As we mark our 40th anniversary, we’re celebrating people who have been integral to building this great organization, which has served Chicagoland in many different ways over the decades. 

Deborah Strauss is one of those Lumity heroes.

Long before the word “pivot” became part of the business lexicon, Debby did precisely that as executive director from 1985 until 2007. A self-described evangelist for technology, Debby helped steer the organization in smart directions as computers and the Internet drastically redefined how we live and communicate. 

Working closely with The Chicago Community Trust and The Museum of Science and Industry, Debby was instrumental in equipping Chicago-area nonprofits with the tools, knowledge, and training they needed to succeed in this rapidly evolving new environment. Launched as the Information Technology Resource Center, this pioneering lab was one of only a handful in the country. In just a few years, the ITRC had more than 300 member organizations paying modest fees for technology consulting and training that was specifically tailored to meet the needs of nonprofits. 

Debby also recognized the importance of addressing the digital divide during her tenure. As the need for STEM education within underserved communities became clear, she and her team became active in the community technology centers movement. Early resources came from Comware, a nonprofit founded by David Shimberg, which had created storefront computer labs for teens. These spaces offered access to computers and the Internet for neighborhood residents who used them to create resumes, conduct job searches, and take ESL and other online classes. At the height of its work in the digital divide space, Lumity supported 22 CTCs across Cook County.

Under Debby’s leadership, the organization absorbed the Nonprofit Financial Center, which offered loans, accounting, and other financial services to Chicago’s nonprofit community. This acquisition eventually led to the rebranding of the organization, which has been known as Lumity since 2008. 

When Debby spoke at a reunion event earlier this year, she described the organization she helped shape as one “that has thrived and grown in a constantly changing landscape of technology to meet the changing needs of individuals and communities.” We thank you, Debby, for setting the bar and for your remarkable ability to identify ways to evolve and meet those challenges. 

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