Stories about nonprofit and community organizations that are working to improve the neighborhood and help others.

Givins Beverly Castle Renovation Underway 

By Kristin Boza 

More than 130 years after the Givins Beverly Castle was initially constructed, it is undergoing an essential restoration process to ensure the longevity of this iconic neighborhood structure, the only castle within Chicago’s city limits.  

Thanks to the generosity of numerous donors, and key grants from groups dedicated to preservation, the Castle Restoration Task Force met its ambitious fundraising goal and work began on the crumbling turrets and roof in June 2020. 

The Beverly Review is working on producing videos from the Castle restoration architect, who is documenting the renovation from the roof. As the stones come down piece by piece, they are laid out, photographed and labeled to ensure they are put back exactly where they belong. The three turrets, of three different sizes, are known as Papa, Mama, and Baby. 

The restoration journey began three years ago, when a crack was found in one of the turrets. After a structural safety review, the turret was temporarily shored up to prevent additional damage and to ensure the safety of those walking near it. In 2018, another crack was found in a second turret, and once again a temporary fix was applied for safety reasons.  

The Beverly Unitarian Church, located within the castle, provides regular maintenance of the building; however, the church members knew that the only way to raise the much-needed funds for a complete restoration, they would need the community’s help.  

The Castle Restoration Task Force, composed of both community and church members, was formed to lead the fundraising and restoration. Task Force members include: Carolyn Wilbon, Anna Carvlin, Roberta Chalmers, Chris Hofmann, Linda LambertyDanté Mosely, Linda Petersen, Amanda Price, Stacey Recht, Jean Hardy Robinson, Adair Small, Kenneth Small and Mary Jo Viero. 

Jean Hardy Robinson co-chaired the fundraising side of the task force with Stacy Recht, while Carolyn Wilbon headed the operations side.  

“We started by asking the congregation, known as the Castle Keepers; this small congregation pledged $400,000 over a three-year period, which is amazing,” Hardy Robinson said. “We decided to ask the community to help us reach our goal of $1 million. We now have enough money to do the work from the roof up, which is the dangerous part of the project and essential to ensure the turrets don’t fall down.” 

Other big donors include the State of Illinois’ “Build Illinois” capital project which provided a grant worth $300,000; an anonymous donor who committed $100,000; and the Adopt-A-Landmark Program which awarded the project a $240,000 grant. Approximately 200 individuals in the community pledged to the project.  

Hardy Robinson expects work on this initial phase to be completed by October or November, which of course is dependent upon the finicky Chicago weather. “There’s some things they cannot do after it gets below 40 degrees at night,” she said. “We’re seeking to raise an additional $150,000 this building season so that work can begin on the problems in the stones in the walls and around the windows, which the crew has discovered since they began working.” 

Future projects include installing an elevator and adding drainage/landscaping to prevent water from entering the building. This will be accomplished through ongoing fundraising efforts. The last time a major construction project happened at the Castle was sometime in the mid-1980s. 

“There will always be things that old buildings bring up and surprise you with!” Hardy Robinson said. “The Castle is a community resource, not just a church. We are looking forward to celebrating inside and on the lawn for years to come.” 

An important distinction to make is that the Castle property is owned by the Beverly Unitarian Church, not the Unitarian Universalists as an organization. Therefore, if the Beverly Unitarian Church ever decided to sell the property, it would be purchased by a buyer and not revert to the Unitarian Universalists. 

To find out more about the restoration project, or to donate, visit Be sure to purchase the book “Chicago’s Only Castle” written by Errol Magidson from Bookie’s to find even more details on the Castle’s rich history. 

