Advisory Board

Carl Alaimo, Sr., Psy.D.

Advisor

Dr. Alaimo retired December 2007 after 26½ years of service as the Director and Chief Psychologist of Mental Health Services at Cermak Health Services of Cook County. Cermak is the on site health care provider for the Cook County Department of Corrections (Cook County Jail). The Cook County Jail is the largest single site jail facility in the United States serving an average daily census of 10,000 detainees.

Dr. Alaimo has over forty years experience in the fields of mental health service, chemical dependency and substance abuse treatment. He has provided training and program assistance to jail and prison mental health and substance abuse programming. Dr. Alaimo has worked closely with the State of Illinois Division of Mental Health, the Circuit Court of Cook County – Criminal Justice Division, and the Chicago Police Department Crisis Intervention Team creating major changes in the provision of mental health care to incarcerated mentally ill detainees during and after incarceration.

Dr. Alaimo currently teaches about the mentally ill incarcerated and Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training at the Cook County Sheriff’s Bureau of Training and Education, and with MH Consultants on Crisis Intervention Team training.

Dr. Alaimo has served on the Board of Directors member for National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Illinois, NAMI-Greater Chicago, and Thresholds Inc.

Dr. Alaimo is the recipient of the 2007 State of Illinois Department of Mental Health Forensic Services Award, the 2007 Illinois National Alliance for the Mentally Ill Heroes In the Fight Award, and the 2005 National Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Greater Chicago Mike Flannery Community Service Award, and the recipient of the Illinois Psychological Association 2005 Humanitarian Award. Dr. Alaimo is a 1998 Join Together National Leadership Fellow from Boston University School of Public Health.

The Honorable William J.P. Banks

Advisor, First Donor

Known as the “Leader of Readers,” the Honorable William J.P. Banks was the longest serving Alderman of the 36th Ward of the City of Chicago. In addition to his countless innovations and contributions, he supported three libraries and built a new multimillion dollar library in his Ward, was tireless in his support of lifelong reading, early childhood education, children and the annual Chicago Public Library Summer Reading Program.

As principal in the law firm of Schain Banks Kenny and Schwartz LTD he counsels his clients on matters relating to land use, zoning, real estate development, real estate tax reduction, litigation strategy, developer incentives and state, county and federal governmental relations and approvals.

In conjunction with his role as Alderman, The Honorable William J.P. Banks served as Chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Zoning, and Chairman of the Mayor’s Zoning Reform Commission which was responsible for updating and rewriting the City of Chicago Zoning Ordinance.

Prior to his election as Alderman, The Honorable William J.P. Banks served as Chief Research Aide and Legal Counsel to U.S. Congressman Morgan F. Murphy. He later handled over 10,000 cases in his position as Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of Chicago.

He is the former 36th Ward Democratic Committeeman and former Treasurer of the Cook County Democratic Party.
He has won over 600 awards for civic and professional achievements.

Education
  • JD, 1975, DePaul University College of Law
  • BA, 1971, DePaul University
Bar Admissions

Illinois

  • United States Supreme Court
  • Professional and Civic Affiliations:
  • Chicago Bar Association
  • A Brotherhood Aimed Towards Education (A.B.A.T.E), Chicago Chapter
  • The Belmont Central Chamber of Commerce
  • Blue Ribbon Commission of the Chicago Coalition to Save our Mental Health Centers
  • The District Council for the Boy Scouts of America
  • The Fraternal Order of Police
  • The Galewood-Montclare Community Organization
  • The Joint Civic Committee of Italian-Americans
  • The Justinian Society of Lawyers
  • The North Austin Business Association
  • The Montclare-Elmwood Park Chamber of Commerce
  • The Polish National Alliance
Honors and Awards

