Family Focus Honors Judy Block




By Judy Carmack Bross




“It has been said that Judy Block has an unending curiosity about the city and the world that is only matched by her desire to see it improve for everyone,” Dara Munson, Family Focus President and CEO, on presenting an achievement award to Judy Block recently.


Judy Block with three generations of her family at the luncheon in her honor.


It is the kind of fact that belongs in the Guinness Book of World Records:  55 years of board service. But knowing Judy Block, the story of her board service award recognizes more than a statistic. As Family Focus Board Chair Dennis Abboud said at a recent luncheon in her honor: “Judy has literally touched every corner of Chicago, serving on the boards of many of our iconic museums and institutions.” Her recent award recognizes the depth and length of her involvement with the Chicago Child Care Society, which merged with Family Focus in 2021, as well as her empathic and strategic work on behalf of children and determination to never give up finding ways to serve.” As she told the audience that day: “we have to look to the children.”


Dara Munson


Family Focus President and CEO Dara Munson addressed Block, her family and other board members present at Gibson’s Italia to celebrate with her:



“Across this great city’s cultural and educational institutions, foundations and community nonprofits, this phenomenal person has been called a gem, an icon, a giant, a warrior and champion for children. At Family Focus, we get to call her Judy—our friend, a true visionary, and longstanding ambassador and cheerleader for the children and families we serve every day.”


Margie Stineman, Judy Block’s daughter, told us:


“I am thankful to the Family Focus family for honoring my mom. She has provided countless volunteer hours to so many different organizations, made a positive impact on so many communities, and given so much to Chicago as a whole. She has worked tirelessly in her life for the causes she believes in and the organizations of which she is a part. Although she would never pick a favorite organization or cause because she genuinely cares so deeply about all of them, the children who are without opportunity, safety, support, and love and who cannot speak up for themselves, have always been her priority.


“It is the organizations, like Family Focus, that fight for these children and strive to deliver the promise of a better tomorrow. I am very proud of all that my mom has done for Chicago, and I am deeply grateful for the example she has set for me and my whole family. I hope we can do our small part to carry on the legacy of philanthropy and service that she has built.”



Munson detailed her multifaceted Chicago Child Care leadership from Board President to oversight of many programs, including Head Start and Early Head Start. She spearheaded the creation of a library at the Hyde Park Center, now named in her honor. Munson spoke of Block’s role at other child-centered organizations such as serving as a Director of the Jane Addams Juvenile Court Foundation and Life Trustee of the Chicago Foundation for Education. In addition, she was a 10-year member of the Executive Committee of The Chicago Community Trust and the first woman to chair the Board of Trustees of the Field Museum. She also led organizations like Know Your Chicago as well as served on the Board of Trustees at her alma mater, Northwestern University where she received the Alumni Service Award.


Munson spoke of a few of the other accolades and awards for her philanthropy and hands-on achievements, including the Kids Count Award from the Voices for Illinois Children, the Chairman’s Award from the United Way of Chicago where she served as a past Director, and National Society of Fundraising Executives Volunteer of the Year award.


A friend present at the luncheon honoring Block could not help but remember the hours she spent in court as an advocate for children who needed a voice, a quiet type of service involving days with children in court situations, that shows that true leaders are equally capable of serving one-on-one with equal determination.


Judy Block has always put children first.


Abboud spoke as well about the growth of Family Focus programs during the past year:


“From doula services to immigrant and new arrival support, Family Focus has stepped up and filled some of the very critical and urgent needs of hundreds more people during the past year. We are renovating and expanding our flagship center in Evanston and our Aurora center is on the move to the Family Focus Aurora Kapur Center.”



Munson added, “At Family Focus we dream big dreams with the children, youth, and families we serve each day. With support from leaders like Judy Block, our dreams for the year ahead – to create a state-of-the-art space at our landmark building in Evanston, to address the maternal health disparities of black and brown pregnant and parenting moms, to partner with allies like City Colleges of Chicago to build the socioeconomic mobility of adults and their families – can come true!”


Children have always been Judy Block’s priority.


Munson described the Family Focus urgency in strengthening families:


“The Family Focus approach is to understand and respond intentionally and simultaneously to the individual and collective needs of the whole family—the child, parents, grandparents and other vested members within the family unit. Our programs build agency and capacity and interrupt the cycle of poverty by advancing the economic, educational, health and safety of the entire family unit. Our goal is to make a measurable difference in the lives of every member of the family. The new doula program is designed to provide physical, emotional, and empowering companionship to mothers and children, pre-birth through early childhood. Believe it or not, the United States has the highest infant and maternal mortality rates of any other high-income country, according to a recent report from the Commonwealth Fund. Doula services and home visits can reduce the leading causes of infant mortality.”


Chicago is a city built in part on the broad shoulders of volunteers. Celebrating Judy Block’s contributions at a time when challenges lie in every direction, seeing how she has always led the way by looking to the children provides great hope and great confidence in volunteerism.


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