This column describes how BAPA is fulfilling its mission of offering programs, services, and events in the Beverly and Morgan Park neighborhoods.

Village Viewpoint – September 2019 

By Susan Flood, BAPA Executive Director 

 

This is my favorite Villager of the year because it’s all about YOU. BAPA is you. Your story is our story. Your concerns are our concerns. Your reasons to love where you live are our reasons to love where we live. 

Our most important job at BAPA is listening. Listening to the people who oversee our schools, nurture our churches and charities, operate our institutions, run our businesses and walk our beats. Listening to our members and listening to every voice in our community.  

Listening is the oxygen of community action. Whether it’s a phone call from a neighbor in need, a resident who stands up at a meeting to share a concern, a new neighbor who stops by to find out more about the neighborhood or an old friend who takes time to pass along an important observation, BAPA breathes in the information and the inflection, then works to be a catalyst and a connector.  

Every fall when we start asking BAPA members why they make their annual gift a priority, we’re energized by the answers.  

Knowing that BAPA has been working for decades to ensure that our community stays stable, safe and diverse is important to us.  

BAPA is the glue that holds all of us together by our mutual interest in . . . our neighborhood. 

The community growing and diversifying . . .  We see neighbors supporting one another and creating even stronger bonds.  

BAPA is constantly promoting local businesses through their social media, The Villager and their events.   

BAPA works hard to maintain and strengthen [community] spirit through activities and programs designed to expand the quality of life we all enjoy.  

Being a business member opens up avenues for networking and advertising in my own community.  

BAPA makes it easy to love where you live.  

A community organization is only as powerful as the connection among the people it serves. In Beverly/Morgan Park, there’s a powerful connection, and that’s what makes Beverly/Morgan Park unlike any other neighborhood in Chicago.     

Although the BAPA office is staffed by only a few employees, it is driven by a community of people who volunteer for events and programs, call on us to share ideas and concerns, join us in celebrating this amazing community, and stand with us to make sure life in our little area of the world is rooted in what is good for families and friendships and that it stays that way 

 

 

Village Viewpoint August 2019: Refrigerator Magnet Wisdom

 

By Susan Flood 
BAPA Executive Director  

I know what you’re thinking when you read the title to this Village Viewpoint — my refrigerator won’t hold magnets anymore, But I implore you to stay with me on this. Truly, in my life, I can credit refrigerator magnet sayings for spurring me onward, to both success and failure.  Recently I threw out “Leap and the net will appear” magnet; it caused of some real mistakes!   

Today, I want to ask the Beverly/Morgan Park community to ask yourselves whether you follow the advice on one of my favorite magnets. It is credited to William James: “Act as if what you do makes a difference.  It does 

If you are like me, this directive is challenging, and it can make you feel vulnerable and possibly uncomfortable.  It is natural to want to be brave, noble, even bold, but it doesn’t call for that extreme. I wonder how adoption of this idea would bring about change in our city, our neighborhood, our blocksour own backyards. Is it possible that when we challenge ourselves to think this way about our daily encounters in our community that we can contribute to an even better place to call home? 

What if we thank the business that uses materials that are recyclable and provides ways to easily recycle them?  What if we put together a flyer for a block party and drop it in everyone’s mailbox on the block?  What if we manage a smile or hello to a stranger at our home train stationin the grocery store line or for a new family on the sidewalk when we drop our kids off at school?  I find that merely friendly eye contact can change the way I am feeling in an instantIts not a radical or dramatic, but there is no doubt that the ripple effect can lead to so much more than the simple act.  

The best part is the refrigerator magnet advice works for everyone.  If you are someone who feels welcome in Beverly/Morgan Park, you can cause a ripple in how welcome others feel.  If you wish you felt more welcome during your daily routine in our neighborhood and you try this by someone else feel more welcome You are bound to be someone whose example inspires others and, often, that inspires you!   

All of us feel vulnerable when we put ourselves out there and try to make a difference, but if we all did, imagine the power of this great community.   

