Here’s who Illinois members of Congress will bring as guests to the State of the Union address – Chicago Tribune newstrendslive

When DuPagePads CEO and president April Redzic heard she had been invited to be U.S. Rep. Sean Casten’s guest to Tuesday’s State of the Union Address, one of the first things she did was call her mother.

“My mom has been really one of the people who inspired me to go into social service, and so I called her — she’ll be keeping an eye on the TV to see if she can spot me in the audience,” Redzic told the Tribune over the phone on Monday.

She said she’ll be wearing an orange outfit to represent the mission of DuPagePads, given that it’s a color used to signify construction. For almost four decades, Wheaton-based DuPagePads has sought to provide emergency shelter and supportive housing to homeless individuals in DuPage County and support them in their journey out of homelessness.

For the first time since voters in the midterm elections handed control of the House to Republicans, a joint session of Congress will convene for the president’s State of the Union Address. Though this will be Biden’s second State of the Union Address, it will be the his first where members of Congress can bring guests. In 2022, pandemic precautions limited the audience to lawmakers only.

Recent events will be fresh in America’s mind as the president delivers his speech this year, such as mass shootings in California and the police killing of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee. Nichols’ parents are slated to be part of the audience on Tuesday night.

Casten’s announcement comes as other members of Congress that represent the state of Illinois also extended invitations to guests in hopes of advancing certain causes and hot-button issues, such as universal health care and reproductive rights. First lady Jill Biden also announced her list of guests, including Rolling Meadows High School 10th grader Kate Foley of Arlington Heights.

Foley, a computer-integrated manufacturing student, wants to pursue a career as a biomedical engineer. The first lady met Foley in November 2022 during a visit to her high school to emphasize the need to build pathways from high school to good-paying jobs through career-connected learning.

Kate Foley speaks with first lady Jill Biden about her experience in the career pathways program at Rolling Meadows High School on Nov. 14, 2022.

On Monday, U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth announced that Erin King of Hope Clinic — a reproductive health care and abortion provider in the Metro East — will be her 2023 State of the Union guest. According to a news release, the invitation is “part of the Senator’s continuing efforts to underscore the importance of a woman’s right to choose and defend Americans’ right to full, comprehensive reproductive health care.”

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin announced on Twitter his guest would be Chris Manson of Peoria-based OSF HealthCare, who sent an ambulance full of medical supplies to war-torn Ukraine.

South Side and south suburban lawmaker Rep. Robin Kelly will attend the event alongside Chicago Fire Department Commissioner Annette Nance-Holt, who is a gun violence survivor and whose son was killed on a CTA bus in 2007.

U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, who represents Chicagoland’s north and northwest sides, announced Tuesday his guest would be state Sen. Sara Feigenholtz, a Chicago Democrat. In a news release, Quigley said Feigenholtz is a friend, a colleague and a fighter for women’s reproductive freedom across the state.

“I’ve been proud to work alongside Sara during our time in elected office and, as we navigate a post-Roe America, I look forward to working closely with her to ensure Illinois continues to be a safe haven for access to abortion and contraception,” Quigley said.

U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, of Chicago, will be taking Lillian Drummond, a 101-year-old community activist who is a staunch supporter of Social Security and the founder of the South Austin Coalition, according to a spokeswoman from the congressman’s office.

On Feb. 1, U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, who represents the west and northwest suburbs and farmland, announced his guest for the State of the Union address would be Michael Isaacson, executive director of the Kane County Health Department.

“From expanding childhood mental health resources to combating the opioid epidemic, (Isaacson) has proven himself to be a steadfast advocate and an experienced leader in community outreach,” Foster said in a news release. “In the coming weeks, President Biden will bring an end to the COVID-19 public health emergency declaration. As we do, we must make sure it’s done in a competent and orderly manner that prioritizes and supports our local public health departments and essential community leaders like Michael Isaacson.”

U.S. Rep. Nikki Budzinski, of Springfield, will bring Andrea Kelly of Decatur, who is a graduate of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers pre-apprenticeship program currently working as a construction wireman. With her guest, Budzinski seeks to emphasize the need of such programs for economic mobility, according to a news release. Budzinski will soon introduce legislation to address the job skills gap by providing tax incentives to small businesses that hire apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship workers.

On Monday, U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, of Naperville, announced her guest would be Cindy Mundell of Naperville, a cardiac intensive care unit nurse who retired after more than 36 years of service and a Medicare and Social Security beneficiary.

According to a news release by Underwood’s office, Mundell “earned the right to retire with dignity after more than three decades of service to her community. As Republicans work to implement devastating cuts to these programs that seniors are counting on, Democrats are defending them.”

But not all members of Congress in Illinois will be bringing guests. Far-right U.S. Rep. Mary Miller of southern Illinois, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, said she will not be attending the event “in protest of Joe Biden’s record of lying to the American people,” her office announced Monday.

Redzic had worked with housing nonprofits across the Chicagoland for almost two decades before joining DuPagePads two years ago, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a news release by Casten’s office, under Redzic’s leadership, DuPagePads has experienced a 90% success rate in their supportive housing clients retaining housing.

In March 2022, DuPagePads purchased a 125-room hotel with American Rescue Plan Act and Community Development Block Grant funds. They transformed it into an interim housing center to help people end their homelessness — a pioneering model.

“We give people four walls and a door,” Redzic said. “This is new; a lot of places have been using congregate shelter where you’re in a church auditorium or basement or common space. For years, that had been a model that people have used.”

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Ever since opening the center, she said, DuPagePads began seeing an increase in the number of families coming in, enticed by the idea of a room of their own. Mothers would say that they could sleep better knowing their kids were safe, and they felt it was a more comfortable way to take care of their children.

The impact on mental health and physical health was also significant with DuPagePads’ new model. Redzic said the organization saw a 75% decrease in health incidents and an 80% decrease in mental health incidents when homeless individuals had somewhere to stay during the day.

“One of the things that had been really important to us since I came into this role and since the pandemic began, was to ensure no child slept in a car in DuPage County,” Redzic said.

She said the interim housing center, which has served 787 people since opening, currently houses approximately 300 homeless people — of which 110 are children.

“It’s near and dear to my heart, to keep people safe, especially families and kids. And I’m really excited to have the opportunity to join Rep. Casten to talk about these things and hopefully encourage other communities to consider using a similar model,” Redzic said.

The AP contributed.

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