Moving Forward Together 2023

Building Healthy Communities


Moonlight Studios
1446 W. Kinzie
Chicago, IL 60642

Join us for an inspiring evening featuring Dr. Eve L. Ewing, a writer, scholar, and cultural organizer from Chicago.

More than 250 financial, real estate, government, and philanthropic leaders will come together for an inspiring hybrid event. The event program will center the experiences of residents and share stories of resilience and hope, including those of our awardees.

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Eve Ewing

Join us for a conversation with Dr. Ewing, where she will share her perspective on building healthy communities. She will share reflections and lessons she’s learned along the way that will inform the path ahead as Mercy Housing Lakefront works to ensure that more people in the Midwest have a quality affordable home in a community that supports them at every stage of their lives.

Dr. Ewing is the author of the books Electric Arches, Ghosts in the Schoolyard, 1919, and Maya and the Robot. She writes comic books, including Ironheart and Black Panther. And TV, and theater, and a lot of other things as well.

She is also an associate professor in the Department of Race, Diaspora, and Indigeneity at the University of Chicago, where she teaches courses on education and racial inequality and directs the Beyond Schools Lab. Ewing will be signing books after the program.

Alongside Dr. Ewing’s remarks, this hybrid event will center the experiences of residents and share stories of resilience and hope.

2023 Awardees

Northern Trust Inspiring Hope Award

Recognizing an individual for overcoming adversity and inspiring hope

Aj Patton

Robert “A.J.” Patton is the Chairman & CEO of 548 Enterprise, a unified real estate & investment social impact firm that collates his capital, development, foundation and energy solutions. Named after the address of the affordable housing project he grew up in, 548 is a symbol of Patton’s personal commitment to bringing sustainable building technologies and innovation to underserved communities.

A.J. has actualized this commitment through $200 Million in mixed-use and residential sustainable housing developments, including 2 of the midwest’s largest Passive House affordable housing portfolios as a winner of Chicago’s INVEST South/West initiative. Patton’s focus on environmental activism includes 3 all-electric developments, $50 Million in solar powered industrial developments, and 10 Megawatts of solar to power affordable housing.

Patton believes that diversity and innovation should exist in every layer of a project, and is a passionate advocate for equity in contracting. Patton and 548 regularly collaborate with minority- and women-owned businesses, help emerging general contractors gain access to financing, and upskill local community members through job training programs and incubation. With more than a decade of experience in investment banking, endowment management, solar and real estate development, Patton is an accomplished sustainability, finance, sales, and capital markets expert. He was recently named on “40 under 40” lists for Crain’s Chicago Business, Midwest Energy, and WVON/BMO Harris Bank, and featured in the Chicago Tribune, Yahoo! Finance, Energy News, The Real Deal, Bisnow, and American Council on Renewable Energy.

Spirit of Mercy Award

In honor of an individual for a lifetime achievement in helping to create a more humane world

Denis Pierce formed a successful law practice in Chicago in April 1975 and named it Pierce & Associates PC.

In June 2016, after 41 years, Pierce & Associates combined with McCalla Raymer, now known as McCalla Raymer Leibert Pierce. Denis currently serves on various boards and is an active member of philanthropic and not-for-profit organizations in Illinois and Michigan.

Denis established the Pierce Family Charitable Foundation (PFF) in December 2007 (, becoming actively involved in Chicago’s not-for-profit and philanthropic sector.

From its inception, the Pierce Family Foundation primarily focused on the support of nonprofit organizations that were working on housing and homelessness in Chicago, helping them build the capacity they needed to operate effectively. The Pierce Family Foundation championed the philosophy that philanthropy should focus on “the real costs” of nonprofits, while paying special attention to grantee infrastructure, planning, fundraising, technology, and staffing.

After 16 years as its founder and President, Denis is sunsetting the Pierce Family Foundation, having granted more than $14 million to hundreds of nonprofits in Chicago.

design 4 dignity

Wintrust Partners in
Innovation Award

In honor of creativity, commitment, and perseverance in an innovative community development collaboration

Designs for Dignity is a Chicago nonprofit, transforming nonprofit environments through pro bono design services and in-kind donations – empowering lives through design. Designs for Dignity is celebrating 23 years of commitment to creating restorative environments for nonprofit service organizations and at-risk populations. Designs for Dignity’s mission aims to serve marginalized communities by harnessing the talents and resources of the design community at large to provide spaces that inspire hope and dignity as well as interaction and engagement. Using the power of design, Designs for Dignity has positively impacted hundreds of thousands of lives by transforming 260+ nonprofit spaces and leveraging $18+ million in pro-bono design services & donated materials. Designs for Dignity was instrumental in designing the Activity Center at Mercy Housing Lakefront’s Lofts on Arthington located in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood. The Lofts on Arthington is home to 384 residents, of which 155 are children.

Thank you to our sponsors

Award Sponsors

Northern Trust logo

Wintrust In the Community logo

Community Builder

US Bank logo

Hope Builder

Linn Mathes Inc logo

Home Builders

Applegate and Thorne Thomsen

KPMG logo

Leasing & Management Company Logo

National Equity Fund logo

Nia Architecture Logo
old national bank
Martha and Denis Pierce
John and Susan Powell
Sage Health Strategy logo
Construction Ujamaa logo
Mercy Builders

Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago
The Huntington National Bank

Korb and Associates Architects
LBBA Architects
Prestige Health
Urban Innovations
Ritu Vig and Venu Talanki

Nonprofit Partners

Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, Inc.
Elizabeth B. Phillips
Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren s.c.
Sisters of Charity, BVM

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas
WaterStone Bank