Associate Publisher of Austin Weekly News named Unsung Heroine

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By Alicia Plomin

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.


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D'Lana O'Neal from Chicago  

Posted: April 5th, 2014 9:53 AM

What an honor in deed! Dawn, has always been a woman that wears many hats. Thank you for working diligently to bring our communities together. Please continue to do good, it has made all the difference! D'Lana

Bonni McKeown from Chicago  

Posted: April 4th, 2014 7:46 AM

Congratulations Dawn, you make us all proud!

Sandra Sokol from Oak Park  

Posted: April 3rd, 2014 11:14 AM

Many more congratulations.....Lovely and wonderful. Well deserved.

Teresa Powell  

Posted: April 3rd, 2014 10:59 AM

I'm delighted that Dawn has received this honor in recognition of her "bridge-building" between Austin and Oak Park and her celebration through the Austin Weekly News of the many good things happening in the Austin neighborhood.

Donna Peel from Oak Park  

Posted: April 3rd, 2014 10:55 AM

Dawn is a powerhouse for good things. Her creation of these organizations has resulted in new ideas and relationships that make them happen. Her work is the backbone of so much we see happening, so this award, "unsung," is especially appropriate! -Pro Bono Network in Oak Park

Brenda Barnes Jamieson from Oak Park  

Posted: April 3rd, 2014 10:26 AM

We're very proud of you, Dawn!

Lydia V  

Posted: April 3rd, 2014 10:26 AM

Congrats to an amazing lady! You deserve it my friend.

Pat Martin from Forest Park  

Posted: April 3rd, 2014 9:19 AM

Congratulations Dawn on a well-deserved commendation.

Pat Koko from Oak Park  

Posted: April 3rd, 2014 9:01 AM

What a wonderful and well-deserved honor. Once in a while the CC Board does something JUST RIGHT. Unsung Heroine Award really! To us you are and should be a "sung" Heroine awardee!

Sally Lemke from Oak Park  

Posted: April 3rd, 2014 6:40 AM

Dawn's vision, community spirit, and hard work make her well-deserved of this award! Congrats!

Leonard Grossman from River Forest  

Posted: April 2nd, 2014 10:47 PM

I can't imagine anyone more deserving. Congratulations Dawn

Judith Alexander from Oak Park  

Posted: April 2nd, 2014 8:44 PM

I'm thrilled to see Dawn receive this much-deserved honor. She's done so much, I feel tired just reading the list. I don't know when Dawn sleeps, but I'm sure glad we're blessed with her activism and effectiveness. Dawn, you go, girl!

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