ENGLEWOOD — St. Bernard Hospital and Health Care Center honored a longtime community advocate Friday for her efforts to help children and families at its 17th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Service Award and Celebration.
Charles Holland, CEO and president of St. Bernard Hospital, said for the past 11 years Loretta Espeut, director of Family Focus, a social service organization in West Englewood, has helped needy families especially children with family support services and is a pillar in the community.
"She is an example of someone who cares about people and the community she serves and we want to recognize her for that," Holland said.
But the 55-year-old grandmother attributed much of her success at helping Englewood families to her staff, who joined her at the ceremony.
"I accept this award on behalf of my agency. Without my staff I am nothing," Espeut said after receiving the award. "All of us at Family Focus love kids and families. We are trying to do the type of work Dr. King did during his time and that's helping everyone."
Last year state Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-16th) was honored with the award.
She said people always ask her why travel from her home in north suburban Des Plaines to Englewood every day.
"I tell them I love working in Englewood. There are some amazing families that live in Englewood. All these families need is some help and with the right guidance they are not much different from other families," added Espeut.
In total, she has 31 years working in the social service industry and said although she could go elsewhere and make more money, "I'd rather be where I can make a difference in the lives of families and have an impact on the community."
The keynote speaker for the event was Rev. Anthony Stepney II, pastor of New True Love Missionary Baptist Church in Auburn Gresham.
"As a 28-year-old black man with a master's degree, I am grateful for all of the hard work Dr. King did to make our neighborhoods better and to build strong families," Stepney said. "It is only befitting that we honor Ms. Loretta Espeut today with this humanitarian award for the Dr. King like efforts she has made on behalf of the community."