Community residents, leaders, politicians and activists all gathered at the Columbus Park Refectory last Thursday, May 20, to greet and meet Camille Lilly, the newly appointed state representative of Illinois’s 78th District.

Among the well-wishers was Mary Nelson, who founded Bethel New Life. Nelson, now head of a master’s program at Loyola University’s Institute of Pastoral Studies, said she’s known Lilly since she was child growing up at Bethel Church.

“She came and worked … I know we have sent somebody to the state legislature who is trustworthy, who will do the right thing and will weigh all things and find out what’s in the interest of our people,” Nelson said.

Dr. Dorothy Thomas, director of addiction services at Loretto Hospital, where Lilly is an administrator, said this appointment is a phenomenal thing.

“She is so indoctrinated in the community. She does so many things for the community. I think we need more people like Camille Lilly to truly champion the community and bring them back. So now she is on the other side of the aisle, where she can truly discuss things and recommend things that she knows is critical to her community,” Thomas said.

That community engagement was also at the heart of the tribute by Cynthia Williams, CEO of Austin Peoples Action Center, a community activist group that Williams claims Lilly is a product of.

“We are so proud of her and just looking forward to working with her, and know that a lot of great opportunities are going to come because of her. We’re glad Austin sowed that seed,” Williams said.

State Rep. LaShawn Ford, who said it’s great to have Lilly in Springfield, praised her background.

“She comes with a wealth of knowledge about finance, health care and business,” Ford said.

Attesting to Lilly’s diligent spirit was her mother, Barbara Miller, a social worker.

“She works hard – a workaholic and puts things on her plate and I just hope she will continue to work and serve her community. I am very, very proud of her. I was in community organizations and she took up where I left off,” Miller said.

Lilly is well-known and respected throughout the Westside. Even her 91-year-old great-uncle, Leon Conner, was on hand for the reception.

“Camille’s father is my nephew,” he said proudly.