In honor of Serve-a-thon, Chicago Cares is proud to share stories from the who’s who of our volunteers, philanthropists, and prominent Chicagoans in a series called “Three Questions With ….” We’re celebrating the diverse and dynamic voices that make a difference in our city and are inviting all to be part of the conversation! Please continue to share what Chicago means to you through tweets, pictures, videos, and more using hashtag #MyChi.
Today, we’re excited to feature Billy Dec, CEO and Founder of Rockit Ranch Productions, attorney, and Emmy Award-winning entertainer. Billy always shares what’s hot and happening in Chicago on his weekly feature, “What’s on Dec?” on ABC’s Windy City LIVE.
1) Why is giving back important to you?
In my teens, things all of a sudden turned really bad. My father got sick, lost his business, our home, our security, was living on and off in hospitals, on food stamps, then my brother got sick next, and both of them passed early. All along it was my job to not only take care of them, and my sister and my mom, but support myself, put myself through school, and somehow create a different life for us. I worked multiple jobs, networked as hard as I could for more opportunity, but I could not have made it without help from others. Whether it was a boss or manager giving me a job and taking the time to give me advice, receiving financial aid during college & law school, or just the community coming out to my events allowing me an opportunity to entertain them, all of the giving was critical support and a shot at earning a better life. After knowing what some of those scary, dark, horrible times felt like, I want to give that shot right back to others in need, in any way I can.
2) What was your first or most memorable volunteer experience?
My most memorable will be volunteering to build houses in typhoon disaster-relief areas of the Philippines where my family is from. I have helped individuals and families in need before, but never have I seen an entire city wiped out all at once with no notice, destroying homes, families, just everything. They had no one to help or lean on, as everyone and everything was destroyed. Take community support away and you have nothing; thankfully groups like USAID, which I was with, and others from the global community came to the rescue.
3) What does Chicago look like to you?
Chicago has always had the best of all worlds … diversity! The best in culture, parks, skylines, beaches, architecture, food, music, shopping, art, theatre, and, of course, people.