Anti-Racist Policy Empowers Facebook Group 

By Kristin Boza 

Like the majority of Facebook groups, the “Moms of Beverly” group began as a way to bring together people who share a common interest — in this case, moms who live in Beverly/Morgan Park. Over the years, the group has grown from a handful of moms to approximately 5,800, and evolved from a place to coordinate play dates to a group bridging divides to promote anti-racism  

Shanya Gray, Lauren Kent-Brown, and Tina Peterson are the current admins of the group. In light of the actions and conversations taking place around racism across the countrythe admin team decided an anti-racist statement was essential to move the group’s conversations forward, stating in part: “The reality is that discussing parenting is not possible in a diverse group of women unless conversations of race and equity are had. In this group, we will not be silencing the voice of Black mothers or anyone who seeks to be heard (except if you are blatantly racist) . . . We will, through our words and actions, oppose racism in all forms and seek to actively support initiatives that seek to promote equity and unity in our community.” They asked all members to commit to anti-racism   

The “Moms of Beverly is a place where Black moms are safe and welcomed without facing overt racism or coded language, a place for white moms to get a free education in anti-racism, and a place where all moms collectively come together to build a strong community.  

“It was scary when I made the official post; I was shaking because I knew we’d started something,” Kent-Brown said. “I felt like a lot of the members weren’t aware that the group was run by two Black women, and ignorance was uncovered. I’m so proud of us for taking the stance that we did. What would we be if we’re mothers of Black boys and minority children who have this group and can say ‘look what we did and built,’ but we didn’t actually incite change in the community? Change will happen; it’s hard and scary, but worth it. 

When Gray and Kent-Brown started the group, it took some time to mold it into what they wanted it to be. The admins began coordinating in-person meetups to bring the community together in person. Various local businesses hosted the events and even agreed to give back a portion of the night’s food and drink proceeds to local public schools.  

“Many of the people at these meetups were newer to Beverly and were looking for space to build a community. It was a good mix of Black and white and different races. We, at first, were hesitant to even have any conversations about race in the group,” Gray said. “I think part of it is you often find Black women and POC in predominantly white spaces are uncomfortable having these conversations. But, we decided to go there. We thought it was really important to facilitate posts that bring awareness and education about race.” 

One of the biggest turning points for the group was in 2016 when Joshua Beal was shot to death in Mount Greenwood by two Chicago police officers, who were later cleared. “We addressed it then, and saw where people stood, but then it all went back to normal and we didn’t talk about race that much,” Kent-Brown said. “We decided to make a post about it and the entire group shifted from there.” 

“We lost quite a few members at that time; there was a huge divide in the group as far as Black and white moms,” Peterson said. “It was disheartening that as a community that we all live in together, but we don’t live together. We decided that we’re not going to make this a comfortable space for white women anymore because there are plenty of other groups for them; we needed a place for women of color to be comfortable.” 

The group faced a divide once again in 2020 during the latest discussions and protests fueled by recent occurrences of police brutality and ignoranceJust like in 2016, some members decided to leave the group, especially once the anti-racist policy was enacted. However, many women, both Black and white, began stepping up to confront racist posts.  

“We created such a culture in the group that if somebody does post something racist, many of our members will condemn or take the time to educate that person,” Gray said. “Our no-nonsense policy is so refreshing, but it’s also refreshing for people of color to see that we have a lot of white allies. Black women say that our group is the only neighborhood group they’re in because they’re comfortable here. We are a diverse group of women and moms that celebrate moms of color. We don’t want members who are against us as human beings. 

When an event, action, or movement regarding people of color is widely discussed in the media, the Moms of Beverly often see a surge in membership requests. Many times, those seeking entry into the private group are not doing so with good intentions. “We want to make sure new members coming in can add value to what we have. We want to make sure that we’re not adding more people who are racist to the group. I want to be able to change people’s hearts and I do believe that there are people who want to learn and have nobody with different viewpoints that they can benefit from,” Gray said. “But then there are those who aren’t open and don’t want to have the conversations — what’s the point of continuing to give our energy to those people when we can instead state that we are an anti-racist moms group. We don’t want racism in our group; we want people to be actively anti-racist to work towards our mission of bringing moms and our community together.” 

