Community Renewal Society Welcomes Virginia Martinez As Policy Director

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Community Renewal Society (CRS), among Chicago’s oldest faith-based social justice organizations, has hired veteran civil rights advocate Virginia Martinez as its new Director of Policy.

Community Renewal Society (CRS), among Chicago’s oldest faith-based social justice organizations, has hired veteran civil rights advocate Virginia Martinez as its new Director of Policy.

Ms. Martinez will lead CRS’ efforts to lobby lawmakers and elected officials on behalf of its racial and economic justice priorities, including removing barriers to employment for people with criminal records and addressing violence through redirecting resources from Cook County jail to communities. As Director of Policy, she will work collaboratively with CRS’ Organizing department and grassroots leaders and coalitions to develop legislative and local campaigns around social justice issues.

“Virginia is a trail-blazer and has been a leading advocate for persons and communities affected by discrimination, including women, children, those living in poverty and persons of color,” said the Rev. Curtiss DeYoung, Executive Director of Community Renewal Society. “Her particular experience of Latino communities will serve to broaden CRS’ base and reach.”

Ms. Martinez has had a distinguished career as a lawyer, policy advocate and nonprofit manager. Prior to joining CRS, she served as Senior Policy Analyst of the Illinois Latino Family Commission, which advised the governor and legislature on issues affecting health and human services among the state’s Latino population. She served as Legislative Staff Attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), a leading civil rights organization. In addition, she was Director of the International Center for Health and Leadership Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago and served as Executive Director of Mujeres Latinas en Acción. She also ran her own consulting business, assisting nonprofit organizations with coalition building and strategic and sustainability planning.

“I am looking forward to working with the Community Renewal Society to advance our shared goal of advocating for social and economic justice,” Ms. Martinez said.

She added that working with a faith-based organization will assist her in her own spiritual growth. “I know that this is where I belong,” she said.

Michelle Saddler, Secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services under Gov. Pat Quinn and former board member of CRS, said, “[Martinez] brings an excellent background and intimate knowledge of the systems, players and allies in Illinois public policy. I was pleased to work with Virginia during her tenure at the Illinois Latino Family Commission, and I look forward to working with her in this new role.”

Ms. Martinez, one of the first two Latinas licensed to practice law in Illinois, has received numerous awards and recognitions, including the YWCA Achievement Award for Community Service, One Hundred Women Making a Difference in Chicago, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois, and the Outstanding Leadership Award from the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus Foundation.

“I am thrilled that Virginia Martinez will be able to bring her commitment to service and advocacy to Community Renewal Society,” said Sylvia Puente, Executive Director of the Latino Policy Forum. “She has spent her lifetime advancing the rights of underserved communities. I’m so pleased that at CRS, she will be able to do this through her faith perspective.”

Community Renewal Society is a progressive, faith-based organization that works to eliminate race and class barriers. Founded in 1882, Community Renewal worked with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on the Chicago fair housing campaign in 1966 and was instrumental in developing the West Side Organization and Casa Central. Today, CRS informs, organizes and trains communities and individuals to advocate for social and economic justice.

For more information, contact:
BETH BABBITT BORST, bborst(at)communityrenewalsociety(dot)org or 312-673-3835

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Kim Mongoven
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