Joann Salopek, South Side Chamber of Commerce's Person of the Year
On February 20, JoAnn Salopek, a lifelong South Side resident and longtime community activist, will be honored as this year's South Side Chamber of Commerce Person of the Year.
According to fellow community advocate Roberta Smith, Mrs. Salopek initially became a fixture in community issues in the mid 1960s. Some of her earliest efforts involved helping to keep the old South Side Hospital from moving out of the community and fighting to keep United Dairy off Jane Street.
Later on, she became the female advocate for Explorer Post 777 at then No. 7 Police Station and served as a mentor for children interested in police work. And, to better utilize her communication and persuasive skills, she became a member of the South Side Community Council.
Over the years, she has been a member of several committees and held the various positions including vice president of the community council and chairwoman of the 17th Ward just to name a few.
Ultimately, Mrs. Salopek's desire to improve the community seems to be her driving force.
“I grew up in the South Side. And my father grew up here too. Things have changed, some for the good, some for the bad,” she said. “But there will always be problems, and I never like to see anything bad happen. So I just keep on going.”
“She just has the ability to get things done,” Mrs. Smith added.
Within the past year alone, Mrs. Salopek has been involved with several projects. According to Penny Folino, president of the South Side Chamber of Commerce, these endeavors were instrumental in leading to her consideration for the honor. Among them include getting a bus stop on 18th Street moved, keeping the Market House Christmas Bazaar going another year, helping to acquire city permits and allowing for the SSC of C to run smoothly.
But, in Mrs. Folino's opinion, the most important centered on emergency services. “She helped to save the Zone 3 Police Station and the fire station,” she said.
When it came time for the SSC of C to vote on this year's honoree, Mrs. Salopek and Mrs. Folino were the only two major considerations for the honor. The organization's president withdrew from consideration, responding that she “wanted her votes to go to JoAnn. She deserves it more than anyone.”
Despite all her achievements, Mrs. Salopek remains quite humble. “A lot of people worked with me and just as hard as me,” she said. “I've met some of the nicest people and I wouldn't trade a thing. “And, I really appreciate my sons putting up with my activities all those years,” Mrs. Salopek said jokingly.
For years, she has been promising herself that she will cut back on her work. “I'm not a kid anymore,” she said. “But, when I'm interested in something, I go for it. As long as I keep my health, I'll be involved with whatever comes up.”
The annual dinner honoring the chamber's awardees will be held on Friday, Feb. 20 at the IBEW. The event starts with hors devours at 6 p.m. followed by the dinner at 7. “We will be having an auction, door prizes and a band,” said Mrs. Folino.
In addition to Mrs. Salopek's Person of the Year Award, Business of the Year Awards will be presented to Peter Gordon of Gordon Real Estate Co. Inc. and Brian Boak, D.M.D. from Five Star Dentistry on the South Side.
Tickets for the dinner are $60 per person and include an open bar, hors d'oeuvres and a buffet dinner. Entertainment will be provided by Five Guys Named Moe.
For more information, call 412-431-3360. Deadline for dinner reservations is February 6.