‘It begins with one person reaching out to someone else in need’

When Celeste Davis was a child, her mom, a social worker, would take her along to appointments with a trunk full of non-perishable food items.

“Whenever the kids saw my mom’s burnt-orange station wagon pull up, they wCeleste Davisould come running to her car, because they knew that she was the nice lady that would always have food for them,” Davis said. “One of my mother’s basic instructions to me as early as probably 6 years old, was to go out into the world and to be a blessing and to be of service to people.”

Davis carried that ethic with her, and it grew. After volunteering at soup kitchens as a child, she started volunteering with Chicago Cares as a young professional in 1991, the year of the organization’s founding. She has volunteered with Chicago Cares for all of its 25 years – at projects from pet therapy to working with kids to hunger-alleviating programs, where her true passion lies. She has continued to volunteer through a full and busy career, practicing as an attorney focusing on civil rights. Now, she is the Regional Manager, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights, Midwest Region.

After all these years, what keeps her volunteering is a deep belief in the power of the individual to spark change. She said that in Chicago, where violence and gangs loom large over the news, many people think there’s nothing they can do to change anything. What’s her response?

“That’s not true! It does begin with one person reaching out to someone else in need,” Davis said. “There are still good people in the world, and I believe that Chicago Cares is just a glowing example of what good people committed to doing good deeds can accomplish when they work together.”


-Alexandra Baird