Twenty Years – Time for a Party!

20th Anniversary Fiesta

On Saturday April 10th, over 250 CRLN members and friends gathered in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood to celebrate twenty years of working for peace, justice and human rights in this hemisphere! Thank you to Dale Fast and Dan Hunter-Smith for taking such great pictures!

The fiesta was the middle event in a year-long celebrationof the 20th Anniversary, starting and ending with the annual luncheons in the autumn.  Many volunteers worked on this event and served on the planning committee, including the chair of the committee, Nancy Goede, without whom this event would not have happened – thank you, Nancy!  And more thanks go to all the committee members, who did outstanding jobs:  Lupita Aguila, Stephanie Dernek, Eunice Escobar, Sarah Flosi, Dick Heidkamp, Sidney Hollander, Mary Naftzger, Ed Osowski, Martha Pierce, and Margot Worfolk.  Thank you for all your work to make this a great celebration!

Dancing and Music

We enjoyed music and dancing from two bands, Ecos del Pacifico and Son Jarochicano.  Ecos del Pacifico performs music from Afro-Colombian communities and is led by Martha Arboleda and Julio Montano.  They started with a beautiful two-person dance and then led us all in line dancing!  Drumming, singing and dancing –  a great way to start the celebration.

The second band to play was Son Jarochicano, led by Raul Fernandez.  The band is based in Pilsen and focuses on Veracruzana music, from Mexico.  They also led us in dancing, using a special dancing stage, and are an intergenerational group.  Their energy and drive were outstanding.  Thank you to both of the bands and to Eunice Escobar, who invited them to celebrate with us!

Human Rights Champions

The guest emcee for the evening was Jerome McDonnell, host of WBEZ’s Worldview.  Jerome and CRLN have worked together for the past twenty years, as he has interviewed many religious and human rights leaders from Latin America.


One of his tasks was to help us recognize five people or organizations nominated by CRLN members as “Human Rights Champions” because of their extraordinary commitment to the cause of peace, justice and human rights in this hemisphere.  The Human Rights Champions were recognized by Jerome and given a framed certificate and a cyclamen, a beautiful flowering plant.

Those recognized were: Martha and Denis Pierce, Nancy Jones/Dan Dale and their family, Sisters JoAnn Persch and Pat Murphy, Eighth Day Center for Justice and Jerome McDonnell (recognized by Jim Vondracek).  To read the words of recognition for all of these champions, follow this link

Good Food, Wine and Fundraising

Overall, more than $14,500 was contributed via the Fiesta -thank you to all for your support of CRLN’s mission and work!  One of the key fundraising efforts was the silent auction, organized by Dick Heidkamp and Mary Naftzger and assisted by Don Heidkamp.  The auction featured great items, like soccer and baseball tickets, theater tickets, restaurant gift certificates, handmade items, arts and crafts from Latin America. Thank you to everyone who donated items, solicited items on our behalf, and also to everyone who bid on the items!




Joe Lada and Gary Cozette donated several bottles of wine from their collection and hosted a wine tasting table – what a wonderful idea and thank you!

Also, Erin Armstrong, Lupita Aguila and Gwen Farry organized a great action at the event for the upcoming Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia (for more info follow this link

We want to thank Chicago Beverage Systems and Dwight Gramm for donating 20 cases of beer, and our guest bartender, Sharon McGuireSidney Hollander coordinated the entire beverage service – thank you!




We also send thanks to Fogata Village Mexican and Italian Food and to Stephanie Dernek, who organized the food service!  More thanks go to our hosts at Cristo Rey High School and to our many volunteers at the event, including those from the Lutheran Volunteer Corps and Mennonite Voluntary Service.

Thank you to Martha Pierce who organized decorations and other set-up issues! To everyone who helped set up, worked the registration table, sold drink tickets, and most importantly, helped clean up – thank you!