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Phalanx Family Services was among the winners of the 2022 Mayor’s Medal of Honor. The agency was one of 16 individuals, collaboratives, and organizations Mayor Lori Lightfoot chose for the award. The mayor’s office posted the announcement on Chicago.gov on April 23.
They held a live-streamed special ceremony honoring the winners three days later. Tina Sanders, Executive Director of Phalanx, was present at the ceremony to accept the award for her organization.
Sanders has worked in youth development for roughly 60 years. Her career began with the Boys & Girls Club of Chicago. She started out as an administrative assistant, by the time she left the organization she was the assistant vice president.
“I had a very rewarding career with the Boys & Girls Club. And I really learned a lot. It really put me in a position to think about starting my own organization. And along with my husband Gladstone Sanders, who was also in youth development and working with adults in workforce development, we decided we wanted to try having our own organization; to see if we could put something together that would work,” Sanders said.
They started Phalanx with roughly six employees who were all part of the Boys & Girls Club of Chicago. “When we started our agency they said they wanted to be part of it and so they came on board with us. Today we are 70 employees strong with over 20 different programs between youth development and workforce development programs,” She added.
The agency is continuously striving to do the best it can for its clients every day. “It’s been, to me, a work in progress, one that we are very passionate about; one that we love what we’re doing. Gladstone is no longer with me but I’m sure that his spirit is still here because we’ve grown and we’re steadily growing. I think our reputation is out in the community and we’re perceived as an agency that really does what it says,” Phalanx’s Executive Director said. “I have staff that is really passionate about working with the community. I think everyone who comes aboard with Phalanx has that passion to work with the community.”
Continuing, she added: “And I think the people that we recruit — they really love what they’re doing. Most of them are not here for a paycheck. They’re here because they’re committed to providing service to the community.”
Phalanx has been a fixture in the community for 19 years — founded in 2003.
Mayor Lightfoot recognized the agency for all they have done for the Far South Side community by gifting them with her Medal of Honor.
“The mayor initiated the Medal of Honor awards last year,” said Sanders. “And what she was doing was really honoring individuals [and] community agencies that have made a difference in people’s lives. And those who have really made an impact in their community.”
Sanders thinks that Mayor Lightfoot recognized Phalanx for all of the hard work they have done for the Roseland, West Pullman/Pullman community. “I think that she was really impressed with what we’ve been able to accomplish. And I think a lot of that too was word of mouth; word of other people who have worked with us; other people who received services from us that at least to the good work that we do in the community,” the executive director stated.
Many of Phalanx’s staff has had the pleasure of meeting Mayor Lightfoot as she has attended several of their events. Sanders stated that all of their interactions with the mayor have been positive.
The one thing that Sanders is proud of is that Phalanx was one of the groups spearheading to bring knowledge and access to COVID-19 vaccines to their community.
“We are part of the city of Chicago and Chicago Board of Health’s Health Equity program. That’s one thing that I’m really, really proud of. We are the Far South Side Regional League. We work with 11 other community agencies from the Far South Side. Our priority for the past year has been COVID vaccinations, So we have made a difference in our community getting people vaccinated,” Sanders said.
When Phalanx started vaccinating individuals the community’s vaccination rate was extremely low. “So I am proud to say that those numbers have gone up and up,” added Sanders.
In the beginning, the Phalanx’s zip code, 60643, was in the red level. Now their color has turned from the worst level (red) to blue.
“So I am really proud of that achievement. I’m proud of it for all of the agencies that were part of this incentive, It is still going on but it was so great to be on the ground floor; to be one of the first for our community. I’m very, very proud of that,” Sanders expressed. “I’m proud of it because of the recognition that was given to Phalanx and the other community agencies.”
Seeing people receive life-changing help, her clients and staff happy, and the achievements on her walls inspire Sanders every day.
Written by Sheena Robertson
Interview: Tina Sanders, Executive Director of Phalanx
Chicago: Mayor Lightfoot Announces 2022 Mayor’s Medal of Honor Winners — Second annual award ceremony will honor individuals and organizations who have made extraordinary contributions to Chicago’s residents
Images Courtesy of Phalanx Family Services – Used With Permission