Evanston city officials will gather at Emerson and Green Bay this afternoon to honor restaurateur Hecky Powell for his commitment to providing jobs and training for young people.
They'll unveil an honorary street sign at 1 p.m. designating the corner where he's served up BBQ for decades as "Hecky Powell Way."
After graduating from Northeastern Illinois University, Powell began his career as a social services administrator, becoming executive director for Neighbors at Work/CEDA.
But over time he became discouraged that while the system helped people survive, it failed to lift them from poverty.
During the same period, Powell bought a restaurant which led to a conversation with his wife.
“Cheryl asked me if I was happy at the restaurant," Powell says, "and I replied that I enjoyed helping the kids learn responsibility, social skills with customers and a way to make a living. “I found that teaching kids how to fish, instead of giving them a fish, was really rewarding.”
After that Hecky’s became his full time employment and he never looked back.
Hecky’s restaurant shot to fame when he brought William (the Fridge) Perry of the Chicago Bears to the restaurant. In a year when all things Bears were publicized, Hecky’s relationship with The Fridge was the ‘sauce’ that made the restaurant a barbecue mecca.
Powell recently received the key to the city of Evanston for his longtime commitment to hiring local teens and young adults. He was named Small Business Person of the Year by the Evanston Chamber of Commerce, is on the Board of Transplant Village, and has received additional awards including the Northeastern Illinois University award for Community Service and the Northwestern University Black Alumni Association Award.
Powell also is a past president of the District 65 school board and serves as president of the Forrest Powell Foundation, named for his late father.