More than 600 Awards for Professional and Civic Achievements

  • May 5, 2016 Mental Health Champion Award – Presented by The Coalition to Save our Mental Health Centers
  • September 9, 2009 Congratulatory Resolution – Passed by Mayor Richard M. Daley and the Chicago City Council in recognition of Mr. Banks’ retirement from City Council
  • July 28, 2009 Recognition in the Congressional Record – Presented by Congressman Michael Quigley in a speech before the United States Congress honoring Mr. Banks’ retirement from Chicago’s City Council
  • 2006 Recognition Award for Veterans’ Rights Work – Presented by the Secretary of the U.S. Army
  • 2006 Presidents Community Service Award – Presented by the Chicago Association of Realtors in recognition of his dedicated efforts to reform Chicago’s Zoning Ordinance.
  • 2005 Friends of Downtown Award- Best Planning Document of the Year – Presented by the Friends of Downtown in recognition of Alderman Banks’ leadership in rewriting the City’s Zoning Code
  • 2005 Person of the Year Award – Presented by the Illinois Political Fund
  • 2005 Person of the Year Award – Presented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union
  • 2004 Recognition in the Congressional Record – Presented by Congressman Rahm Emmanuel and approved by the United States Congress for achievement in rewriting the Chicago Zoning Ordinance
  • 2004 President’s Award – Presented by Local 150 and the International Union of Operating Engineers
  • 2004 Mentor Award – Presented by the Justinian Society of Lawyers
  • 2004 Leonardo DaVinci Award – Presented by the Sons of Italy
  • 2001 Recognition Award – Presented in recognition of Alderman Banks’ continued support for the veteran’s community
  • 2000 Recognition Award – Presented by the Festival of Chefs, an organization aiding disabled individuals
  • 2000 Recognition Award – Presented by the United States Marine Corps for organization and participation in the Toys for Tots program
  • 1999 Recognition Award – Presented by the United States Marine Corps for organization and participation in the Toys for Tots program
  • 1998 Recognition Award – Presented by the United States Marine Corps for organization and participation in the Toys for Tots program
  • 1997 Award of Appreciation for Outstanding Public Service – Presented by the Knights of Columbus
  • 1996 Public Service Award – Presented by the 25th Police District Steering Committee, the North Austin Business Association, and the Northwest Neighborhood Foundation
  • 1995 Public Service Award – Presented by the 25th Police District Steering Committee, the North Austin Business Association, and the Northwest Neighborhood Foundation
  • 1994 Public Service Award – Presented by the 25th Police District Steering Committee, the North Austin Business Association, and the Northwest Neighborhood Foundation
  • 1994 Recognition Award – Presented by the Chicago Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America
  • 1994 Public Service Award – Presented by the Northwest Neighborhood Federation
  • 1994 Outstanding Public Service Award – Presented by the 25th Police District for fighting crime on Harlem Avenue in the 36th Ward
  • 1994 Service Award for Community Service in Fighting Crime – An award rarely given to political figures presented by the 25th District Beat Representative Program
  • 1991 Award of Excellence – Presented by the Justinian Society of Italian American Lawyers
  • 1991 Award for Cooperation with the Police – Presented by the Commander of the 25th Police District for cooperation with law enforcement in furtherance of community law
  • 1990 Honorary Chairman – Presented by the Villa Scalabrini Golf Outing
  • 1990 Named 25th District Beat Representative – Alderman Banks was named as a 25th Police District Beat Representative
  • 1986 Ray Sweitzer Community Service Award – Presented by the Northwest Neighborhood Foundation – this award is the highest recognition ever given by the Northwest Neighborhood Federation and the first of its kind
  • 1986 One Man Makes a Difference Award – Save Our Neighborhoods, Save Our City Coalition
  • 1985 Man of the Year Award – Presented by the Italian-American Police Association
  • 1983 Man of the Year – Presented by the West Suburban Chapter of Unico, an Italian-American Civic Organization
  • 1979 President’s Award – Presented by the North River Commission for the prosecution of neglectful landlords in the Albany Park area

Sujin B.E. Huggins, Ph.D.

Advisor

Sujin B.E. Huggins, Ph.D. is an associate professor in the prestigious School of Information Studies at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois.

She teaches in the areas of youth services librarianship, reference, and community informatics. Her research interests include literature of the African diaspora for youth – particularly Caribbean children’s literature – critical pedagogy in Library Information Science (LIS), community informatics, storytelling, and taxonomy of folktales.

