Gerri Sizemore was honored with a standing ovation as she received the the Chessmen award for community service.Photo by Heidi Randhava

More than 350 people attended the Chessmen Club of the North Shore’s 57th Annual Community Service Recognition and Benefit Gala, held March 2l. The sold-out event honored longtime resident and volunteer Gerri Sizemore and recognized Marcus Campbell and Ahmadou Drame of Evanston Township High School for their work on the Black Male Summit. Donations at the event totaled more than $70,000, which will go back into the community in various charitable ways.

“This annual event honors those who have made extraordinary contributions to Evanston’s Black Community,” said Adrian Brewington, Chessmen president. “It’s also a way for our members and friends to come together, have fun and raise money to support our mission of serving our youth and elderly.”

The gala is the Chessmen’s largest annual fundraiser. The money goes toward scholarships for local students of color, food baskets for the hungry in the community and to other community youth activities, such as the Fellowship of Afro-American Men youth basketball league (FAAM).

“I feel like I’m receiving an academy award,” said Ms. Sizemore, the Community Service honoree. She received a standing ovation from the crowd and was presented flowers by her grandson. Ms. Sizemore is a lifelong activist and volunteer. In 1962, she became the first African American on the North Shore to be hired as a checker. She subsequently became a trainer for newly employed checkers. Ms. Sizemore worked for the U.S. Postal Service for more than 36 years and received numerous awards.

She has diligently worked to improve the lives of children, young adults and seniors through volunteer service. She is an active member of Ebenezer A.M.E. Church and volunteers weekly in a soup kitchen. Ms. Sizemore is also active with the Evanston North Shore branch of the NAACP, Evanston Youth Job Center, Foster Senior Citizen Club, Snell Post, V.F.W. #7186 Ladies Auxiliary, Warren “Billy” Cherry Foundation, Levy Senior Center Foundation Board and the Forrest E. Powell Foundation. Her accomplishments have resulted in numerous awards including the Family Focus Evanston “Those who Make a Difference Award,” Evanston Outstanding Volunteers of the Year Award, Vision Keeper Award and Evanston Youth Job Center Volunteer Award.

Marcus Campbell, Evanston Township High School principal, talked of the support received for the ETHS Black Male Summit. Dr. Eric Witherspoon, ETHS Superintendent, “had my back on this,” said Mr. Campbell. “The elders in this community blessed this event, and I appreciate that,” he added. The Chessmen’s recognition “underscores the power of standing together.”

Ahmadou Drame, ETHS Community and External Affairs coordinator, was also recognized for his work on the Summit. He thanked Mr. Campbell – who was his former teacher at ETHS – for his support. He called Dr. Witherspoon a “courageous man” for stepping out for black people which he said is “not always easy.” He added that the ETHS Superintendent “steps out for all every day.”

The gala also recognized student honorees and former scholarship recipients. Olasumbo Babalola and Mark D. (“MD”) Shelton were acknowledged for their work in the community and at ETHS. Joyce Mims, the first recipient of a Chessmen’s scholarship, spoke of how “things are changing for the good due in great part to the Chessmen.” Krenice Roseman, a 2002 scholarship recipient, talked of how the Chessmen’s scholarship planted in her the “seed of responsibility” that has fueled her work within the community, including for the Dajae Coleman Foundation.