St. Bernard Hospital’s 18th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Service Award was presented to Yolanda Gray, a courageous and dedicated Englewood crossing guard. The Humanitarian Service Award is presented each year by the Community Relations Committee of St. Bernard Hospital, which selects candidates whose efforts reflect the values and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through action in the community. The 18th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Service Award and Celebration was held in the chapel of St. Bernard Hospital January 16.
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This year’s honoree, Yolanda Gray, was selected by the Committee because of her unwavering dedication to improving the Englewood community — particularly to serving its children. As a crossing guard she is known for remaining on the job beyond her regular hours to ensure that children are safe on the streets she patrols. Encouraging children to stay in school, on a number of occasions Ms. Gray has used her own modest means to help children she sees in need, purchasing necessities they need for school. She has even gone so far as to wash their clothes for them. She says it is because she loves the babies.
A diligent observer of the activities taking place around the Englewood neighborhood where she lives and works, she has reported alleged criminal activity and paid a price for speaking out. Ms. Gray has endured the personal expense of having her car vandalized, its windows smashed and sides scratched by street gangs. She has suffered the indignity of gang members urinating on her vehicle, and the pettiness of them blocking her driveway so that she must park away from her home. Despite these troublesome issues and the personal risk to her safety, she has persevered. Ms. Gray still finds it in her heart to participate in the Extended Anti-Violence Initiative of the 7th District Police Department. There she speaks to gang members, encouraging them to stop the violence and to promote hope.
St. Bernard Hospital’s annual tribute to Dr. King is a special event that brings together many South Side community members to honor Dr. King’s legacy and his philosophy of non-violence. Former recipients include Illinois State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins, an avid supporter of social issues; and 2014 recipient Loretta Espeut of Family Focus Englewood whose work champions the success of young families.