Wilmette, Community

Making Radical Generosity happen

The Wilmette women mobilizing thousands of locals to support the unsheltered

In 2013, Dr. Kerry Brown Hasbrook, of Wilmette, was working at La Rabida Children’s Hospital, witnessing the daily significant needs of her patients. With a growing desire to help, she casually suggested collecting Thanksgiving turkeys to her coworker Clara Nwokenkwo, a nurse, never anticipating what would ensure.

Ten years later, Brown Hasbrook’s simple idea of kindness has morphed into a full-fledged nonprofit, Radical Generosity Chicago, annually impacting 13,000 shelter insecure individuals. 

Now, RGC is far from a two-woman show. While Nwokenkwo is still involved remotely, Mandy Breaker, of Wilmette, who is Brown Hasbrook’s sister, is also at the helm, as are thousands of volunteers. In fact, in 2023 alone, more than 1,700 North Shore residents joined Brown Hasbrook on her mission to improve homelessness in Chicago.

“I know it’s hard to believe when you look out amid the beautiful towering skyline of Chicago that there is a silent crisis — 68,000 souls are unsheltered and struggling not far from our very own homes,” Brown Hasbrook said. “RGC encourages families to engage, not out of obligation, but out of a shared humanity.”

With that goal in mind, RGC is instrumental in uniting volunteers through simple yet impactful acts of kindness. RGC keeps their overhead costs low, using the digital platform Sign-Up Genius to recruit volunteers to partake in various charitable activities. For example, RGC regularly spearheads drives for winter clothing, birthday bags for low-income families, food donations, school supplies for the less fortunate students, and survival backpacks for homeless teens and adults — just to name a few noble causes. 

Radical Generosity volunteers pass out turkeys and warm winter wear in Jackson Park.

Along the way, Brown Hasbrook has garnered support and interest from other local organizations and businesses eager to be part of the solution. 

“One of the partnerships we are most grateful for is that with the Woman’s Club of Wilmette,” Brown Hasbrook said. “They have been generous with the use of their space, co-hosted service opportunities and have publicized RGC’s efforts.”

Further, Brown Hasbrook shared that community impact grants from the Make it Better Foundation, William-Sonoma Inc. and the WCW have allowed RGC to purchase helpful items, such as a deep freezer to help store collected foods. Funding has also allowed RGC to purchase personal safety alarms for unhoused teens in collaboration with Lane Tech High School’s runaway safety club. 

Brown Hasbrook recalls an interaction with a young child while delivering some of the above-mentioned donations, capturing the essence of RGC. 

“When we delivered the donated items to an after-school enrichment program in North Chicago, a little boy ran up to me and said ‘this is the best day ever’. His joy is what RGC is all about,” Brown Hasbrook said.

Krista Gallagher, of Wilmette, a devout volunteer with RGC, reflected on the family lessons that are learned through RGC’s volunteer opportunities. 

“Volunteering with RGC is such a special experience. Their activities bring neighbors together to help others. (Brown Hasbrook) is an incredible advocate. Thanks to her, we’ve watched our kids and the neighborhood kids help and care for others.” Gallagher said. 

Despite all the undeniable growth and praise, Brown Hasbrook said that, “my work is far from complete.” She looks forward to the new year, remarking how RGC is picking up even more steam.

In January, RGC will provide winter gear to Chicago’s newcomers as they feast on a warm meal from a Venezuelan food truck, La Cocinita. Further, RGC is thrilled to host its annual Martin Luther King Day of Service, when individuals are invited to make no-sew fleece blankets and/or create toiletry kits at home at the Woman’s Club of Wilmette on Jan. 15. 

If interested in signing up or learning more details, visit Radical Generosity’s website. RGC also invites individuals to join the cause by connecting through Instagram

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Alexa Burnell

Alexa Burnell is a Wilmette resident who has been covering the North Shore for the past seven years, previously for The Wilmette Beacon and its sister newspapers.

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