The Youth Job Center of Evanston hosted a record 400 people at its Annual Gala at Salvage One in Chicago on April 24. The supportive crowd marked the largest ticket sales in YJC history and contributed to netting $125,000 for the evening.

The tables were packed and the conversation was flowing at the funky West Town venue. Amidst exposed brick and upscale re-sale items, community members came together to celebrate the YJC’s great successes. Marla Felvey, Marcia Mead and Evanston Alderman Mark Tendam co-chaired the event, with WGN anchor Mark Suppelsa as the emcee.

The program featured three clients: Owen Mugabi, Kevin Aristide and Darryl Lumpkin. Each shared how working with the YJC has impacted their lives. Mugabi, a student at Evanston Township High School, was hired at Century Theaters in May 2009 and has kept his job for a year. Aristide found his first job as a YJC Summer Tutor and now is successful in the banking industry.

Lumpkin began working at Marshalls through the internship program and commuted two- to three-hours each way, every day, from the south side of Chicago. He told the how YJC’s support and his commitment to succeed helped him overcome any difficulty he faced during the internship. His story was recently featured in the Chicago Tribune.

“When I was at work, I tried hard and really learned a lot,” Lumpkin said in his speech. “My managers, Jermaine and Mark, told me that they were happy with my performance and wanted to hire me after my internship. But they knew how far I was commuting and wanted to do even better.” Lumpkin recounted how he was soon hired permanently at Marshalls six blocks from his house. “I don’t look at as my story is having a happy ending,” he said. “I see it as my story is just beginning.”

The YJC also debuted its film, “Empowering Youth Through Employment.” The film featured interviews with YJC staff, past clients, employer partners and community leaders describing the history of the YJC and how it is working in the lives of young people today. The film is now available on the YJC Web site at www.youthjobcenter.org/yjc-news/multimedia.

In addition, the event included a silent auction, which sold 154 items and raised almost $30,000, and a live auction, where attendees had the opportunity to donate funds directly to specific youth services. The Foglia Family Foundation generously matched the first $10,000 raised in the live auction.

“We are so thankful for everyone who was involved in this event,” said Executive Director Sacella Smith. “Committing to empower young people with employment training and work experiences is incredibly important, especially with teen unemployment at all-time highs. The support of our community enables us to do that.”