Itasca bank marks 20 years of helping women businesses thrive

  • Teresa Lance

    Teresa Lance

Updated 11/14/2020 5:30 PM

A networking program helping DuPage County women-owned businesses succeed marks its 20th anniversary this year.

The Women's Initiative at Itasca Bank & Trust Co. has supported hundreds of businesses throughout the suburbs in the past two decades. It started with a few seminars on financial matters and other topics and since has grown to include monthly roundtables that serve as advisory boards for small business owners, said Diane Middlebrooks, program coordinator.


The monthly roundtable gatherings, typically held at the bank's branches in Itasca and Roselle, have gone virtual due to the pandemic. They provide a platform for noncompeting women's businesses to exchange ideas and strategies for growth, address real-life business problems, provide realistic feedback and solutions, and monitor progress toward goals.

Middlebrooks plans to launch a third roundtable this year. Conversations lately have focused on how to survive the challenges of COVID-19.

"Female-owned businesses statistically are harder hit," said Middlebrooks, past president of the Chicago chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners. "They are a positive group who are looking for solutions all the time."

To join a roundtable, contact Middlebrooks at (630) 773-0350.

Talking about racism

Elgin Area School District U-46's African American Advisory Council will host the second of a two-part virtual series on racism at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Educational consultant Robert Jackson, an author, former teacher and NFL player, will talk about how parents can more comfortably discuss racism and racial injustices with their children.

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The program is open to community members. To register for the webinar, visit An interpreter will be present for Spanish-speaking families. A recording of the first session is available on the district's website at

U-46 also held a forum Saturday for high school students to share their experiences with racism as part of the district's increased focus on equity.

In January, the district will kick off another four-part series of conversations about race for families.

Teresa Lance, U-46 assistant superintendent of equity and innovation, said she hopes these community conversations will help create change and address systemic inequities exacerbated by the pandemic.

"The more people who are informed, the more allies and co conspirators that we have doing this work, the better we are for it," Lance said. "We have to build that awareness and cultural competency and proficiency across every layer of the organization, and every aspect of the 11 communities that feed into U-46."


Black film festival

The Gene Siskel Film Center's 26th annual Black Harvest Film Festival will be held virtually through Nov. 30.

It's the largest Black film festival in the Midwest and will showcase 10 feature films and 30 short films. Closing night on Nov. 30 will honor the career of the late Chadwick Boseman, who played Marvel superhero "Black Panther." The tribute includes Mischa Webley's "The Kill Hole," an independent film that premiered at the 2012 festival and was Boseman's first starring role. Webley will make an online appearance to discuss his working relationship with Boseman.

Chicago-based film archivist Jacqueline Stewart will receive the Black Harvest Film Festival Legacy Award that night. Stewart is an author, Turner Classic Movies host, and recently was named chief artistic and programming officer of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.

For tickets, visit

Peace award

Zaher Sahloul
Zaher Sahloul

Dr. Zaher Sahloul, a Syrian American pulmonary specialist from Burr Ridge, will receive the 2020 Gandhi Peace Award during a virtual ceremony at 1 p.m. Saturday.

Among notable laureates of the award -- given since 1960 by Promoting Enduring Peace -- are Eleanor Roosevelt, Benjamin Spock and César Chávez. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., also was chosen but passed after being awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace a few months later, according to the nonprofit's website.

The award comes with a $5,000 prize and a medallion fashioned from metals extracted from retired nuclear weapons systems.

Sahloul is the first Muslim American to receive the award, which he is dedicating to front-line medical and rescue workers killed while serving in Syria.

Sahloul, 55, is president of MedGlobal, a group of medical volunteers providing free health care to refugees and displaced people in disaster areas. He works in a COVID-19 unit at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.

He was past president of the Syrian American Medical Society Foundation from 2011 to 2015 and led volunteer medical missions to care for Syrian refugees in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. The group sponsors field hospitals and ambulances in Syria, trains and hires Syrian medical personnel and sends lifesaving humanitarian aid and medical equipment. It operates in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Bangladesh and Egypt.

To register for the Zoom event, visit

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