Thursday, September 18, 2008

Tri-City Couple's Promise Gives Hope to Homeless Families

Naperville, Sept. 17, 2008 -- Selling their beloved Geneva restaurant Chez Francois two years ago, owners Chef Francois and Betsy Sanchez promised to honor their commitment to help homeless children through HEAR US, Diane Nilan’s unique nonprofit organization that gives voice and visibility to homeless children and youth. That promise is being honored on October 4th as the Sanchez’s will prepare a gourmet meal for up to 120 lucky diners.

The Bene-Feast, as this fundraising dinner has been dubbed, will feature Sanchez’s signature dish, paella, and specially made accompanying dishes. Bethlehem Lutheran Church in St. Charles is donating use of their hall for the event which will attract diners from as far away as Chicago. Local merchants from the Tri-Cities, Aurora, and Naperville have donated sizable raffle prizes. “We are so excited to be able to provide significant help to this amazing organization,” states Betsy Sanchez. “The help that HEAR US provides is extended to homeless families nationwide.”

HEAR US ( is a national nonprofit that gives voice and visibility to homeless children and youth. Diane Nilan, a longtime Fox Valley advocate for homeless adults and children and former shelter director at Hesed House, started this unique organization over 3 years ago as a means to advocate for policies and actions to alleviate homelessness among families and teens. She sold her Aurora townhouse and purchased an RV which has served as her home and office as she traveled over 65,000 miles of typically backroads seeking out young homeless spokespersons.

Nilan points to some significant successes already under HEAR US’ belt: winning a major national award for “My Own Four Walls,” her documentary featuring over 75 homeless children and teens from non-urban parts of the country, produced by Northern Illinois University media professor Dr. Laura Vazquez; passage of a long-sought federal law to remove barriers to college for homeless unaccompanied teens; and testifying to Congress, staving off (for now) attempts to limit federal help for homeless families. “We have much more to do,” states Nilan. “Homelessness among families and teens is skyrocketing and we want to create a ‘compassion epidemic’ to provide relief as we fight for more resources.”

HEAR US doesn’t typically qualify for grants because it does not provide direct service, so Nilan and her Fox Valley board rely on special events, like the Bene-Feast, as well as sales of My Own Four Walls DVD and tax-deductible donations to continue the HEAR US mission.
Rising gas costs and a troubled economy loom as big concerns, but Nilan reflects, “Families in crisis face worse troubles each day. We’ve increased our support base because we’ve successfully focused on core issues and policies that could reduce homelessness nationwide. The faith that Francois and Betsy have in our mission, and the promise I’ve made to countless homeless kids nationwide keeps us believing that support will arrive in time.”
For tickets or more information, contact Nilan at 630/225-5012,
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