She has served on the American Library Association’s (ALA) Coretta Scott King Book Award Committee which annually selects African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that “demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values. The award commemorates the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and honors his wife, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood.”

Dr. Huggins’ other professional association memberships include The International Research Society for Children’s Literature (IRSCL), and the United States Board of Books for Young People (USBBY).

Additionally, she served on the board of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS ) – funded Targeting Autism Project of the Illinois State Library and currently serves on the board of the Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature – one of the leading educational research centers in the field of multicultural literature.

Prior to pursuing the doctoral degree, Dr. Huggins worked as a children’s librarian at the Port of Spain Children’s Library of the National Library of Trinidad and Tobago.

Monique McBride

Advisor - Parent Participant Representative

Monique McBride has the distinctions of being our first and longest program participant, as well as our first official parent participant representative advisor.

Long before being invited by us to be an advisor, she had taken the initiative in exemplifying that role. She has shared our program possibilities with other parents; shared ideas for topics and titles of books, and modeled the success of our literacy programs in her own children’s lives.

It was thrilling to hear her tell us how she was offered a job at her daughters’ day care because the owner’s noticed how well she had prepared her own children to read and love books.

It was not an easy achievement. When her daughter was only four months old, Monique found herself homeless and living in a shelter. Her drive to overcome that situation and give her child the best learning opportunities led her to seek participation in Family Focus, a family support organization, and through them, The Freadom® Road Foundation. Monique participated wholeheartedly in both programs, thriving economically, finding a home, and eventually moving to Indiana. Throughout it all, including the birth of three other daughters, Monique continued to lead her children in learning to read and loving to learn.

It is clear that Monique is a special, protective, loving and energized parent – a leader and teacher. Perhaps her own words show it best:

I was born in Chicago, Illinois. I am a dedicated mother of four beautiful, smart girls. From the day I was a child until now I was a protector. I love seeing children grow and showing off their talents. On August 5, 2014, God blessed me with my rainbow baby. She came out smart doing things other babies weren’t doing at her age. So I decided to put her talents to a test. I was in a program called Family Focus that helps young pregnant mothers in different stages of pregnancy. After I had lost my first baby I still stayed and helped other mothers learn about the importance of having a safe delivery.

Then God blessed me with another rainbow baby. At that time a new program came to Family Focus called The Freadom® Road Foundation – which was perfect because she loves books.

I’m still with the program, helping my beautiful girls learn about the world and bringing smiles to my kids and their teachers’ faces. Because of The Freadom® Road Foundation and my dedication to my kids, my kids are now the number one readers in their classrooms.

On November 12, 2019, Monique McBride was awarded the “Rising Star” award at our Inaugural Fundraiser.

Harold Lee Rush

Advisor

The creative genius and performance energy of Harold Lee Rush has been recognized for five decades locally in the Chicagoland area, nationally and internationally. Mr. Rush has hosted broadcasts all over the U.S. and around the world, including London, Senegal, Jamaica and the Bahamas.

He has served in numerous capacities in the entertainment and education fields.

As an actor he has toured nationally with the Robin Hood Players Professional Theatre Company and appeared in the first Black-produced dramatic television series in the United States, “Bird of the Iron Feather” on Chicago’s Public Television Station. He is in demand as A Spoken Word artist, reciting his own internationally award winning poetry.

He has served as talk show host, producer and executive on air producer. He has performed at Chicago’s WGCI radio with Bob Wall as the only Black–White morning show duo in a major market and with the legendary Doug Banks where he created the “Front Page” segment, which has been copied in morning shows across the country. He has worked at Johnson Publishing Company’s WJPC Radio and was announcer for “Ebony-Jet Showcase” TV Show. At Chicago Access Network (CAN) TV he has hosted two television series “Rush Street” and “One Step Closer to the Top.”

As an educator, he was adjunct teacher at Columbia College Chicago and is Radio Broadcast Instructor and Student Liaison at the Official Radio Station of the City Colleges of Chicago – WKKC Radio. He continues to teach and mentor by reaching out to high schools, community organizations, civic groups and others to invite them to participate in the annual Chicago History Month which he created.

