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Englewood, Chatham, Auburn Gresham

New Gift Of Hope Center In Chatham Marks Minority Donor Awareness Week With Personal Stories From Survivors

Community leaders and city officials are doing their part to increase the number of minority organ donors.

Donor Mom Syretta Talbert stands next to a poster of her late son, Jalen.
Jamie Nesbitt Golden/Block Club Chicago
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CHATHAM — Gift of Hope Organ and Tissue Donor Network marked Minority Donor Awareness Week at its new Chatham location Thursday with an event and a personal story from one of Chicago’s top politicians.

City Clerk Ann Valencia’s father, Joe, underwent several rounds of dialysis treatments seven days a week for kidney failure while working full-time before his transplant in March.

“His sister became his living donor, and now I get to see this vibrant man who will not stop. He painted his house last weekend,” said Valencia.

The Gift of Hope event, which also included U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis, worked to underscore the a stark reality: According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, people of color make up 58 percent of those currently on an organ transplant waiting list, and almost 35 percent of the 100,000 people on the national kidney transplant list are black.

The nonprofit recently moved from Bronzeville to Chatham in hopes of expanding its outreach in underserved areas. Part of the plan includes partnering with Malcolm X College and The Community Blood Center to develop a career training center in the former Urban Partnership Bank building.

Office renovations at the new office at 7936 S. Cottage Grove. are still in progress but the center hopes to have a grand opening in the fall, Gift of Hope media coordinator Shauna Schuda said.

Antonia Jordan, a former Chicago Public Schools social worker who has been on a kidney transplant waitlist since 2012, shared her journey from denial to determination with the audience.

“I’d tell people that if they really loved me they’d give me a kidney,” said Jordan, recalling her angriest point. “I’d be on vacation looking at people like pieces of meat, wondering why they get to be so happy.”

Soon Jordan turned her anger into action, becoming her own best advocate, getting her name on several hospital transplant lists across the country. It paid off; she recently received a transplant date.

“My donor is a selfless 20-year-old,” said Jordan. “I’m so grateful.”

When Syretta Talbert lost her son, Jalen, in 2017, it was a Gift of Hope representative who encouraged her to donate his kidneys to two patients on a waiting list. She’s become an unofficial Gift of Hope ambassador, doing her part to educate and demystify the donor process.

“It gives me hope and peace. It’s like he’s still here,” said Talbert, herself an organ donor. “His son knows that his daddy was a hero, and that he saved some people. Gift of Hope has a champion in me.”

Minority Donor Awareness Week is from Aug. 1-7. For more information about organ donation, visit www.giftofhope.org.