The 6th annual Chat n’ Chew was held February 16 in Waukegan’s JIC Multipurpose Center to celebrate Black History Month and to honor African American Veterans and families. Sponsored by Lake County Veterans and Family Services Foundation and the JIC Community Development Corporation, the luncheon event featured a presentation by Michelle Raine-Shepherd, Manager, Call Planning, AbbVie, North Chicago. Ms. Raine-Shepherd was introduced by event hostess Dr. Mary Roberson, Social Services Supervisor of LCVFSF and Executive Director of NIRCO (Northern Illinois Recovery Community Organization). Ms. Raine-Shepherd shared her experience as a Christian, a mother, an Army Veteran and an AbbVie employee. As she related her lived experiences, Michelle’s values, voice and integrity came strongly through. Taking advantage of a four-year Army ROTC scholarship at the University of Arkansas, Michelle was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Army. She served in Korea, Fort Stewart, GA. and Fort Hood, TX. She eventually was promoted to Captain and decided to leave service to marry and start a family. Post military, she earned an MBA and had two daughters, Lauren and Brittany, now 19 and 17 respectively. After many years, she decided to leave her marriage. “As a strong Christian woman and mother, I couldn’t keep my girls and me in that environment,” she said. “It was up to me to set the example for my kids to demonstrate through my actions what they should and should not allow in their lives.”

One thing that Michelle especially enjoyed while serving in the military was the opportunity to use her voice to advocate on behalf of outstanding soldiers. In doing this, she sometimes butted heads with leadership about who got to be sent to schools and who got promotions. “I was kind of a rebel, but I did what I thought was right,” she said. “My integrity meant everything to me then and it still does now.”
Michelle’s current employer, AbbVie, has several Employee Resource Groups, subsets of employees who share similar interests and affinities. She got active with one of them, the Veterans ERG, of which she now is Chair, Company Impact Team. “I’m seeing first-hand the difference that we can make in communities around us,” Michelle said. Examples include support of LCVFSF’s Ruck March, food insecurity efforts and the holiday Care package shipments to troops deployed around the world. Michelle closed with several quotes from Colin Powell, who served as Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State, and who she had the honor of meeting when she was in college. One favorite: “Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you don’t care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”
Another favorite Powell quote: “There’s no end to the good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.”
“Thank you for taking the time to hear me speak,” Michelle told the audience in person and via Zoom. “Thank you for your part in educating, advocating and volunteering on behalf of the Veteran community.”

 

The In-Person Attendees