Thanks to the powerful words from the admins, many other moms felt compelled and empowered to take action. One mom coordinated the bulk purchase of more than 350 lawn signs that state, in part, “Black Lives Matter, and another mom began an anti-racist book club specifically geared to educating white moms parenting white childrenThe amount of “loves” and “likes” and words of encouragement given to the anti-racist post, as well as many others that were since made by group members, demonstrate that this stance was what was needed to drive the community forward. Together.  


Everyone Counts! 

Complete Your 2020 Census Today 

The deadline is coming up for completing the 2020 Census data. We’ve all received the letters and post cards and other reminders, and yet only about 70 percent of 19th Ward households have returned their forms.  

If you don’t respond by mail, phone or online at, the Census Bureau is obligated to send a census worker to your home to collect the information.  

Census information is collected every ten years. All information is kept anonymous and only used to provide statistics that are essential for determining how important community programs, infrastructure and services will be funded for the next decade 

The Chicago Urban League estimates that for every uncounted resident, $1535 in federal funding is lost annually. The next census will be in 2030 so the total impact of every uncounted resident for the 10 year period will be approximately $15,350. Using the 2010 reported census population of the 19th. Ward — 51,525  if just 1% of the residents go uncounted (515), ward would lose $790,525 of federal funding over the next 10 years. 

In order for the 19th Ward to receive all of the funding it deserves, all households need participate in the 2020 Census.  

The results of the 2020 Census will inform decisions about allocating hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding to communities across the country for hospitals, fire departments, school lunch programs, and other critical services. Data will also determine which communities need new schools, new clinics, new roads, and more services for families, older adults and children. 

The results of the census also determine the number of seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives and how to draw congressional and state legislative districts. 

Census data helps determine how federal funding will be allocated for programs such as medical servicesunemployment insurance, emergency food and shelter programs, family violence prevention services, historic preservation, voting access for people with disabilities, Pell grants, small business assistance and many more.  

Participating in the census is required by law, and the law also protects the confidentiality of your answers. The Census Bureau cannot release any identifiable information about you, your home, or your business, even to law enforcement or government agencies.  

For more information and to complete the 2020 Census online, visit You can also complete and return the census form you received in the mail or complete the census via phone at 844-330-2020 


Council Oak Montessori School Collaborates with Forest Preserves for Virtual Lesson 


In keeping with Council Oak Montessori School’s commitment to forming meaningful relationships with its wider community, the school has been engaged in a number of projects with the Cook County Forest Preserves. In 2018 COMS elementary programs received classroom grants to build and maintain gardens on campus. Shortly thereafter, the Forest Preserves of Cook County, Department of Conservation and Experimental Programming assisted in helping the school get started on transforming their plastic and rubber playground into a nature playspace, incorporating items found in nature over artificial structures. 


In Montessori education, the outdoor classroom is just as important as the indoor ones. While the COVID-19 mandated shutdown prevented COMS students from joining CCFP staff at the Cal-Sag that runs along the southern end of the school’s property as per our original plans, the collaboration still happened. The team of specialists taught students about crayfish and other invasive species to Illinois waterways through a different medium. On May 14th, 4th through 8th grade students of Council Oak Montessori School (COMS) completed a virtual program with COMS staff and Adam Kessel, the program director at Cook County Forest Preserves. 


When they are able to come together in person, COMS incorporates their natural spaces as an integral part of their curriculum. The school’s extensive outdoor space and proximity to the Cal-Sag allows students to engage with nature and become true stewards of local plants, wildlife, and prairie restoration. 


Illinois is home to 23 different species of crayfish, and the team of specialists set out to catch and identify some. Students learned that not all the crayfish they find in the wild are native. Instead, there are a variety of invasive species in Illinois which “bully” other species and disrupt local ecosystems. 


Some invasive species are introduced after being kept as pets and released into the wild, while others are migrating to new areas as our climate continues to warm. The goal of this team of experts was to catch and identify crayfish, monitoring whether invasive species are appearing in new areas, and containing those populations before they take over.  


