State Rep. Deborah Graham (78th Dist.) hosted her second annual “Quiet Strength of a Woman” brunch at Loretta Hospital’s 6th Floor Auditorium last Saturday.

In her letter to the honorees, she stated, “Since taking office, I have had the privilege of working with women throughout this district who strive to improve and empower the lives of others by focusing their efforts on critical issues and bridging our communities together for common causes.”

Chief of Staff Brandon Johnson explained that Rep. Graham felt the need to highlight the work being done throughout the 78th Legislative District, particularly work executed by women. Graham, he said, believes that women should be honored for their strength and dedication to causes that improve the conditions of our communities and the lives of those who dwell in them. Graham also proposes, he said, to establish a nexus among all communities in her district-from Stone Park to Melrose Park, Oak Park and Austin-with the axiom “Building Bridges Throughout the 78th Legislative District.”

The brunch was catered by Symone’s Catering and its proprietors, Earlene Dixon and Charlene Morgan.

The 11 women honored by Graham were: Stephanie Clemens, founder/director of The Academy of Movement & Music; Dolores Tapia-Reyes, attorney; Jacqueline Heard, press secretary, Mayor Richard Daley; Dr. Dorothy Thomas, director of Addiction Services, Loretto Hospital; Alice Jackson, executive director, Concerned Citizens, Inc.; Jean Jackson, executive director, Eyes on Austin; Mary G. Denson, publisher, Windy City Word; Nichelle Rivers, superintendent, District 88; Phyllis Aiuppa, community activist; Maria Castrejon, village clerk of Stone Park; and Delores McCain, reporter, Austin Weekly News.

Each honoree gave a short acceptance speech and thanked Rep. Graham for her vision and thoughtfulness in recognizing ladies who may not be household names, but whose contributions to their communities is significant.

Deborah L. Graham was born and raised on the West Side of Chicago. Her commitment to community began when she was a youth, when she volunteered with her grandmother through her church to help feed the homeless and help seniors. Graham’s community and political leadership accomplishments are numerous. She has worked with seniors, child care, housing, job placement and securing grants to support various programs. Her district office is located at 7115 W. North Ave., #260, Oak Park, 708/278-1200.

 On a personal note, I was honored to be included with such outstanding women. I thank Rep. Graham for recognizing my work with the Austin Weekly News. My weekly Streetbeat column gives us a chance to hear from the community-mostly people who are not famous, not politically connected, not ordained clergy, just people. Rep. Graham’s awareness of this column is gratifying. It isn’t easy approaching strangers for comments, but I’ve been fortunate because it has allowed me to meet many wonderful community people.