 

Recipe for a Happy Summer

 

The science of happiness has come a long way.  Of course, the recipe for happiness varies from person to person, but scientists will state that they have data on what makes most of us miserable.  Growing up, all of us, young and old, have adopted a “school’s out” mindset.  A break in routine brings along with it a more carefree outlook.  Here, in the Village in the City, all around us are the ingredients we need for a summer of happiness. 

1 part sunlight. When your body absorbs UV light, it produces more of the happiness hormone serotonin, and that pumps your mood. Exposure to sunlight also shuts down production of the sleep hormone melatonin, which leaves you feely sleepy and sluggish. So get out in it!   

1 part nature. Science has determined that nature has a therepeutic effect.  Take a bike ride down a tree lined street, or through a forest preserve or beside a body of water.   Nature produces a serene feeling that lingers. We can get a nature fix by spending a day gardening in our own yards or a public somewhere nearby that needs some attention.  

1 part sweat. Physical exertion to the point of sweating actually produces pain reducing, blissful endorphin hormones.  Even short periods of sweating can add up to brighter outlooks on life. 

1 part party. We are social creatures, and the evidence on the power of connecting is strong.  Gathering socially at barbecues, parties, walks, or al fresco dining at a local restaurant offers the chance to meet friend and strangers and to be part of something bigger than ourselves.   

Directions:  Put these all together by organizing an event like your block party or porch party, or volunteer at an already organized event.  Jump in and help for an hour or two, or a day or make a long range plan to show up where you are needed every week.  The possibilities are enless with so many activities put on by BAPA, Beverly Arts Center,  Moms of Beverly, 19th Ward, Beverly Area Arts Alliance, Get local Beverly, local churches, schoolsorganizations like garden clubs, or even at a CAPS meeting  Want help connecting to a place to volunteer?  Call us at 773-233-3100 or email us at bapa@bapa.org and BAPA help you find an important ingredient in your recipe for happiness.    

 We’re lucky to have so many unique aspects of Beverly/Morgan Park.  We only have to walk out our front doors to find it.  BAPA sees it every day.  Just ask us! 

 

Village Viewpoint

By Maureen Gainer Reilly 
BAPA Board President 

It’s easy to love Beverly/Morgan Park at this time of year when spring works it’s magic and reminds us why we don’t pack up and move to California.  The neighborhood is incredibly beautiful when all the trees, flowering bushes and gardens highlight our historic homes.   

But what really gets me this time of year is the sheer number of residents who share their time, talent and treasure with the neighborhood.  

Each spring BAPA brings us the Clean & Green, the Home Tour and the Ridge Run and Memorial Day Parade (thankfully we have new, hip coffeeshops to caffeinate the small but mighty BAPA staff). The number of people needed to pull of these events is staggering. I don’t know of another Chicago neighborhood that can boast hundreds and hundreds of volunteers pulling together to beautify, build community and hang with their neighbors on the scale of Beverly/Morgan Park.   

We can measure the actual number of volunteers who help out, but want can’t be quantified is the effect these events have on the strength of our community.   

Anyone who did the Clean and Green can tell you the weather was horrible with a cruel Chicago mix of rain, wind and snow.  But that didn’t stop over 100 volunteers and civic associations from working on our parks, train stations and schools.  I met a woman who worked with a large crew at the 103rd street Metra station who told me she feels great each morning on the platform headed downtown knowing she helped make it a beautiful space. 

How do you measure that feeling?  

While standing in a living room volunteering for the Home Tour, I asked a woman from the North Side why she came down to the tour with her daughter.  Her response, “I’ve never been here but people from Beverly are so into Beverly I had to see it for myself!” 

 How do you measure that our “love where you live” sentiment is known all over the city 

And we’ll never know the exact number of runners who have bought a house here after weaving through our packed, cheering streets on Ridge Run day.   

