Ellie Mineman on being raised and inspired by two generations of Owens women
The following was written by Ellie Mineman (pictured left), granddaughter of Cara founders Mary and Tom Owens, and daughter of Board Member Julie Owens Burns.
If I had to describe both my mom and grandma in one word, it would be “compassion.”
My mom raised me as a single mother of four children. She was a working mom and had been through a lot, but she had this constant exhibition of strength and selflessness, and she ensured we always felt protected and supported. I have this quote that I wrote down, that my mom once said: “Strength isn’t from never being broken; it is from being broken and healing. Then, the places that were broken and healed become even stronger than they were before.”
She moved beyond her own life obstacles and put our needs before her own to create an idyllic childhood for me and my siblings. Her shining example of what it means to be a strong woman and selfless person has shaped me into who I am today and is a lesson I will carry with me forever.
My grandma was actually at my birth, which is a story she loves telling and I love hearing. It was a room of all women – my mom, my grandma, my aunts…even the doctor and nurses were all females. This story illustrates how present my grandma has been in my life since quite literally day one. She was the first person to hold me and has been like a second mom to me ever since.
My grandmother has unfathomably boundless love. With 22 grandkids, you would think there would be only so much of you to go around, but she never ever made it seem like that was the case. She made each and every one of us feel special, feel seen, and feel loved immensely. She makes it a point to be the first text you get on your birthday, her cards are always handwritten, and she never misses a game. She’s been at every single one of my big life events – and that goes for every one of the grandkids. Her compassion really just seems infinite to me.
I was born in 1998. At that point Cara was already seven years old so it’s been omnipresent throughout my life. For lack of a better word, growing up with Cara has been humbling. From a young age, I understood that I was presented certain blessings and opportunities in my life, and that not everyone gets that.
Giving back is not only encouraged in our family, but I would say it is also expected. Just like my grandpa always said, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” I feel so proud to be a part of a family that has something so much bigger than ourselves, something that goes so far beyond just our little circle and aids the entire Chicagoland area.
As I’ve come to understand Cara more, I’ve learned just how instrumental both my mom and grandma both have been in its success. It could’ve sounded crazy in 1991 when my grandpa said he was going to drive around in his car and go shelter to shelter and just try to help homeless or at-risk individuals find a job, but not to my grandma. She supported him through every calculated risk and every huge goal. It takes a very special and courageous person to support these massive dreams, none of which could have come to fruition without her.
As CEO of The Owens Foundation, my mom is totally a boss in her own right, working hard to make the Foundation as impactful as it is – assisting families experiencing poverty to have the resources and tools to keep their home, to ensure their kids get quality educations, to open doors and opportunities, and to support organizations like Cara Collective. She’s been involved with Cara since its inception and was the first and only woman representative on Cara’s original Board of Directors. She’s currently on the Board, too, and I see firsthand how much care, time, and effort she puts into this role. Throughout her life, she has worked tirelessly to ensure the betterment of everyone around her – not only for her family, but for neighbors and strangers alike as well.
I come from a line of service and of giving back. I feel it’s my life’s calling to continue the mission my grandpa started; the mission my family carries on today. If I was remembered simply for upholding the values that my my mom, my grandma, and the rest of my family instilled in me – service, giving back, strength, selflessness, compassion, belief in humanity and second chances – I think that would be more than enough for me as a legacy.
Ellie Mineman currently works at Chapman & Cutler LLP as a legal analyst. She plans to attends law school and continue her legal career in the service of others, advocating for climate action, human rights, and social justice.