Mr. Rush has received many honors including Outstanding Young Men of America; United Negro College Fund Distinguished Leader Award; Malcolm X City College of Chicago Honorary Degree; Chicago Board of Education and Chicago Police Department “We Care Role Model Program “ Award and the Monarch Award from Xi Nu Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, among others.

Leah Steele

Advisor

Leah Steele, Director of the Irish Heritage Center Library, has a long history of leadership in educational, cultural and civic organizations in the Chicagoland area.

During her tenure as Director of the Hild Regional Library which served the entire north side of Chicago she oversaw the construction of the new Conrad Sulzer Regional Library building. As Director she initiated collections, exhibits, programs and services that ensured support of all segments of the service population including small businesses, home schoolers as well as traditional students, the hearing impaired, artists and historians, among others. In recognition of these efforts Chicago Magazine cited the Conrad Sulzer Regional Library as the best library in Chicago for two consecutive years.

Ms. Steele has served on the boards of numerous Not-for-profit organizations. She has held many offices including President of the Kiwanis Club of Lake View Chicago – part of an international organization serving the children of the world – Secretary of Chicago Ravenswood Lake View Historical Association and Vice President of the Edgewood Women’s Club. She also serves on the boards of Chicago Bulldog Media and Friends of Lake View High School.

She has received numerous awards including the Kiwanis Club Bridge Builder Award, the Conrad Sulzer Award, the Korean Artist Association Promoter of Arts Award, Swedish Covenant Partner Award and the Arthur Telcer Award presented personally to her by an Illinois Governor.

Darrell Anthony White Woodard, Ph.D.

Advisor

Dr. Darrell Woodard is the founding editor of PEACE Readers INTL, an e-publication for helping professionals and the communities they serve. PEACE Readers INTL is a wholesome platform of healthy expression dedicated to promoting the philosophy that having access to literacy is not just for a few, but for everyone, that literacy is not just being able to read, but being able to read balanced by the related abilities of being able to speak, write, and listen effectively i.e., balanced literacy. “Balanced literacy in a multicultural society increases the probability of developing marketable skills that produce social worth and economic value within the local community and the whole global family.” Balanced literacy, equally accessible to all, through its social and economic values, contributes to reducing violence and creating peace.

Dr. Woodard is uniquely qualified to address, support, and promote balanced literacy and peace. He has a long history of education, leadership and practice in these areas. In addition to having founded PEACE Readers INTL, he serves as Minister of the McKeesport Church of Christ in suburban Pittsburgh, PA. He is a career educator and lifelong student of education having taught Social Studies, Language Arts, Special Education as well serving as a school counselor and in multiple administrative roles including principal. He has served at every level from preschool through high school and college. Dr. Woodard has also served as a family therapist and addictions counselor. As a result of his work and expertise as educator and counselor extraordinaire, Dr. Woodard is a sought after motivational speaker.

Dr. Woodard holds numerous degrees and certificates:
  • Master of Liberal Studies Religion & African History, Lake Forest College, Lake Forest, IL
  • Certificate of Advanced Substance Abuse Counseling: High Honors, Oakton Community College, Des Plaines, IL. Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society.
  • Master of Science; Type 73 (IL) & 54 (WI) School Counselor Certification, Human Development & Counseling, National Louis University, Chicago (GPA 3.8/4.0). Alpha Delta Omega National Honor Society
  • Special Education Certification (#80), Cardinal-Stritch University, Milwaukee, WI
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Biblical Studies, Midwest Bible College, Milwaukee, WI, 4.0 GPA; Class Valedictorian
  • MS-Certificate of Advanced Studies; Type 75 (IL) & 51 (WI) School Administration National-Louis University, Chicago * (GPA 4.0/4.0)
  • Master of Liberal Studies, National-Louis University, Chicago (GPA 3.8/4.0) • Alpha Delta Omega National Honor Society
  • Bachelor of Arts, Education, Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago