The Family Focus community honored the late George Cyrus last week with the announcement of the Cyrus Mentoring Program for Boys. Mr. Cyrus, a real estate developer, volunteered his time on many boards and committees in Evanston, among them Family Focus, where he served as a mentor to several youths.
Bernice Weissbourd, founder of Family Focus, presented a plaque dedicated to Mr. Cyrus. That and the Cyrus Mentoring Room are the physical reminders of Mr. Cyrus’s generosity. On March 24, many Evanston leaders recalled his dedication to the youth of the Evanston community.
Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said that, years ago, she and Mr. Cyrus joined a mentoring program that was supposed to end when the children were in third grade. “I planned to continue,” she said, “so I asked George what he wanted to do. … I learned that his student had moved to Alabama and that George called him and read with him every week.”
Karen Chavers said, “Everybody was a friend of George. George loved Evanston.” She added that what she appreciated about Mr. Cyrus was “his ability to listen.”
Fifth Ward Alderman Delores Holmes, who served as executive director of Family Focus for more than 24 years, said, “… The first time he came to volunteer, he said he wanted to do more than write a check.” He said he was concerned about the racial difference – “because I’m white and you’re black. “ Ald. Holmes said she told him, “Kids have ‘fake’ radar. They know when people are genuine.” She added, “He was such a treasure for this community.”
Mary Wilkerson, president of the Family Focus board, said, “It doesn’t matter what color the person who’s mentoring is, kids need someone to wrap their arms around them. … I’m sure George is in heaven, mentoring someone.”
George Mitchell, president of the Evanston/North Shore NAACP, and former mayor Lorraine Morton also spoke about Mr. Cyrus.
Rachel Cyrus, Mr. Cyrus’s daughter, said, hearing the stories “just warms my heart.” She told the RoundTable, “This is a great way to honor my dad. His passion was Evanston and the community – trying to give kids the best start they could have. … He would have liked this.”
Dr. Dorothy Williams, executive director of Family Focus, said, “We’re eager to begin the program. The boys are eager.”
Tafari Dixon, a participant in the Boys to Men program, said, “I didn’t know Mr. Cyrus, but I do know that he loved mentoring and he loved Family Focus like I do.”