Although no crayfish showed up in this field experiment (one of those realities of science), students did get to see a dragonfly nymph and two baby fish (called “fries”). Students also learned about anatomy of crayfish and how to identify different species of crayfish. They also learned to identify crayfish “chimneys” or tubes in the mud that they breathe through while they hide below. 


The specialists at the Cook County Forest Preserves hold special qualifications and permits in order to do much of the field work from this collaboration. However, they gave some advice for students interested in citizen science projects. If you find crayfish when you’re out on a hike, take a picture. You can then go onto websites like iNaturalist, and Chicago Wildlife Watch. If you’re interested in other citizen science you can check out eBird, and Project Budburst. 


Council Oak Montessori School is immensely thankful for everyone from the Cook County Forest Preserves for this wonderful opportunity to expand our outdoor curriculum. In the future, COMS hopes to continue using their garden and prairie restoration space for educating students about the world around them. For 30 years Council Oak Montessori School has been committed to educating the whole child in a way that makes learning inspirational. This partnership shows that this commitment continues even during distance learning. 


Council Oak Montessori School’s remote learning is continuing in a strong way through the end of the semester, including the outdoor program. They plan to return to our classrooms this Fall and also plan to have a simultaneous distance learning program. If you are interested in applying, or just want to learn more about Council Oak Montessori School, please email or visit their website at  

Great Connections Prepares Great Thinkers 


The Great Connections will be bringing together young adults, age 16 to 24, who want to learn more from the great thinkers in philosophy, psychology, mathematics and more in the Reason and Love Summer Seminar, July 25 to 31. This seminar is just one of the exciting opportunities that The Great Connections offers that helps young people become great thinkers themselves.  

A centerpiece of The Great Connections, located in Beverly/Morgan Park, is the Gap Year Experience, a unique, individualized gap year program designed to help young people, 18-24, gain powerful knowledge, skills, and the experiences they need for their next steps in life. 

Directed by Marsha Familaro Enright, applications are now being accepted for The Great Connections Gap Year Experience. Through the program, students will discuss the writing of the most influential thinkers in ethics, politics, psychology, economics, science and art, and learn to write like a professional. 

The curriculum enables students to reflect on crucial issues, develop strong reasoning skills and self-confident independence. Our teachers help students figure out the truth for themselves.  

Students develop self-confidence and engage in real-world problem solving to help them thrive in college, trade school or the working world, whatever they are seeking to do after high school.  

Students go out of the classroom to learn about history, the city, and anything that can help them see the connections between the abstract ideas they’re learning and the world around them. We want our students to be able to choose what ideas they want to live by and understand their real-world effects,” Familaro Enright said.  

For more information and to apply for the summer seminar or the Gap Year Experience, visit  

History Mystery Bike Adventure 

More Mystery, More Adventure & More Fun for the Whole Family 

As most community events are being cancelled, BAPA is bringing back a retooled, social distancing-friendly version of its popular History Mystery Bike Tour. An exciting way to see the neighborhood, harness sleuthing skills, and get in some active outdoor time with family and friendsnew History Mystery Bike Adventure offers four all new puzzle-solving challenges with some updates, prizes and family-friendly options.  

In its heyday, the History Mystery Tour was held as a one-day family focused biking event, coupled with food and music. For the new version, people will participate on their own using clues and maps printed in The Villager starting this month and available on BAPA’s website.   

As many residents take to the streets on two wheels to enjoy the warmer weather and stay active, the resurrected History Mystery Bike Adventure is an option for families to add some fun to their rides and discover new routes in the community. It is just one of multiple BAPA alternative events being held this summer that allow residents to practice social distancing, but still get out and participate in a community-wide activity 

The new History Mystery Bike Adventure starts pedaling in West Beverly. Every month through September, the series will take residents to a new area of the neighborhood to solve clues using the printed map in that month’s Villager and at 

Clues will cover a wide range of topics specific to each area of the neighborhood. From architecture and history, to local businesses and everyday sights, residents can spend the summer discovering everything that makes the Beverly/Morgan Park community so unique.  