We are lucky.  No other neighborhood in Chicago has similar, 70-year-old, grass roots neighborhood organization like BAPA.  I am so grateful BAPA is here providing a framework for residents, civic groups, businesses and institutions to connect, celebrate and strengthen our neighborhood.  I hope you’ll join me and the countless BAPA volunteers and BAPA members who make Beverly/Morgan Park so strong.  See you at the next event!  

Village Viewpoint

By Susan Flood

When I was starting my career out just of college I jumped into the blooming desktop technology industry.  Desktop PCs and Macs were in their infancy, and the industry workers, previously thought of as loners and extremists, were suddenly regarded as the young visionaries of capitalism.  

I’ll never forget a conversation I had with Adobe Systems founder John Warnock when I worked on Adobe’s new technology team. As salesmen who aggressively sought profit, we didn’t understand why our company didn’t just commit to one tech platform – and back then PCs seemed to own the market.  John said, “There will always be Macs, people will always want a choice.  He was right.   

In our community, people have so much choice.   

We have choice in what kind of house we live in:  Victorian, Queen Anne, Chicago bungalow, Tudor, Italianate, English Country, Georgian, MediterraneanPrairie School or other styles.  The homes built by titans seeking abundant space, interesting scenery and proximity to Chicago’s city center provided a map on which we now build our modern hopes, dreams and legacies.    

We have choice in schools.  Within Beverly/Morgan Park are some of the highest ranked CPS schools in the city and unusually strong private schools, both with too many success stories to count.    

We have choice in places to shop, play, enjoy culture and music, and dine.  

It’s true to live in Beverly/Morgan Park is to embrace choice. 

We choose to live here among wonderful neighbors and friends from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds, with impressive educational, cultural, artistic and career pedigrees.  We value the differences that are offered as a truly tremendous asset to imbue in our future generations.  Why not equip our kids with the knowledge of what’s truly out there to discover and how interesting it is to discover it alongside someone who may bring a different perspective to it?   

In May, BAPA works hard to draw attention to the gifts of choice our neighborhood bestows on its residents. BAPA’s biggest events — the Home Tour and Ridge Run and Memorial Day parade — evoke a sense of a well-connected small town, rich in history and full of old friends.  As we emerge from the long Chicago winter to participate in these events we see new and familiar faces and witness in both their passion for our surroundings.   

They say the indicators of what makes a place a great place to live are safety, access to good paying jobs, availability of highquality parks and recreation, availability of high-quality arts, culture and nightlife.  We are well placed for checking all those boxes.  But the real currency comes in the daytoday living in our community.  It sneaks up to us unannounced when we’re cheering on a runner at the Ridge Run or noticing the crowded sidewalks outside schools in the fall and churches on a summer day.  We’re surrounded by people we may not yet know, but we can be sure they too are here for the choice. 

 

 

Village Viewpoint 2019: So Much More Than Numbers  

By Susan Flood, BAPA Executive Director 

I was talking with a local business owner recently and I asked, “How do we get more people to open businesses here alongside you?” He quickly shared his take on this problem: “It’s demographics.” 

 Demographics are the numbers that describe the number, financial profile and average age of area residents. These numbers are compiled by drawing a radius from a center point of Beverly/Morgan Park and counting population density, average income and other characteristics of the people within that radius. They are the numbers used by marketers and developers when deciding where their investments can be most profitable.   

 Personally, I’ve never been fond of these broad-stroke labels because they miss out on so much of what’s best about the people they are trying to find out about.  Statistics and demographics are tools used to predict behavior.  I don’t see that these particular tools provide an accurate picture of the quality of life here in the Village in the City, not today, not ever.   Demographics don’t reflect the dynamic lifestyle built by generations of engaged citizens here; they don’t appreciate that we are people, not just numbers populating blocks.  

 Numbers don’t show the families that draw generations back to our community.  They don’t know the feel of a heartfelt handshake between old friends. They don’t show how we celebrate and mourn with our neighbors, helping each other through the many changes in our lives.   

