Today is my wife’s birthday. Lynne has yet to “cross the great divide” and remains ageless. While my birthday is three days after Christmas, hers is the day after Valentine’s Day. So I’m always looking for two relevant greeting cards and picking between presents.
Now that I’m blogging and since she is known to often “like” what I blog, I thought it was only appropriate that this week’s blog be dedicated to Lynne Cunningham.
We just recently spent a day with another couple who also met each other organizing. They remembered how they tried to recruit Lynne to organize in Cleveland after receiving her Masters in Community Planning from the University of Cincinnati. Fortunately for me, we were well on our way to becoming a couple by then and I made sure that Lynne found a job in Chicago.
Lynne’s first community development job was as Associate Director of the Greater Southwest Development Corporation in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood. She worked for our good friend Jim Capraro for six years, coordinating the 63rd Street Revitalization Plan and organizing an SBA certified Section 504 lender.
Lynne then became Executive Director of the Southeast Chicago Development Commission for almost 23 years during the midst of the steel industry’s transformation. Among the many innovative projects she developed during those years, I thought one of the coolest was starting a community bi-monthly newspaper, The Southeast Chicago Observer. I was married to a publisher!
Lynne had always been an active member of the Chicago Association of Neighborhood Development Organizations (CANDO) even prior to my being recruited to be CANDO’s CEO. Recognized for her expertise and leadership by her peers, Lynne was elected to a term as the CANDO board chair. So I was then married to my boss!
I’m still not sure how she did those decades of commuting to the far southeast side from our home in Logan Square but I could relate when she wanted to explore something new. For three years, Lynne served as the Executive Director of The Enterprising Kitchen [TEK], a non-profit social enterprise which provided low-income women with the opportunity to achieve economic self-sufficiency. Participants in TEK’s job and life skills program learned work skills in this venture manufacturing natural soaps and spa products.
One year I encouraged the National Community Reinvestment Coalition [NCRC] to order bars of soap for attendees at their annual DC conference. The message on the bars was: “Clean Up Wall Street!” The soap was good; we just didn’t order enough.
Today, Lynne is the Director of the Michael Barlow Center at St. Leonard’s Ministries on Chicago’s near west side. For over four years, she has been providing employment services for formerly incarcerated men and women looking to rebuild their lives. The Michael Barlow Center provides training in green building construction and maintenance, food services, and computer technology. They also offer an adult high school degree program. Graduations are uplifting family events.
Lynne is a breast cancer survivor now for over 5 years.
She has been a great mother for our son, TJ. She has sat through numerous losses by the Chicago Cubs; she brings a book if there is any chance of a rain delay.
She is a long-standing choir member for our church, Old St. Patrick’s. She still doesn’t let me sing but often still laughs at my jokes. She is a great traveling companion and life partner.
Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy Birthday, Lynne!
Van Morrison fans will have already guessed this week’s lyrics from this blog’s title:
Have I told you lately that I love you
Have I told you there’s no one above you
Fill my heart with gladness
Take away my sadness
Ease my troubles, that’s what you do
There’s a love that’s divine
And it’s yours and it’s mine
And it shines like the sun
At the end of the day we will give thanks
And pray to the One