state to incorporate MLK Day

The event was MC’d by former president of the National Association of Black Journalists, Art Norman, who explained how the state of Illinois was the first to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“Dr. King’s holiday came out of an idea from the founder of DuPage African Methodist-Episcopal Church. At the time, he was a former Executive Director of the NAACP in Chicago. He went to work for Jim Thompson as his Deputy Chief of Staff,” said Norman.

Art Norman was the president of the National Association of Black Journalists when he was told about the idea, and found it difficult to achieve. He was delighted to see it become a reality.

“He got Harold Washington from the State Representative, he got Cecil Partee, president of the Senate and the final signature on the bill was Jim Thompson, Governor of the state of Illinois, That’s how this came to be,” said Norman. 

Bob Zellner presented with an award

The keynote speaker was Bob Zellner, who worked closely with MLK and was arrested and beaten several times for his activism. 

Though some of his relatives were Ku Klux Klan members, that did not stop him from joining The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Zellner was presented with the Open Doors Award from the MLK Unity Project Committee of DuPage County for his dedication to the civil rights movement. He spoke about Martin Luther King Jr. during the presentation.

“I know he’s with us here today, and he knows that the dream is still alive, and he knows that it looks like we have dark days, it looks like sometimes we’re slipping backward,” said Zellner. “But I know that he would be with us today, and he’d say, I’m hopeful for the future.”

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