Bob Rehak never imagined a project he did over 40 years ago in Chicago would have an impact on Humble-area kids today.
In the 1970s, Rehak completed a photography project in uptown Chicago, a very diverse neighborhood where more than 65 languages were spoken in the high school.
For this project, Rehak rode the L-train to random stops and decided to photograph the first person he met at each stop.
The very first person he met was a man struggling with mental illness; he had just been released from a mental institution into a halfway house. Rehak took that photograph and many, many more that were featured in two photographic exhibitions and a published book.
Fast forward several years later, when Rehak, who owned his own advertising firm, Rehak Creative Services, posted some of those Chicago photos to a website to bid on a job for his firm.
The photos, which Rehak describes as a “parade of personalities,” showed the diversity of uptown Chicago’s people and ultimately helped him win that job. The photos also began to spark interest from current Chicago residents, and the website soon had 12 million visitors. A playwright who wrote a play called “Superior Donuts” also became interested in the photos.
The play takes place in a Chicago donut shop and centers around the diverse conversations that occur between the longtime residents and the newer residents that resulted from the gentrification taking place in the neighborhood. The playwright was looking for authentic Chicago photos from that era for the stage set, and Rehak’s photos were a perfect fit. The play was piloted for television by CBS in Los Angeles, and Rehak was paid $5,000 in royalties for the permanent use of the photos in any “Superior Donuts” production.
Rehak wanted to personally donate the $5,000 to Humble Area Assistance Ministries (HAAM), but since he is running for Humble ISD board trustee Position 1, he consulted a tax attorney regarding any issues with making the personal donation. There were no issues, and the donation was made, much to the delight of HAAM.
Millie Garrison, executive director of HAAM, said, “We are very grateful for the donation from Bob Rehak and appreciate him supporting Pillars of the Community. He was the only individual to donate at the $10,000 level. HAAM is a mission of help and hope and we always need donors so that we can provide help and hope to those in need in our community.”
Rehak has worked for many years in the Children’s Defense Fund with a specific focus on awareness of the cradle to prison pipeline that stems from poverty. Rehak says that there are many innovative organizations that have proved the pipeline can indeed be dismantled, and that it costs pennies to intervene and break the cycle early in a child’s life, compared to waiting to intervene later. As a Position 1 candidate, Rehak has visited Humble ISD schools and has learned a great deal about poverty specific to this area and how it affects children.
He said, “I never would have thought that there was a connection between Chicago, Los Angeles and kids in Houston over a 40-year period. It just demonstrates that we’re all connected in a web of relationships. Lots of people feel it’s not their responsibility to help these kids, but we’re all on the same team. We’re all in this together.”
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