Once participants have completed the clues, they will be able to solve the History Mystery puzzle. Each month, completed puzzle answercan be submitted to BAPA via email ( with the subject line History Mystery to be qualified for prizes for that month. Prize winners will be randomly selected from the correct puzzle answers received, one entry per family pleaseFuture adventures will take residents to East Beverly in July, North Beverly in August, and Central Beverly in September. 

BAPA encourages bicyclists to always practice bike safety and etiquette when riding. For more tips and recommendations on how to bike safely in our community, check out Bike Safety Information. To get started on the first History Mystery Bike Adventure of the summer, find your map and list of clues here. Good luck! 



BAC Hosts Fund in the Sun Online Auction


Get your towels and swimsuits ready for the Beverly Arts Center‘s first ever sunglassesoptional fundraiserthe Virtual Beach Ball online auction. June 17 through 27, you can support the BAC by bidding on items that include vacation packages to tropical lands, prestigious sports memorabilia and one-of-a-kind Chicago experiences. The fundraiser will culminate in a live, online arts demonstration on June 27.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the BAC to close and cancel events, including the annual gala. The Virtual Beach Ball is a chance for the organization to raise funds to bring programming to the community and support the arts while maintaining social distance. 

“With everyone being at home during the shelter in place, we’re noticing just how important the arts are,” said BAC Marketing Manager Andrew SutherlandWhether its listening to our favorite songs, streaming a new show or movie, or getting relief from painting, the arts have kept many of us sane during a stressful time. 

During the pandemic, the BAC has been offering social media entertainment and online classes. “Our goal is to keep providing inspiration to our community. The proceeds from the Virtual Beach Ball will go a long way in keeping the arts alive during this difficult time,” Sutherland said. 

The Virtual Beach Ball auction will offer items from The Shedd Aquarium, Koval Distillery, Chicago Bulls, Chicago Blackhawks, Elite Island Resorts and more. 

The Beverly Arts Center, 2407 W. 111th St., has been an integral parts of local arts and entertainment since it was founded in 1968, providing a wide variety of arts education for all ages, gallery exhibits, concerts and plays.  

For more information on the Virtual Beach Ball auction and to view items, visit 

Remembering Brian Piccolo 


For the people who remember Chicago Bears #41 Brian Piccolo, the news that he passed away 50 years ago this month may be a stunning reminder of the tragedy of his death. For people who aren’t familiar with Piccolo, he was a man worth knowing.  

Although he was born in Massachusetts and raised in Florida, our community thinks of Brian Piccolo as one of us. Soon after he signed on to play with the Bears in 1965, he and his wife, Joy, moved into a modest North Beverly home on Vanderpoel Street. He was right out of college – Wake Forest in North Carolina — where he had a stunning career, leading the nation in rushing and being named Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year on 1964.  

Certainly, local Bears fans were charged up that Piccolo was a Monster of the Midway, but what made the truest mark on our community’s neighbors was that Piccolo was a great guy, a team player who was loyal and likeable, had a great work ethic and a playful sense of humor. He and Joy had three little girls, Lori, Traci and Kristi. BAPA Executive Director Mary Jo Viero’s family lived just a few doors down from the Piccolos, and recalls the Bears running back playing with his daughters and socializing with neighbors. They were a regular neighborhood family, Christ the King parishioners who loved being part of the Beverly community.  

Piccolo didn’t start his time with the Bears as a star player. He spent 1965 on the practice squad, and, even though he was on the main roster in 1966, didn’t get a lot of memorable playing time. In 1967, he started backing up superstar tailback Gale Sayers. The on-field relationship led to Piccolo proving himself as a player, and as a friend. The two men broke color barriers in the NFL by rooming together in hotels on the road – at the time, sharing hotel rooms was segregated. 