 Outsiders look at the data and they get an incomplete picture of what they would be investing in if they stopped to look deeper than the lining of their pockets.  

 Last month, another kind of outsider came to our neighborhood and posted stickers promoting an organization devoted to hating people.  Outsiders hoping to take advantage of people who might be looking for financial help by selling their house fill up mailboxes with postcards and slap up billboards on street corners.  These kinds of manipulative tools are not unique to our community — all major cities deal with this reality.   

The outsiders don’t get that we are so much more than numbers here, we’re neighbors.  But we know and we ignore them and we keep telling our story, the real story. There is no place better to call home than Beverly/Morgan Park. 

 

Village Viewpoint – March 2019 

By Susan Flood, BAPA Executive Director 

Its that time again in our Village in the City!  Time to pull the bulky sweaters out of mothballs, take inventory of whether you own anything green, and start sprucing up the house for the company.  

St. Patrick’s Day is our chance to continue a tradition that has our community has enjoyed for decades, the South Side Irish Parade. A day when neighbors doors open in hospitality and families venture out together, strollers leading the way, to connect with friends, neighbors and guests along Western Avenue. 

It’s true, the story includes the fact that not everyone has been happy on parade day.  There was a time when the parade got too much attention from visitors who came in organized droves and created an atmosphere of outofcontrol public misbehavior.  The parade committee responded by cancelling the parade to break the spell and doing the hard work necessary to put together a plan to return our familyfriendly day to us.   

The task of producing parade that truly works for our community requires time, money and effort.  For parade volunteers, our local police department, our bars on Western Avenue and our civic leadership, it’s a time for all hands on deck. I feel lucky that there are people who are so dedicated to my neighborhood.  I think it’s rare. 

The first time I saw the parade was also the first time I saw Beverly/Morgan Park, now my home for nearly three decades.  I share this experience with more transplanted residents than I can count.  What I saw at that first visit to Beverly/Morgan Park is what I still see today:  A neighborhood that feels like a small town, where you walk down streets with doors opened in hospitality and where you’re greeted by name over and over. Let’s face it, who doesn’t love it when everyone knows your name?   Not everybody is Irish, but for one day, the neighborhood adopts the warmth and persistent hospitality that the Irish are known for.   

Parade day is a chance to show off our Village in the City for what truly makes us special.  It’s really about so much more than Irish last names.  It’s our respect for history and dedication to honoring it, our highly educated and diverse population of residents, the hardworking small business owners and our thriving arts community.  On parade day let’s show ‘em who we are.  My friend Bill Gainer said it best when the parade was on hiatus and asked if he thought it would come back.  “I sure hope so Suze, who doesn’t love a parade?”  

 

The Village Viewpoint

By Susan Flood 

BAPA Executive Director 

Since joining the BAPA team, I find myself in constant thought about attracting “young” families to our “old” neighborhood.  Our neighborhood’s rich collection of historic buildings including our famous Castle, preserves the experience of Beverly/ Morgan Park as a home within our city’s limits like no other.  How do our historic buildings, our Castle, serve to tempt new homebuyers to become our neighbors?  

While it’s not scientific research, my experience as a recent empty nester means I spend a lot of my discretionary time around my millennial children, and their cousins and friends.  I’ve noticed that they are deliberate about authenticity.  What they eat, what they wear, where they live, what they say.  What is more authentic than a Castle, built on a hilltop by a real estate developer with big dreams as a unique home for his family? 

Much has been written about where millennials are choosing to call home, and the trend points toward cities and neighborhoods with historic character.  Are they seeking authenticity through historic building stock?  After all, this generation, one of the largest and most diverse in our country, is giving us the “Pop-Up” and the Instagram Museum.  Temporary in nature, these pop-ups and Instagram installations are interactive experiences that attract visitors who want to be part of what they’re seeing, to add to it and to share it with others on social media. Once the picture is taken, the visitors become a real part of the installation, a part of its history.  

