Flanked by Chessmen Keith Terry, left, and Andre Wallace, right, Laurianne Pene and Bernard Mason were honored for their work in the community and at Evanston Township High School.                   Photo by Heidi Randhava

More than 300 people attended the Chessmen Club of the North Shore’s 32nd annual Community Service Recognition and Benefit Gala, held March 18 at the Hilton Orrington Evanston Hotel. The sold-out event honored Mark Dennis Jr., CEO/McGaw YMCA, and Tiffany Rice, founder of the Dajae Coleman Foundation. The black-tie gala raised more than $125,000, which will be invested in the community in charitable ways.

“Thank you to everyone who supported this year’s gala,” said Andre Wallace, Chessmen President. “Through the generosity of our members and friends, the Chessmen can continue to provide needed services to the community.”

The gala is the Chessmen’s largest annual fundraiser. Money raised goes toward scholarships for students of color, holiday food baskets for families, and social programs targeting literacy and health. 

The gala also serves to honor local residents who make an exceptional contribution to the black community.

Prior to taking the position at the McGaw Y, Mr. Dennis served almost 12 years as the senior pastor of historic Second Baptist Church of Evanston. He currently serves on the boards of Presbyterian Homes and Presence St. Francis Hospital, among others.

Ms. Rice has benefited the community most notably through the work of the Dajae Coleman Foundation (DC3F). She founded DC3F in 2013 to honor the life of her son, Dajae A. Coleman, who lost his life to gun violence in September 2012.

The foundation’s programming includes free and fun community gatherings for youth, tutoring, scholarships for African American youth, summer reading programs exposing youth to diverse authors and books, and a book drive that gave away more than 700 books.

The gala also recognized students Bernard Mason and Laurianne Pene for their work in the community and at Evanston Township Hihgh School and acknowledged Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and Alderman Delores Holmes for their years of dedication and service to the Evanston Community.