By Jennifer Yos

LANSING, Ill. (July 29, 2022) – Lansing resident Elizabeth Gerald received word from The White House this past spring that she will be presented the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award on September 30, 2022, for her work as founder and CEO of the nonprofit Marcie Jonea Gerald (MJG) Movement.

Named after Gerald’s late daughter Marcelle (“Marcie”) Jonea Gerald— MJG Movement works with individuals and families dealing with suicide, mental illness, sexual assault, domestic violence, and bullying. They offer counseling, refer doctors, find housing, get orders of protection, and advocate in court when needed. Gerald herself provides motivational speaking and educational workshops to mentor and empower victims.

Elizabeth Gerald holds a photograph of her daughter Marcie, who is the source of Gerald’s inspiration to assist others. (Photo: Thomas Jacari Walker)

In 2014, Gerald’s own 15-year-old daughter Marcie was the victim of a brutal assault and rape as she walked home from the library. Her attacker was a stranger — a convicted rapist who had been recently released from prison. The physical and psychological trauma brought on by the attack and by the trial that followed caused Marcie — a Homewood-Flossmoor honor student — to fall into a deep depression that led to more than one suicide attempt. Even with the psychological help and special schooling her mother arranged for her, Marcie continued to suffer emotionally, and in 2015, she tragically ended her young life with an overdose of prescribed medication.

Marcie’s last words to her mother were, “I love you, Mommy.”

In a newly released documentary entitled Who Was Marcie? (YouTube link), Gerald shares Marcie’s story and explains how she decided to turn the unbearable pain and suffering she felt over the loss of her daughter into a mission to Support, Assist, Vindicate, and Educate (S.A.V.E.) victims and their families. With a Bachelor’s degree in child welfare and psychology, Gerald works to provide children with tools to help prevent sexual violence and to teach them how not to live in silence.

In December of 2021, Gerald spoke before Congress to get Marcie Law passed, which would prolong a rapist’s time in jail by upgrading the charges to murder/manslaughter if the victim commits suicide as a result of the sexual assault and/or rape of the convicted perpetrator.

Elizabeth Gerald (right), pictured with the Reverend Jesse Jackson (center), spoke at Rainbow Push about mental health and suicide. (Photo: Thomas Jacari Walker)
Elizabeth Gerald (left) and model, actress, singer, and businesswoman Beverly Johnson at an event focused on mental health. (Photo: Thomas Jacari Walker)

Gerald says the announcement that she is receiving the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award took her by surprise. Though she has been interviewed on TV, on the radio, and by several magazines, she still considers herself to be a “low-profile Mom.” Like many other mothers who have experienced the devastating loss of a child, Gerald is motivated to honor her daughter Marcie by raising awareness and helping others going through personal trauma.

Where Gerald will receive her award on September 30 is yet to be determined. According to Gerald, she was given the choice to receive the award locally because not all of her family members are able to travel to the White House.

MJG Movement’s office is located at 18525 S. Torrence Avenue in Lansing. The Cook County Land Bank is currently working with MJG Movement to provide a future safe house for victims of domestic violence, sex trafficking, and sexual assault, as well as homeless women and children. In addition to helping victims, MJG Movement sponsors Christmas toy giveaways, Giving Back events, and Thanksgiving food boxes. Gerald intends to provide more of these drives specifically for south suburban families in need.

Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award
MJG Movement partnered with the Park Forest School District for a Christmas toy drive. Pictured here, from left: Tihishia Gerald, Takesha Howard, and Elizabeth Gerald. (Photo: Thomas Jacari Walker)

For security and privacy reasons, people in need of assistance may private message Elizabeth Gerald on her Facebook page, Elizabeth Gerald TF. (The TF stands for Team Family.) Those interested in making donations to the MJG Movement nonprofit may do so via https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/mjgmovement.

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Jennifer Yos grew up on Walter Street in Lansing with nine siblings. She attended St. Ann’s School and T.F. South, and she earned a BA in the Teaching of English from the University of Illinois, Chicago, and a MS in Education: Curriculum and Instruction from the University of St. Francis, Joliet. For 34 years she taught English, as well as Creative Writing and Drama, at Lincoln-Way High School. She dabbled in freelance journalism for the Joliet Herald News Living section. Now retired, Jennifer appreciates the opportunity to write for The Lansing Journal and is uplifted by the variety of positive people she has already met who are making a difference in Lansing.