Getting to know Joseph Jerr, Excellence in Community Engagement awardee

Joseph Jerr, Advancing Justice’s super volunteer and poll watcher extraordinaire, will be receiving the Excellence in Community Engagement Award at our annual Milestone Awards Benefit on April 22! Get to know him below, and don’t forget to get your Milestone tickets here!

Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

I’m half-Chinese, half-German and Irish. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago with my four siblings, and I currently live in Chinatown. I love food—a lot.

What’s your day job?

I’m an attorney. My areas of focus include commercial litigation and human rights.

What made you want to get involved in community work (however you want to define it), and what has made you want to keep doing it?

I care deeply about the Asian American community, and volunteering is my way of connecting and giving back to the community. I wish my involvement was completely selfless, but I keep volunteering because it makes me feel good. The needs of the community are quite big and varied, so that keeps me coming back for more as well. Thankfully, I’ve developed a few reliable sources over the years, so I can get my regular volunteer fix without too much trouble.

What’s the last great restaurant you went to?

Go-4-Food in Chinatown is one of my go-to spots. I eat there almost every other day. Kai Zan in Humboldt Park was good too!

What was your first ever volunteer experience?

My dad took me to volunteer at a soup kitchen near Greektown when I was a kid. It was a new experience for me to see so many people in need.+ Add New Post Series

What other causes/organizations are you involved with?

I like to volunteer at the Chinatown Pro Bono Legal Clinic, a clinic that meets at the Chinese American Service League (CASL) on the second Saturday of every month and provides free legal services to low-income clients. I also volunteer on CASL’s Associate Board, a group that organizes a variety of community service events, including career panels, college campus tours, college application assistance, and college academic scholarships for high school students. I am involved with The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, a nonprofit that advocates for the rights of immigrant children who are in the United States alone, without their parents or caregivers. And I continue to encourage my former colleagues at International Justice Mission, a human rights agency that protects the poor from violence throughout the developing world, including child sex trafficking.

What’s one change you’d like to see for the Asian American community in Chicago?

I would like to see more Asian Americans holding public office in Chicago and beyond. I would also like to see more and better representation of Asian Americans in film, television, and other media.