This is one in a series of profiles marking the 60th anniversary of the ACLU of Kentucky’s founding.  Each week through December 2015 we will highlight the story of one member, client, case, board or staff member that has been an integral part of our organization’s rich history.

Susan Hershberg

“The ACLU is sometimes the glue. Locally, they made a really specific effort to cross boundaries and to work hard to build community.”-Susan Hershberg

Susan Hershberg is known to the community for her amazing catering business, Wiltshire Pantry, and her two restaurants, Wiltshire on Market and the Wiltshire Bakery, but she’s also a passionate advocate for justice – a passion ignited early in her life.

Susan grew up in a home rich in cultural diversity. During college Susan became devastated by the realization that our government was supporting death squads in South America. A sanctuary movement developed to help political refugees resettle in the United States, mostly from El Salvador and Guatemala, and Susan’s knowledge of Spanish enabled her to serve as a translator for the resettlement efforts.

But her first aha moment came in high school when she was introduced to the anti-nuclear movement. She notes, “It snapped me out of my teenage funk to connect with bigger issues and to become an activist.” Which is why she has a deep appreciation for the ACLU of Kentucky’s annual Youth Rights Conference. She feels that “It’s so important for kids that age to be exposed to justice work and to understand its relevance. This is the next generation of community leaders and they inspire me.”

The Youth Rights Conference tackles a variety of topics each year, and that’s another aspect of the ACLU that appeals to Susan. She finds value in the broad spectrum of work – voting rights, death penalty, reproductive freedom and LGBT equality – and, in particular, how we’ve positioned ourselves as a bridge-builder on many of these issues.

Building community is central to Susan’s professional and activist work. She started hosting a fundraising dinner in 1998. That first year it was to benefit the Senate campaign of Eleanor Jordan, but raising funds for Federal PAC’s can be constricting. Susan wanted to do a dinner that wasn’t exclusive, but rather one that could serve as a thank-you to the folks on the ground doing the day-to-day grassroots organizing and advocacy to protect all of our rights. She chose the ACLU of Kentucky and the Fairness Campaign as beneficiaries because they are two organizations that support a broad base of issues she is passionate about.

“I love the ability to invite community activists in to enjoy what Wiltshire Pantry does best,” she says. The annual We the People dinner has become one night a year when activists and supporters come together to celebrate the year’s accomplishments and to fellowship with one another. And it’s our turn to say to Susan – THANK YOU!