Beverly Copeland, 2024 Innovative Leadership Award

Beverly Copeland’s favorite adage is, “Everybody’s got power, so use your power to make a difference.” Beverly has put that into action her entire life.

NCJW Chicago North Shore is honored to present longtime NCJW Chicago North Shore member, Beverly Copeland, with the 2024 Innovative Leadership Award. Beverly’s connections to NCJW began when she was introduced to our sex trafficking program. She immediately connected to NCJW because it was so involved in the many issues she cares about and does so with an action-oriented approach. She knows that everything and anything that you do makes a difference, and she continues to inspire others. Beverly doesn’t stop at starting a project. She quietly has worked on projects from inception to flourishing, and keeps projects going until they’re integrated into the community.

A native of Oak Park, Beverly’s foray into activism began when she became aware of social injustice. She joined the Junior National Council of Christians and Jews, while attending Oak Park River Forest High School. Later, She attended rallies for reproductive rights and welcomed home veterans of the Viet Nam war. When her four children were in school, she attended a local Brandeis University’s enrichment class on Contemporary Glass to view local collections. People said, “we want to learn more!” Beverly’s response was a  newsletter, Glass Focus: Your Window into the Glass World, that grew into an international quarterly, 20-plus page periodical.

When the Beverly’s daughter, Erin, tragically died in an automobile accident in 1993, Beverly needed to do something to assuage the pain of her great loss. Erin had always been an avid reader. Inspired by Erin’s love of books, she and her husband, Sheldon, founded the Erin Copeland Building Minds with Books Project, which is on-going. For over 28 years, books have been purchased with generous donations. On Erin’s birthday, the Copeland’s opened their home to the community to celebrate. She and Sheldon, helped by family and friends, then process and bring books to under-served communities, including schools, Juvenile Detention Facilities, organizations that assist children and families, etc. Think of the thousands of children who’ve been inspired thanks to this project!

The tragedy of Sandy Hook impacted Beverly’s deeply and renewed the pain and suffering she witnessed in her own family, the loss of a beloved family member and the brokenness they felt. She decided to turn her attention to preventing gun violence and saving children’s lives. She met Denyse Wang Stoneback, who later served as an Illinois State Representative.  Denyse started, a grassroots, anti-gun violence organization in 2013, People for a Safer Society. Beverly was a founding board member. She used her skills to help educate and involve others to advocate for gun safety laws. Beverly is the NCJW Policy Committee Lead on Gun Violence  to People For A Safer Society, the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Gun Violence, Honor with Action, and Jewish Women International. Her other priorities continue to focus on her commitment to women’s issues, including bodily autonomy and seeing the ERA passed, as well as issues concerning Racial & Social Justice and  Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion.

For decades, Beverly’s work has been a catalyst to all of us to get involved and make a difference as a team, particularly in the area of gun violence, both in our section and in the community. Thank you Beverly! You are a paragon of leadership.