To commemorate Women’s History Month in March, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and The Cook County Commission on Women’s Issues recognized Austin Weekly News’ own Dawn Ferencak for her outstanding contributions to the 1st District.

Dawn was honored with the Peggy A. Montes Unsung Heroine Award with a ceremony and breakfast on March 27th at the Chicago Cultural Center.

Dawn Ferencak is the proud and spiritual single mother of her wonderful 10 year old son, Paxton. She is an active advocate and participant on Chicago’s Greater West Side communities where she lives and works. 

Through Dawn’s passion for connecting people and highlighting all the good on Chicago’s Greater West Side, she founded the West Side Business Network. The WSBN provides a way for members of the business community on Chicago’s Greater West Side to come together to connect, grow and share. The WSBN, which is free and open to everyone, includes a variety of subgroups. The first group to form was the Austin Weekly News Business Development group, a group of professionals that meet for lunch to network and share information about their work, typically held at Inspirations Kitchens in the West Garfield Park neighborhood.

Soon afterwards, Dawn started West Side Women, a group of women who meeting monthly for breakfast at Alice’s Restaurant on Chicago Avenue. Women come from all over the metro Chicagoland area to share success stories and engage in lively conversation. The next group to form was West Side Bridge, a group of people who meet monthly to talk about the need for bridging the gap between Chicago’s West Side and west suburbs. With the popularity of West Side Women and West Side Bridge, a group for men seemed necessary, and West Side Men was born. West Side Men meet the third Friday of each month at MacArthur’s Restaurant on Chicago’s West Side. You can always count on lively and passionate conversation among men who care about the greater good of our communities at West Side Men.

As the West Side Business Network builds momentum, other local groups are recognizing the value it brings to the community. For example, Dawn was approached by Chicago’s Women’s Business Development Center last fall to help bring new opportunities to West Side business owners and entrepreneurs. Dawn was also asked to help the Oak Park area Community of Congregations last fall form a panel of West Side service providers and mentors to speak at a community meeting held in Oak Park, focused on improving relations between Oak Park and Austin (the Chicago neighborhood bordering Oak Park), and she was asked to speak about her experiences at the Community of Congregations annual meeting in January 2014.

Alicia Plomin

Alicia, who has lived in nearby Oak Park for over half her life, graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Journalism and Media Management. She's been with Wednesday Journal Publications...

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