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Lansing’s Valerie McDaniels honored at Cook County’s Unsung Heroine Awards

CHICAGO, Ill. (March 15, 2024) – Women of excellence from all across Cook County gathered at the Chicago Cultural Center in downtown Chicago on March 8 for the 27th Annual Peggy A. Montes Unsung Heroine Awards. Among them was Lansing’s own Valerie McDaniels.

The annual award ceremony honors one woman from each of the 17 Cook County districts, as well as an 18th selected by “three at-large members of the Women’s Commission,” according to the program for the event.

The program said, “The County honors these remarkable women as a way to bring their stories to light, thank them publicly and celebrate the tradition of achievement and commitment to the greater good that is embodied by women leaders throughout the history of Cook County.”

Valerie McDaniels
Valerie McDaniels of Lansing holds her Unsung Heroine Award. (Photo provided by Lauren Jahn)

McDaniels was honored at the event, which she attended with a few of her friends and supporters.

“I have a genuine gratitude for such a prestigious award. It’s hard to accept that award without appreciating those surrounding me. I have been blessed to be around positive and uplifting individuals all my life,” McDaniels told The Lansing Journal.

Her full bio is included below, as it appeared in the event program:

Valerie McDaniels has 38 years of experience in child welfare. She is a retiree of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services in the Division of Child Protection. She retired as an associate deputy director in the Bureau of Operations in 2015. She also worked with private agencies and currently works part-time with Safe Coalition, specializing in Human Trafficking. Valerie’s tireless work in her community stems from her church ushering and working with families and she is passionate about those in need. The most important aspect of the help she provides is changing communities one neighbor at a time. Valerie’s heart fills with joy when she hears from others that she is making a difference.
Valerie holds a Master of Arts from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration (SSA) and a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Illinois State University. She served on a number of boards: Lansing Human Relations Commission, Chairperson; Executive Board of Prevent Child Abuse of Illinois, President; L.O.S.T., Inc., Board Member; Gifts from Liam, Board Member; Common Ground Organization in Lansing; Illinois State University Black Colleague Association; University of Chicago SSA Alumni Board of Directors; DBW Scholarship Commission; Certified Team Leader and Military Lead Reviewer; and Case Reviewer for Council on Accreditation N.Y.
Valerie is a Lansing, Illinois resident who enjoys time with her husband, Steve, along with church, family and friends. She desires peace, happiness, faith and hope for all.

The full list of honorees is included below:

  • Edie Jacobs, 1st District
  • Shawnie Jones, 2nd District
  • Karen Calloway, 3rd District
  • Valerie McDaniels, 4th District
  • Lamenta Sweetie Conway, MD, MPH, 5th District
  • Dr. Shelley Amuh, 6th District
  • Jackeline Gongora, 7th District
  • April M. Curtis, 8th District
  • Yeulanda Degala, 9th District
  • Fannie Sanchez, 10th District
  • Alice Chiu, 11th District
  • Blair Janis, 12th District
  • Sheerine Alemzadeh, 13th District
  • Beth Nabors Powers, 14th District
  • Kathy Evita Bojczuk, 15th District
  • Debra Fiorito, 16th District
  • Arlene Adams, 17th District
  • Wanda Carter, Heroine At-Large

Photos from the awards

Some of the honorees at the 27th Annual Unsung Heroine Awards. (Photo provided by Lauren Jahn)
Valerie McDaniels is pictured with Cook County Commissioner Stanley Moore (4th Dist.) (Photo provided by Lauren Jahn)
Valerie McDaniels
The Unsung Heroine Awards were held at the Chicago Cultural Center. (Photo provided by Lauren Jahn)
Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle speaks at the 27th Annual Unsung Heroine Awards. (Photo provided by Lauren Jahn)
Josh Bootsma
Josh Bootsma
Josh is Managing Editor at The Lansing Journal and believes in the power and purpose of community news. He covers any local topics—from village government to theatre, from business openings to migratory birds.