Toria Stender is a seasoned JCFS Chicago board member and the chair of this year’s annual fundraiser, A Striking Event. Born and raised in Illinois, Toria has been living and working in the Chicago area for most of her adult life. After earning her law degree, working for a large law firm and then as a public defender, Toria retired and began devoting her time to her family and volunteer work. It was around this time that her dear friend, Sue Schulman, an active lay leader with JCFS, invited Toria to join the JCFS Chicago board.
During the presentation for new board members, Toria started crying when she saw all the incredible work JCFS does for those in need. She turned to Howard Sitron, the former JCFS Chicago CEO, who was leading the board at the time, and said, “Oh my gosh, I don’t believe we do all these things, this is incredible.” Without hesitation, Howard said to Toria, “I’m so glad you said we.” That moment stuck with Toria and sums up why she is so passionate about JCFS. Her two daughters are special education teachers, and she has a niece with special needs, so helping people with disabilities speaks to her in a meaningful and personal way.
Toria is honored to be the chair of A Striking Event this year, though she is aware of the challenges of hosting a virtual event. “In-person events always feel like a big warm hug, and trying to create that feeling virtually isn’t easy,” she said. Toria wants the honorees, donors, and all of the attendees to feel special and to recognize their important contributions to JCFS.
To ensure a celebratory evening, Toria and her committee have created entertaining video content, secured amazing performers, cultivated several special speakers and most importantly, will be recognizing two deserving honorees. H. Debra Levin will be receiving the Irving B. Harris Leadership Award for her outstanding leadership and work in our community, and Marshall J. Hartman, a former Jewish Children’s Bureau foster care child, will be receiving the What’s Possible Award for his distinguished advocacy, social service, and groundbreaking work in the national public defender space.
Though the event is still a few weeks away, incredibly, we have already surpassed our fundraising goal of $300,000. Toria believes the outpouring of support can be attributed to a lesson that the pandemic has taught us all. The strength of a community is only as strong as the individuals in it, and the importance of reaching out and helping your neighbor unites us all.
Toria is proud of the JCFS community for stepping up and showing they care for those around them. "JCFS is people helping people, it's as pure and simple as that,” Toria says.
To register for A Striking Event or to make a donation, click here.