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Bill Kelley and Chen Ooi on their lives and volunteer work
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times

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Bill Kelley and Chen Ooi have been a couple for 32 years and throughout their life together they have volunteered for a variety of organizations.

They met in July 1979, between their two birthdays, at a late-night bar a block from Ooi's apartment and two blocks from Kelley's apartment. Soon after, that they moved in together and have been together ever since.

Kelley hails from Missouri and moved to Chicago in 1959 to attend college. Some 20 years after his college graduation, Kelley went back to school and received his law degree in 1987.

Ooi came to Chicago from Malaysia in 1973 to study advertising art. Since then, he has worked for several agencies and eventually became a vice-president/group creative director.

Kelley began volunteering in 1965 with the Mattachine Midwest and many other LGBT rights organizations. He served on the board of the Chicago Access Corporation ( which runs public-access cable TV channels ) and the Cook County Commission on Human Rights.

Ooi brought his talents to Asian and Friends-Chicago, serving as social committee chairperson and treasurer during the organizations early years. He also has contributed his graphic-design skills to many organizations ( he designed Chicago's annual pride button for two years ) and has provided financial, moral and domestic support for Kelley's volunteer activities.

Volunteering is a passion for Kelley and Ooi. Kelley was motivated to volunteer for LGBT equality due to his upbringing in racially segregated Missouri and a notorious wave of anti-gay Chicago police actions in 1964.

. Watching Kelley get involved in the community spurred Ooi's volunteerism as well as his own concerns for societal justice. It also ignited his awareness that many newcomers to Chicago who are of Asian origin need a supportive social environment ( in the case of Asian and Friends-Chicago ) .

In addition to their volunteer work, Kelley and Ooi took part in a signature-challenge operation in 2006 sponsored by FAIR Illinois ( an umbrella group that included the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois ) . They were instrumental in getting the petitions circulated by Peter LaBarbera's Illinois Family Institute invalidated.Kelley and Ooi, along with other co-plaintiffs successfully prevented the ballot from including an advisory referendum that, if passed, would have requested ( not required ) the Legislature to initiate a constitutional amendment.

As for the future, Ooi said, "I plan on being as active as possible and leave behind something positive for future generations."

To other seniors who might want to become volunteers, Kelley said, "Besides helping your community or championing a cause, volunteering can increase your own skills and awareness, and it can be a good way of meeting people old and young and of enlarging your social circle."

Ooi noted that it is important to "just go out and volunteer for whatever cause or issue you believe in."

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