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Women’s History Month: Joliet woman driven to help her community

Joliet resident Amy Sanchez’ drive to make her community a better place started the day she survived an act of violence.

Sanchez recalls the aftermath of being shot in 1989 and the Joliet community that rallied around her in her time of need.

“My community activism found me, I didn’t find it,” said Sanchez.

“When I was shot, I was nine years old, and I was shot in the head. The bullet went two-and-half centimeters into my brain, and they thought I wasn’t going to live, and if I did live, I would have all these side effects, have a speech impediment, be mentally challenged, or be paralyzed on the entire left side.”

The event moved members of the community to take action against gang violence.

“When I survived all that, the community response was so great that we needed to do something about the gang problem, and I became inadvertently a spokesperson against violence,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez credits her community activism to the example she saw at home at an early age.

“Both of my parents were heavily involved in the community,” she said. “I grew up around leaders.”

Sanchez devotes much of her time to volunteering with local community organizations including Unity Community Development Corporation, Joliet Unity Movement, 815 and the Justice for Sema’j Action Team.

Sanchez has served as president of the neighborhood councils for Unity CDC, since its inception in 2007. The non-profit organization aims to support underrepresented areas in the City of Joliet at a neighborhood level said president Mac Willis.

Willis said that from the beginning, he saw that Sanchez always brings her own style of “passionate volunteerism and outstanding leadership in the community.”

“Her tenacity is unrivaled,” said Willis, adding, “It doesn’t matter the issue, she’s right there.”

Willis said that Sanchez exudes a spirit of volunteerism in whatever she does.

“She just exhibits good leadership,” he said.

He points out her relentless drive to help also extends to other organizations and causes including work to get the Joliet Unity Movement off the ground in 2014. The group develops youth programming, recreational opportunities and mentoring.

In the wake of infant Semaj Crosby’s death in the spring of 2017, an event that raised questions for many in the community, Sanchez dove in to another cause, with the group Justice for Sema’j Action Team.

“I was watching [the group] and just directing people to them, and there were so many ideas surfacing, great ideas about how to not just keep her memory alive, but how to make sure that this doesn’t happen again to another child,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez said it’s important for people to come to the table to affect the change they wish to see in the world regardless of how the contribute.

“Some people aren’t as vocal, and some people are the silent heroes,” she said.

Standing by silently isn’t Sanchez’ style though said Willis.

“She’s professional, she’s articulate, and she gets the point across” he said.

“It may not be favored by others, but she’s always going to speak out for the community.”

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