Lori Cannon, founder of OPEN HAND/Chicago, was recently honored as a Community Leader by Fifth Third Bank at a breakfast program held at the Chicago Cultural Center. This is the sixth year Fifth Third Bank, the first financial institution in the U.S. to start its own charitable foundation, has honored community leaders for making a meaningful difference by helping give a voice to the voiceless, supporting those who feel forgotten, and working to solve problems that need addressing.
28 years ago during the height of the AIDS Crisis, Lori founded the city's ONLY food pantry and grocery center for those affected by HIV/AIDS at a time when people with AIDS were considered lepers and faced incredible discrimination. Lori was soon overseeing an army of 400 volunteers who would show up 7 days a week to deliver meals to 1200 suffering from AIDS. Open Hand ( 1988 ) remains open today and is now part of the Heartland Alliance Network… and today is the only network of food pantries to exclusively serve the AIDS community in US. Lori is not only the founder of the original program from which so much has evolved, but is also the hands-on program manager of the North Side Food Center, where she still works daily, ordering food, coordinating volunteers, and greeting clients. Since its earliest meals-on-wheels days, Open Hands has delivered, served, or prepared over 15 million meals!
"The impetus for our Community Leaders program was to move away from singular monthly declarations, as we celebrate diversity and inclusion throughout the year and in everything we do," says Andrew Hayes, Regional Marketing Director for Fifth Third Bank, who began the annual Community Leaders Awards event. "We only pause in April, which is Diversity and Inclusion month, to host this annual breakfast as a way of publicly acknowledging the incredible contribution of our honorees, and announce that a $5,300 donation will be extended to each as a way for them to pay it forward, however they wish. It's a powerful way of both expressing our commitment to all the communities we serve, as well as inspiring others to get involved, make a difference, and celebrate both our differences and our commonalities."
Each honoree will use their $5,300 donation to help further a cause in which they are involved or help individuals or organizations in their community.
Lori Cannon has chosen to donate her contribution to Open Hand's food budget.