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Family of late exec to honor his memory with benefit for food depository

Phil Skilnik’s children are hoping to feed the hungry on Thanksgiving Day.

They’re hosting a bash at 115 Bourbon Street, 3359 W. 115th St., Merrionette Park, featuring live music and a Thanksgiving dinner to raise money for the Greater Chicago Food Depository, which supplies 650 food pantries and soup kitchens in the metropolitan area.

“Our dad passed away two years ago,” said Chris Skilnik, of Orland Park. “Until he died, we really didn’t realize how much he had done for people.

“About 1,100 people showed up at his wake and 400 at the funeral, and people just kept coming up to us saying how he had helped them in one way or another.”

Phil Skilnik made his home in Hazel Crest for more than 30 years and commuted to Arlington Heights, where he was a partner in Advantage Sales & Marketing.

“I didn’t know why he made that long trip every day until I was older and my mother told us that he wanted his children to be raised in a racially mixed neighborhood,” Chris Skilnik said.

The elder Skilnik became involved in the Greater Chicago Food Depository, eventually becoming a board member. After he died at age 69, his four children decided they wanted to do something to honor his memory.

And so the Phil Skilnik Foundation was born, with the Thanksgiving Day dinner/concert being the organization’s first charity event.

A homemade Thanksgiving dinner ($40 for adults, $20 for children under 12) will be served from 2 to 4:30 p.m. as the band American English performs. It’s considered by some to be the best Beatles tribute band in the country.

Later in the evening, the organization will host Chicago Bands Together, with six local bands on three stages – Mike & Joe, 7th Heaven, The Hat Guys, Sikada, Infinity and Hairbangers Ball.

Anyone who pays for the dinner won’t have to pay again for the evening event, but those who skip the dinner can catch the bands, beginning at 7 p.m., for $25 ($15 with a college ID).

“The thing people need to know is that a donation of $25 will supply 68 meals for hungry people,” Skilnik said.

The Greater Chicago Food Depository estimates that for every $1 donated it can provide 2.7 meals.

“Our goal is to raise $100,000 and provide 470,000 meals for people,” Skilnik said. “And we’re not talking about sending food to people in Bangladesh or some other foreign country. These meals are going to feed hungry people in the Chicago metropolitan area. And they’re not all homeless or unemployed people these days.

“A lot of people using the food pantries are elderly people on fixed incomes or the working poor, who are trying to make their mortgage payments and pay their bills but find it difficult to put food on the table.”

More than 37 percent of the people who receive food from the food bank are children, about 250,000 in Cook County every year.

Skilnik described himself as a bodyguard and counts among his former clients basketball stars Magic Johnson and Allen Iverson, as well as the rapper Jay-Z. He said his current client is a well-known celebrity, but ethical concerns prevent him from disclosing the person’s identity.

“We felt Thanksgiving Day was the perfect time to do this because it is all about being thankful for what you have, celebrating that good fortune and remembering those who are not as fortunate,” Skilnik said.

There also will be a raffle at the event to benefit the widows and orphans of police officers and firefighters, and silent and live auctions to raise more money for the food pantries.

Skilnik, who was the first general manager of 115 Bourbon Street, said his brother, Sean, and sister, Elizabeth, are helping him organize the event.

Sean, of Downers Grove, is a former general manager for Rock Bottom Brewery and TGI Fridays restaurants. Elizabeth is employed at Kohl’s in Orland Park.

For more information on the event or to donate money to the foundation, visit pjsfoundation.org.

“My father was just a special man who cared about people,” Skilnik said. “We want to carry on the tradition he started of helping people. We want to do something that will pay tribute to the lessons he taught us about life.

“Chicago Bands Together has a double meaning. It’s Chicago bands coming together, and the people of Chicago banding together to help each other.”

It sounds like a great way to say thanks on Thanksgiving.