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Mother-son team on Chicago House, other endeavors
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times

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Christine "Chris" Bagley and her son, Derek Bagley, have always had a passion for giving back to causes and organizations that provide the most direct services to those in need through their Chris and Derek Bagley Family Foundation.

For the past three years ( and next year ), their foundation has been a presenting sponsor of the Chicago House Spring Brunch. Both Chris and Derek also serve as the brunch's co-chairs. This year the event, REVIVE! Rally on the Runway, held at the Harold Washington Library, raised $168,000.

"I was introduced to Chicago House through an acquaintance," said Chris. "Knowing of my charitable work, I was asked if I would be interested in planning a benefit to launch a merger of Chicago House's former bakery. From there, I worked closely with Chicago House staff and became passionate about its mission. Then I was asked if I would consider sitting on the board of trustees. I accepted and have been a board member for six years. I am also the Chicago House Development Fundraising Committee chair."

"I got involved with Chicago House after my mother joined the board," said Derek. "As a queer person, it is really refreshing to see an organization serve our community, and so many other vulnerable communities, so directly. I admire the hands on approach Chicago House takes at handling its casework, so I decided to join its Advocate Board. It is very important, especially in this day and age, that those who are most vulnerable in our society have networks of support like Chicago House."

In their roles as co-chairs of the brunch, they work with their core planning committee eight months in advance to make the event a success.

"We plan everything from the colors of the napkins to strategies in courting major sponsors," said Derek. "We usually start with picking a theme. I enjoy working with my mother because it gives us an excuse to spend quality time together, and I think our various talents play off of each other well. I look forward to doing this event every year."

"Working with my son on this event has been a positive and rewarding experience," said Chris. "Seeing the conception of the idea to its 'birth' is exciting. Derek and I work closely with the Chicago House development staff, headed by Kate Fenner-Lux, and the producer of the event, Quenten Schumacher, with every aspect of the event. We have a great team that works great together."

Chris—who has a BA in education and psychology, and has completed post-graduate work in interior design—spends her days doing philanthropic community activist work. She added that many of the guys in Boystown call her "The Queen of Boystown" due to her commitment to LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS causes.

Derek has a bachelor's in government and a master's degree in interdisciplinary studies. He spent seven years as a political operative and fundraiser for a variety of Democratic Congressional candidates, including U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi. He has also been involved in Illinois state races and civic non-profit organizations such as Chicago Votes.

"Being the development director and a board member of Chicago Votes was a life changing experience, and I encourage everyone to engage with this incredible organization," said Derek. "They specialize in providing civic education, access and real-life political/government experience to young people all over Chicagoland, specifically in underrepresented communities. I was in charge of fundraising from individual donors for Chicago Votes, but being part of their staff brought me to the frontlines of democracy in ways that no political campaign ever could. It was more than just a fundraising gig for me—it was a perspective shifter."

Derek said it was an eye opening experience to work on political campaigns no matter whom the candidate was because it offers very few rewards. He explained that 95 percent of the time he was seeking out campaign donations and strategizing about how to defeat the opponent and very little time on policy work.

"After working on many campaigns, I learned how deeply insufficient the American political system is at serving the people, and how impossible it is to change that system from within," said Derek.

In 2016, Derek decided to switch careers because he felt unfulfilled doing political work so he enrolled in the Film Studies Master of Fine Arts program at DePaul University. He is currently pursuing a career as a filmmaker and fine artist.

Derek said he will use his "art as a vehicle to encourage social criticism and dialogue about the systems of power that dominate our current society. My former political and academic work will inform my queer film practice. We need to use media and motion picture to expose the filthy truth of the systems that govern our society, and, for that, I thank all of my political bosses for giving me a grade A education."

When Chris and Derek are not working or planning this annual event, they like to travel together, both domestically and internationally, as well as dine out and enjoy Chicago's cultural landscape. Chris also likes going to theater and dance productions while Derek enjoys reading and watching films.

Derek's message to the world is "employ and support queer people of color."

Both Chris and Derek said they are looking forward to the revival of Chicago House's speaker series this fall. The event will take place Friday, Sept. 14, at 11:30 a.m. at the Chicago Hilton and Towers, 720 S. Michigan Ave.. This year's speakers will be Adam Rippon and Wanda Sykes, with NBC Chicago News' Chris Hush serving as the emcee.

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