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            Hardest-Working Voices

            Hardest-Working Voices

            A Sun-Times series spotlighting the people and professions that keep Chicago thriving.

            Featured stories

            Denise Jones is a taper/drywall finisher for the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades’ Painters District Council 14.  Denise was photographed for the Hardest Working Voices series. | Brian Rich/Sun-Times
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            A former public housing resident is now helping women in trade unions become ‘fit for the fight’

            The handiwork of painter/taper Denise Jones, who used to live in Cabrini Green, can be seen all over the city.

            Mike Angus, a driver for Waste Management represented by the Teamsters Union, picks up a piece of garbage that was left outside of a dumpster in an apartment complex in southwest suburban Burr Ridge, Monday morning, Nov. 4, 2019.
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            Garbage hauling no longer a dirty job but still essential to city life, Teamster says

            Mike Angus left the business world to drive a garbage truck — a job he unexpectedly loves.

            Alexis Rivera coaches for Beat the Streets Chicago Wrestling.
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            ‘Once you’ve wrestled, everything in life seems easier,’ volunteer coach says

            Beat the Streets Chicago Wrestling helps kids on the South and West Sides learn the sport, compete for college scholarships.

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            From ‘tunnel rat’ to power engineer, electricians like Steven Moore keep the trains running on time

            As power engineer coordinator for the Chicago Transit Authority, Moore is ready to respond quickly to electrical issues impacting the city’s 244 miles of ‘L’ tracks.

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            Jamyle Cannon uses boxing to help West Side kids overcome life’s obstacles

            Cannon’s program, the Bloc, "spreads the love for boxing" while providing tutoring and more.

            Mike Badame, assistant chief operating engineer for the Chicago Department of Aviation, at O’Hare International Airport.
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            Mike Badame hopes you never notice him at O’Hare Airport — it means everything is working

            The operating engineer keeps the world’s 6th busiest airport running smoothly through a massive infrastructure of systems that control everything from the lights to the hot water.

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            Traveling bard, musician and art teacher helps kids in hospitals take center stage

            Emmy Bean’s bedside lessons give patients "a chance to be a kid, and not a kid who’s sick."

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            Kamau Murray is helping S. Side kids win tennis championships — and college scholarships

            The XS Tennis founder and CEO has helped 47 players get scholarships and coached Sloane Stephens, who won the 2017 U.S. Open.

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            Plumbing runs in Cliff Bruckner’s family — for 130 years

            The Plumbers Local 130 member is part of the fifth generation to work for Chas F. Bruckner and Son Plumbing.

            Helene Pochopien, director of nursing at Maryville Children’s Healthcare Center
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            Nursing director helps make Maryville Children’s Healthcare Center ‘a happy place’

            Helene Pochopien does a little bit of everything for Northwest Side facility that cares for medically fragile kids and young adults.

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            Artist, janitor and athlete Amelia Hernandez, 62, still competing, training daily in Little Village

            She’s been a part of the Special Olympics since the first games were held at Soldier Field in 1968.

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            Nursing assistant helps care for victims of Chicago violence: ‘My patients are definitely the best part of my job’

            Clarise Evans sees the impact of Chicago’s gun violence on a daily basis. She’s now pushing for higher wages at her hospital.

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            Providing mental health care for immigrants ‘personal for me,’ Pilsen Wellness Center director says

            ‘The communities we serve are very complex,’ Nestor Flores says. ‘These are vulnerable populations that are struggling to survive, low-income in many cases.’

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            She fixes forklifts, smashes glass ceilings in auto mechanics industry

            Kittra Headtke tells girls and women: "If it’s something you love, do it no matter who you are."

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            TapCloud app helps you tell your doctor what’s wrong

            Founder Tom Riley developed the app after seeing his mom struggle to describe how she felt while battling cancer.

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            Chicago Marathon national anthem singer also clutch performer at Special Olympics, behind camera

            Jana Kennedy-Long, who has won gold medals as an athlete, will sing before 45,000 people later this month.

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            Ex-presidential bodyguard now holding line in year-long hotel strike

            Sam Yolo is leading the charge of about 30 workers who have been on strike from the Cambria Chicago Magnificent Mile hotel for the past year.

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            Tears part of the job for organ recovery specialist, but donations ‘something beautiful’

            Cara Moulesong says she gets to see the best in people who — despite going through intense trauma — are still willing to help strangers.

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            West Side kids are learning to play lacrosse, thanks to this program

            Sam Angelotta founded OWLS, which teaches students how to play one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S.

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            Power tools are precision instruments for worker in the guts of the Lake Shore Drive bridge

            Matt Clement works as a millwright, one of the world’s oldest professions.

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            Dr. Kevin Campbell: Helping people get back on their feet with post-surgery text messages

            The orthopedic surgeon launched StreaMD, a Chicago tech startup, to try to help make recovery easier after an operation.

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            How flying pucks and slap shots can get kids excited about math and science

            Noah Doppelt, the NHL and EverFi have teamed up to help 30,000 students — including many in CPS — learn STEM concepts.

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            Handle with care — and a smile: Ex-wide receiver delivers mail ‘through rain, sleet or snow’

            "People are getting medicine in the mail they desperately need, or important bills and packages," says letter carrier Damien Tate. "I’m a firm believer in making sure people get their stuff in a timely fashion."

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            His magic helps kids heal

            ‘We’re committed to empowering hospitalized kids through magic,’ says Neil Tobin of Open Heart Magic, a Chicago nonprofit that trains and sends volunteer magicians to hospitals to cheer up sick children.

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            How a Chicago woman is helping get exercise into the daily lives of girls

            Alecia Ivery is a senior manager with Girls in the Game, which provides sports, health, and leadership programs for 45K young women across the city, especially on the South and West sides.

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            Crystal Gardner: ‘We made major history by organizing’

            The case worker was instrumental in helping unionize workers at the UCAN social service agency for the first time in its 150-year history.

            Kwaku Owusu, co-founder and CEO of Drugviu.
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            Kwaku Owusu: Lack of minorities in drug trials demanded attention, so he launched a company

            ‘It just hit me that this is a problem that I want to solve,’ the founder of Drugviu says.

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            Jacqui Giuliano: World champion triathlete, suburban math teacher still hasn’t reached her peak

            "I like to find out what my potential is. I feel like I haven’t quite reached that yet," the Ironman All World Athlete of the year says.

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            Why these Chicagoans left other careers to work in ‘boots and jeans and ... with my hands’

            International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Kara Maude, Elbert Walters and John Felke take pride in keeping the lights on.

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            Derek Daniels: Adaptive sports program director brings out the best in others

            "What’s important to me is getting more people involved in the sport and widening the opportunity for people who want to play sled hockey or adaptive sports," he said.

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            Patrick Byrne: He lost a leg — but not his love for working with heavy machinery

            Despite his accident, the operating engineer’s co-workers "don’t look at me as a person that has a physical disability. They look at me as one of their brothers."

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            Dr. Sindhu Rajan: With 90 million at risk, preventing diabetes essential to improving global health

            Her digital diabetes program is helping fight the spread of the epidemic, particularly in the Asian-Indian community.

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            Dr. Andrei Pop: Saving lives ‘highly satisfying,’ but preventing problems more beneficial

            The interventional cardiologist says he’s increasingly more focused on prevention programs than on performing dramatic procedures.