Who are the top philanthropist women in Chicago?

Philanthropy initiatives have been extremely important for the social and economical development of Chicago since the 19th century. At the beginning, Chicago philanthropists were only individuals who have the necessary wealth to help other people. The work of these individuals helped to build up the well-known philanthropy Chicago’s movement which is greatly recognized inside and outside the United States. Since International Women’s Day is just around the corner, we want to recognize the admirable work of seven women in Chicago’s community.

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Image courtesy of COD Newsroom at Flickr.com

  1. Frances Comer

Originally, Comer started her philanthropic work with her late husband Gary Comer who was the founder of Lands’ End clothing company. They founded The Comer Foundation in 1986 with two major grant-making programs. The target of the Comer Foundation is principally the health and education of children. Comer’s childhood community on Chicago’s South Side has received more than $50 million in investments which supported the building of the internationally recognized Gary Comer Youth Center. In addition, this foundation has invested in the University of Chicago and has donated $42 million for the Comer Children’s Hospital and Pediatric Emergency Department.

  1. Sister Rosemary Connelly

Since her first days in Misericordia, Sister Rosemary Connelly has put all her efforts to create a better care for children and adults with Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities. As current executive director of Misericordia home, Connelly has gathered a lively, affectionate community for 600 residents in the Rogers Park facility which estimated annual budget is more than $50 million. As a result of her philanthropic actions, Sister Connelly has received numerous awards, but more important, the love and respect of many people in the Chicago community.

  1. Mellody Hobson

Hobson was the youngest in a family of six children with a single mother, being her the only one in the family to graduate from college. Currently, she is the President of Ariel Investments, a company that supports the African-American Community of Bronzeville. Hobson’s philanthropic work has focused on education and equal opportunities for all in Chicago. After her marriage to filmmaker George Lucas, she has gain more recognition in Chicago’s philanthropic field. Hobson and Lucas have donated recently $25 million to both After School Matters and the University of Chicago Laboratory School.

  1. Liz Lefkofsky

During her childhood, Lefkofsky helped her mother, founder of the American Brain Tumor Association, to fold letters in support of this association. A few years later when Elizabeth got married, her husband Eric Lefkofsky, co founder and CEO of Groupon, and she established the Lefkofsky Family Foundation. Since then, they have contributed $25 million to nonprofits working in education, medical research, fundamental human rights, and arts and culture, all of these in the Chicago area. With the foundation’s recent support of 1871 FEMtech, Lefkofsky has also created opportunities for women tech entrepreneurs. The Lefkofsky have committed to give away half of their net wealth to charitable causes.

  1. Ann Lurie

Lurie is the cofounder, President and Treasurer of Ann & Robert H. Lurie Foundation, and the founder of Africa Infectious Disease Village Clinics, Inc. Before her marriage with Robert H. Lurie, she worked in public health and pediatric nursing. As Lurie is very enthusiastic about this work, she has been actively involved in direct and transformational philanthropy and research for many years now. Through the Foundation and her personal giving, Lurie has contributed to education, social services, arts and health care organizations around the world. Recently, she has been well-known for her $100 million donation to the Lurie Children’s Hospital and her profound dedication to transform healthcare in Africa. Lurie’s philanthropic work goes further away than just donating money; her committed time in all projects she is in has also been a great contribution to the community.

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Image courtesy of Alan C. at Flickr.com

  1. Paula Fasseas

Fasseas first big philanthropic action was the animal shelter PAWS in Chicago which started as a volunteer movement to give stray dogs the opportunity of having a home. But Fasseas commitment to the cause did not stop there, and she went from the nonprofit to a “no kill” model. The advanced facilities of the Fasseas Foundation, in which a variety of animals are rescued, are now admired and adopted for other PAWS organization in the United States. The Fasseas Foundation’s has also donated $1,318,350 to encourage volunteerism and philanthropy foundations.

  1. Bernarda Wong

Being just 18 years old, Wong migrated from Hong Kong to the United States. This experience gave her a reason to found CASL (Chinese American Service League) in 1979 which principal work was to support Asian immigrants in a better adaptation to the United States new life, language and culture. Starting with a budget of $30,000, Wong has expanded the Service League into a major league institute that has a $12 million annual budget nowadays. Wong’s public service includes several city and state government advisory councils, the Chicago Commission on Human Relations (CCHR), the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA) Board, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) Board, and Illinois Council on Aging.

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