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Avodah alumna makes an impact

Anna Yankelev’s creative ideas combat hunger, COVID spread in Lake County

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At the beginning of the pandemic, Anna Yankelev was pulled from her role leading strategic planning for the Lake County Health Department and transferred to the newly-created Public Health Emergency Operations Center. As the new Mitigation Chief, she monitored community transmission of the virus and the related consequences, focusing on helping high-risk populations secure access to the resources they need to stay safe and healthy. 

She was ready for the challenge. "The way I got into the work I'm doing today is deeply rooted in my experience and values as a Jewish person," said Yankelev, who first encountered activism within the Habonim Dror youth movement. "I valued and appreciated the ideas of tikkun olam  from a young age. That's how I found myself in public health, seeing it as a way to realize my potential in working to make the world a healthier and more just place." 

Now with two Master's degrees and experience as a community organizer, she is lending her expertise to Lake County. Her innovations include purchasing protein-rich meals from an airline food vendor to donate to food banks and hiring a limousine company to transport potentially exposed people to quarantine sites. Her efforts have helped secure over $4 million in federal CARES Act aid for community resources and initiatives. 

Much of her work involves supporting Black and Latinx leaders by listening, learning, clearing barriers, and procuring resources. In May, data showed that for every one white community member that tested positive for COVID-19, there were four Black and eight Latinx community members that tested positive, and people of color were twice as likely to die from the virus than white individuals. 

In response, the Lake County Health Department convened the African American Community Partnership Group and Asociacion Comunitaria Latina. 

Another initiative she helped launch--Lake County Community Action To Combat Hunger, or CATCH--is an intersectoral coalition to deliver meals free of charge to families in need. Lake County CATCH has helped over 470 families and 1,600 individuals.

Yankelev draws inspiration from her time at the Avodah Justice Fellowship in Chicago, where she found a strong sense of community. "Being able to participate in a community of like-minded individuals committed to the same values of social justice, who share the same vision for the world we want to build, and who continually support me has been invaluable as we navigate these truly unprecedented times," she said. 

For more information about the organizations Yankelev supports, visit , , and .


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