Robert Givins, the man who built the Castle, is quoted as saying, “The way to make a good citizen in this country is to make him part owner of it.” Instagram gives us that experience, even, if it’s only for 24 hours.   

As Millennials are starting to choose where they will settle down, will they see our historic architecture, our Castle, as the best of both the cutting edge experience they can share on social media and history, as a place where something actually happened?  

I for one, hope for a community that is committed to preserving the Castle that has given us the gift of history, memory and shared identity.  If we don’t, we may never know how our village in the city history stacks up not just as an Instagram Museum but as a special place that young people want to call home.    

 

Village Viewpoint January 2019

By Susan Flood, Executive Director

What will 2019 bring for Beverly/Morgan Park residents?  If you are like most people you’ll spend at least a few minutes this week looking ahead, making plans and, dare I say it, making a new year’s resolution or two.  This often includes a process of looking back as well as forward.

When I consider this, I remember the old saying, “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.” I don’t particularly like the word “doomed” when I think about the history in our corner of the world.   We have so many things to be proud of in this incredible “Village in the City.” We are lucky here, thanks to thoughtful steps to preserve historical buildings; a simple drive through the neighborhood reminds us of the positive role history plays in our lives.

Of course, when we consider the past, we’ve got to decide which past to remember. Whose story are we telling, and why?  The stories that make up our history come from the perspectives of the tellers. Certain characters, facts and themes get highlighted while others fade. The beauty in this reality is that each and every time we have a choice in how we tell it and in how we hear it.

In this way, our corner of the city takes on the dynamics of a small town. We see the people who make up our narratives over and over again in the course of months, weeks, sometimes days.  Standing in line with us at the grocery store, seated on the lawn for a baseball game, waiting in the car for school drop offs and enjoying an evening at a local restaurant or pub.

What a gift and what a responsibility.

Making predictions and resolutions for a new year can be a complicated process. If we all commit ourselves to the spirit that built this remarkable community, think of the history we can write.  In the writings of Buddha, is one simple idea with great power: Before, during and even AFTER you say something, make sure it doesn’t hurt anyone.  I can think of no more powerful resolution for the citizens of our Village in the City.

Happy New Year everyone.

 

Realizing How Green Our Grass Is

This Thanksgiving, I found myself noticing more about who was present in our neighborhood. Watching kids and cousins return to visit for a meal, a day, a week. Sure, I’m at BAPA now, so it was particularly gratifying to observe this return-to-home ritual. I took the opportunity to engage as many of these “visitors” as I could.  

Returning to our hometown is a process that celebrates the comfort of rituals. Pulling up to our childhood home and driving past the schools, parks, burger places that made up our routine are deeply grounding experiences. The rituals of knowing your neighbor, and always greeting the local coffee shop owner, florist or waitress at our favorite breakfast place feel good to practice again.  

It’s not a new concept that young people seek greener grass, often in their twenties. Job opportunity, educational options, the chance to meet new people, experience new places and learn who they are. Talking with those visitors returning home for Thanksgiving underscored how many definitions of “home” there really are. I heard so many of them tell stories of how they intend to settle down here, raise a family here, or how their sister just bought a house here. For a community organization like BAPA, these conversations feel much like a to-do list.  

If I challenge myself, the BAPA staff and volunteers to look through the lens of those who grew up in our area, we can see what to focus on providing for these “visitors” right here. Our proximity to a major U.S. city and all it has to offer leads the list as an undeniable feature of living here, but does the real currency that makes up “home” come in less obvious ways? If we focus on nurturing Beverly/Morgan Park’s traditional places and activities and carefully listen to our returning young adults, new residents and transplanted homeowners for what new experiences we can offer what will we learn? Could it become a script that BAPA can work to perfect and deliver?  

These conversations brought a very powerful feeling of comfort to someone like me who chose Beverly/Morgan Park as the place to settle. In our community the grass is really green and every day it gets greener. It reminded me of what I have thought from the day I moved into our first house, and I now devote my time and energy to. Out here, in the Village in the City, we’re on to something special.