Maria Talis has dedicated 27 years of her life to serving her community.
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Maria Talis has dedicated 27 years of her life to serving her community.

Maria Talis is an incredible individual who has dedicated nearly 27 years of her life to serving her community. She has worked as a Field Office Supervisor for the America Jobs Center at Pilsen and has made invaluable contributions to the Illinois Department of Employment Security. 

Over the last 22 years, Maria has served as an indispensable member of the Pilsen community. Her tireless efforts and commitment to her work have made a significant impact on the lives of those around her.

When asked about the reduction of unemployment offices in Chicago, Maria stated that it was due to budget cuts and that they were trying to eliminate the cost of facilities. As a result, the number of Chicago offices was reduced from 13 to 3, and Pilsen handled 44 zip codes in Chicago. 

The busiest week was the week after Thanksgiving when they would receive up to 350 people on any given day. This was a challenging time because there was no scheduled time for people to come in.

“During this time of the year, outdoor work is halted and laborers often require assistance. We provided aid to Chinese and Hispanic citizens, and it was essential to offer bilingual support to help them get through the day. Otherwise, they would have to rely on interpretation services over the phone.”

Maria’s journey into the social service industry began when she was introduced to a local currency exchange at the age of 15 and began managing that currency exchange at the age of 17. She was opening and closing currency exchangesand she stayed in that industry for several years. 

“I grew up in the community. In 1975, I started my journey at a currency exchange located on the corner of 63rd & St. Louis. And simultaneously managed a currency exchange on Michigan and Wacker.”

However, working with veterans always seemed to come easy for her. She coordinated Jesse Brown’s VA job fairs for nine years in a row and won eight American Legion Awards.

When asked about her greatest strength, Maria mentioned her ability to mix and match candidates. She would receive a request for a particular position and later receive a candidate who fit perfectly for that position. 

In addition, Maria’s passion for working with people led her to work with youth who did not have family support or direction.

Maria’s experience with the boot camp project, which she initiated 13 years ago, is noteworthy. Maria collaborated with community-based organizations to facilitate a training program that led to employment. She mobilized the community to work in unison towards a common objective.

“The boot camp project was an initiative to help first-time offenders, nonviolent, nonsexual criminals take the boot camp as an option for their punishment.”

“We had multiple partners and handpicked twelve of the most promising students. The boot camp coach identified which ones were the most focused and capable of completing a short-term training program. We secured funding and enrolled them in a computer numeric control program, which led to their successful placement.”

Looking forward, it seems that Maria plans to focus on serving the needs of the most vulnerable populations. She mentioned using her network of employers and community-based organizations to make a difference, particularly in the development of the West Side Workforce Center which has approached her for assistance.

It’s an area that holds a special place in her heart, and if she can contribute to making a difference there, she would love to do so. Maria’s spice-for-life and bubbly personality are a winning combination that can lead to success in any endeavor. With her infectious zest for life and can-do attitude, Maria is sure to excel in whatever she sets her mind to.






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