South-Southwest Suburban Regional Board at April Food Day 2023

Hannah Hayes (second from right) with fellow South-Southwest Suburban Regional Board members at April Food Day 2023

April Food Day collects tens of thousands of pounds of food and household items to help restock shelves at food pantries in the Southland.

“Can you tell I love the Southland?” Hannah Hayes beams with pride as she talks about her hometown and the region that has shaped who she is today.

She was born and raised in Oak Lawn, a southwest suburb of Chicago. Her parents and grandparents were lifelong south siders. Her college career was also rooted in the south region where she enrolled at St. Xavier University for both her undergrad in business and later an MBA. She has worked in banking ever since and now serves as a senior vice president at Northern Trust. Both Hannah and Northern Trust are long-time supporters of United Way of Metro Chicago.

But Hannah’s story, her pride for the Southland, grew out of tragedy. When she was just 11 years old, her family was in a fatal car accident. Her dad and brother died. While her mom recovered in the hospital for months, “extended family and the community lifted us up. They made us meals and took care of us,” she said. “That made a lasting impression on me, how people should take care of one another and to be of service in any way is the greatest thing you can do.”

Hannah has been giving back ever since, supporting her community just as they supported her so many years ago. When a friend who worked for United Way of Metro Chicago approached her about joining the South-Southwest Suburban Regional Board, she knew this was a way to continue investing in the region that she loves.

“I had been a United Way donor since my first job in 1988, and I knew it was a great organization,” Hannah said. “When I got the chance to help the Southland through United Way’s regional board, I jumped at the opportunity.”

Ten years later, Hannah is in her first year serving as the board chair. She’s focusing on “continuing to do the amazing work that the board has done,” she said. “I’m energized and inspired by my fellow board members because every day they’re looking at how they can help the Southland and make our community thrive. I am in awe of them and want to make sure I continue that work and their legacy.”

The board’s hard work can be seen in action every year at April Food Day, a massive food drive that collects nearly 100,000 pounds of food to restock pantry shelves throughout the south suburbs. The event also includes an awards luncheon to recognize the impact of local leaders committed to supporting food security for our neighbors in the Southland.

“No one should have to worry about where their next meal is coming from, and too many people do. One in five families are experiencing food insecurity, according to the Greater Chicago Food Depository, and we need to change that,” Hannah said. “April Food Day collects as much as we can and restocks pantries, getting food where it needs to be and fighting hunger.”

“April Food Day is a life-changing event. When you see people and communities come together and all that food helping our neighbors, it’s very impactful,” she added.

Supporting food security through April Food Day is just one of the many initiatives United Way is leading in the Southland, Hannah said. United Way’s place-based investment through the Neighborhood Network Initiative expanded in the south suburbs this past year, with new Networks launching in Ford Heights/Chicago Heights, Harvey, and Park Forest/Richton Park. We also increased our investment in the existing Blue Island/Robbins Neighborhood Network. “There are so many great things happening through United Way’s work in the Southland,” Hannah said.

“I love the Southland. I want it to be strong. I want it to thrive. I want it to be a go-to destination for anybody who wants to live there,” Hannah said. “I want people to love it as much as I do because we have such rich diversity of people and neighborhoods and art and food. I just want the world to know it.”

Join Hannah Hayes and support food security in the Southland.
Give today to April Food Day 2024.