By Joseph Phillips, Crusader Sports Editor
Chicago Football Classic, Inc., in collaboration with Sherman Dodge car dealership, located at 7601 N. Skokie Blvd., donated a 16-seat passenger van to Habilitative Systems, Inc. (HSI), on Thursday, August 20, via a press conference.
During the press conference, the group handed over a set of keys and a brand-new van to the non-profit organization, which specializes as a human service agency based on Chicago’s West Side.
“[We] will use the van to reach more of Chicago’s underserved residents,” said Donald Dew, President and CEO of HSI. “And support Counting on Chicago Coalition’s efforts to encourage undercounted communities to fill out the 2020 census.”
According to Dew’s website, HSI was founded in 1978 by Larry T. Byrd and a group of concerned West Side Chicago residents. Byrd was the organization’s first executive director, where he served until his untimely death in 1989. Dew has led the organization since 1990.
The agency began by operating several programs previously managed by an affiliate of Claire Christian United Methodist Church, located at Pulaski Road and 15th Street, in the heart of the North Lawndale community.
The early programs included Drake House Group Home for Adolescent Boys, Wesley Workshop, a sheltered employment facility for the disabled, and an outpatient substance abuse treatment center.
HSI has grown at a phenomenal rate over the years, largely by taking over the operations of other West Side agencies, including West Side Parents of Exceptional Children Special School. In 1984, HSI began operating an early intervention program, along with the Garfield and St. Timothy day care centers, which were previously operated by Christian Action Ministry.
Larry Huggins, co-founder of Chicago Football Classic Inc., said he was very proud to pick HSI as the award-winning organization for the 16-seat passenger van.
“HSI has been on the West Side for 40 plus years,” said Huggins. “I could not have picked an organization that is more deserving. We cannot thank Sherman Dodge and BMO Harris Bank enough.”
Huggins attributed these life-changing scholarship awards and contributions of the Chicago Football Classic’s past two events to the organization’s generous sponsors and donors. Huggins said that in spite of the 2020 Football Classic being canceled this year, the group continues to step up “big” in the clutch.
Huggins stated via a press release that the ability to be able to continue this type of financial support is critical during these times, given the economic toll the virus has had on African-American families and communities. Huggins also mentioned that many African-American families are struggling to send their kids to college and make ends meet.
In addition to strong contributions from Huggins and the CFC, David Dickens, owner of Sherman Dodge dealership, also donated a 2018 Jeep Wrangler Sahara to the Chicago Football Classic organization. The Jeep was raffled off to help raise funds for the CFC Scholarship Fund.
“We are here for an opportunistic event,” said Everett Rand, co-founder of the Chicago Football Classic. “This is our sixth year of raffling off the vehicle. We have 500 tickets at $50 [a piece].”
Rand said while the Coronavirus pandemic has dashed the hopes of a college football season this year, the Chicago Football Classic, Inc., and its partners are still offering hope to underserved communities and college-bound students who are seeking higher education opportunities.
Last week, Rand said that the organization awarded $100,000 in scholarships and brand-new laptops for remote learning to 20 deserving African-American high school graduates attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities this fall.