At 82-years-old, June McCoy shows you are never too old to stop working.
The work this Libertyville resident does benefits so many-- she supports senior housing, mentors youth and provides a warm place for the homeless.
“I find work to be my social life,” McCoy said.
She says her lessons about equality and helping others began as a child, watching her parents.
Standing under the same tree where she waited for the school bus as a child, she recalls that her neighbors, who were African-American, had to ride in a beat up car to their one-room school, whereas she rode in a nicer pick-up truck to a two-room country school. At dinnertime, one of the children, who also worked for her parents, could not eat at the same table with her family.
“But my mother put a tablecloth on it and passed him the chicken first before we got it at the dining room table,” she said. “And he always took the piece I wanted.”
Her grandfather, who owned a farm, relied on her to write checks to workers. If they were black, they received $3 a day and if they were white they received $6 a day.
“It didn’t take a brain surgeon to know this was not right,” she said.
Setting an Example
McCoy moved around the country, living in Minnesota, Nebraska and eventually settling in the Chicago area. Throughout her life, she was involved with causes that she felt were important whether it was the civil rights movement or open housing. McCoy said she picketed, wrote letters, marched and organized.
She later raised three children, Mary, Melanie and Marty in Chicago neighborhoods. She chose to bring her children to Chicago schools where her children were the minority.
“They were three of 10 white kids in the school,” she said. “I felt I needed to live what I was preaching. If you’re going to have real integration, it has to go both ways.”
McCoy moved to Libertyville 15 years ago and became a member of United Methodist Church. Through church, she continued to find ways to stay involved including working with Lake County United.
Lake County United is a non-profit organization is made up of churches, synagogues, mosques, civic and labor groups that works toward social justice.
Advocating for Social Justice
McCoy has advocated the need for housing for senior citizens, mentored Waukegan students and concentrated on affordable housing in Libertyville.
Working with these organizations, McCoy said she has met people of varying backgrounds, building friendships and supporting one another.
“You reinforce each other and give each other hope and courage,” McCoy said. “If you had to do it by yourself, you probably would give up.”
McCoy stays involved with other service groups within the church including United Methodist Women and running the homeless shelter. Every week, McCoy helps with set up and cleaning to provide a safe place for the homeless.
McCoy's Passion is 'Infectious'
Rev. Jamie Geiger, former pastor at United Methodist Church who worked with McCoy, said she is a woman with a wonderful spirit who is engaged in life and has a passion for justice.
“She continuously invests herself in helping others and helping to bring about change for the common good,” he said.
Geiger adds that McCoy doesn't just advocate but also recruits others to share her passion and see how they could help, too.
“People realize her commitment. She makes it infectious,” he said. “She shares a mission worthy of their time and effort and projects a vision that people respond to.”
Whether it is helping area seniors, youth or the homeless, McCoy said the work she does makes a statement.
“Many small differences can make a big difference,” she said.