Although the Bears had one of their worst seasons in 1969, Piccolo was making his mark as a player and as a teammate. Then, an athlete in his early 20s and in the prime of his career, started getting short of breath when he was playing, and took himself out of the game. He was diagnosed with cancer in November 1969, and, following a heroic and heartbreaking battle to regain his health, died on June 16, 1970. He was 26 years old.  

Brian Piccolo’s funeral was held at Christ the King Church and he was buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Evergreen Park. Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus were among the six Chicago Bears who served as pallbearers. Piccolo’s biography, “Brian Piccolo: A Short Season,” was written by Jeannie Morris (wife of former Chicago Bear Johnny Morris) and featuring many passages by Piccolo himself. The movie, “Brian’s Song,” told the story of the Brian Piccolo/Gale Sayers friendship. 

In 1970, the Chicago Bears established the Brian Piccolo Award, still presented annually to one rookie and one veteran player who exemplify the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and humor of the late Brian Piccolo. It is just one of many awards, buildings and memorials named in his honor.  The Bears also retired Piccolo’s number.  

A few years ago, members of Beverly Improvement Association (BIA) and BAPA started working on a proposal to have a piece of land located at the end of Piccolo’s block of Vanderpoel developed into a park and named for the athlete and neighbor. BAPA’s Viero said Piccolo’s widow, Joy, loves the idea of a park in Brians’s honor. Viero hoping the idea can become a reality someday and invites people who are interested in learning more to contact her at  

In the meantime, BAPA does not want the anniversary of Piccolo’s tragic death to go unnoticed by his Beverly/Morgan Park neighbors. On Tues., June 16, 4p.m., everyone is invited to join a vehicle parade that will travel by Piccolo’s first home on Vanderpoel and last home on Hunt, passing by Christ the King Church. For more information, contact Viero at In the meantime, anyone who did not know of Brian Piccolo before reading this article should make time to watch “Brian’s Song” and/or read “A Short Season.” There is still a lot we can learn from this outstanding neighbor who died way too young.  


St. Barnabas Breaks Ground on Addition 


Expanding St. Barnabas School, 10121 S. Longwood Dr., has been on the minds of parishioners and school families since 2014, when a committee was developed to create a Parish Master Plan to address the needs and concerns of the parish and school community. Thanks to the Imagine. Innovate. Inspire.  fundraising campaign, the school broke ground in May on aaddition meant to increase space, security, and flexibility of the school. It is estimated that the new building will be open by the start of school year in fall. 

Key aspects of the addition include: a secure entrance, a wellness station for ill students or those with ongoing medical needs, a media center, innovation center, gathering space, ADA accessibility and an elevator, additional general education classrooms, and designated areas for art, language, and music classrooms.  

The planning committee realized that while enrollment has remained consistent at the school, there are a few grade levels where three classrooms would be beneficial, versus the usual two classrooms per grade. The addition gives the school administrators the flexibility to provide collaborative learning spaces for grade bands that require extra space. 

It’s unknown what school will look like in the fall for any local school, but St. Barnabas is prepared to continue construction and in-person instruction simultaneously. Walsh Construction is leading the project and will implement dust partitions and security fencing to diminish disruptions as much as possible. Dropoff/pickup areas may be affected. Families are encouraged to stay up-to-date by visiting their website

Social Distance Community Calendar 


Smith Village invites caregivers, family and friends of older adults with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease to attend a free memory care support group via conference call, Tues., June 2, 6:30 p.m. Interested participants can join by dialing the conference call center number, 312-667-4792 musing the password 929028. Smith Village social service director of long-term care Diane Morgan will host the call in an open topic format and address issues about the COVID-19 pandemic as it relates to people with dementia.  

Bethany Union Church of Chicago is offering online worship services via, Sundays, 10:30 a.m.  For people who miss the live version or just want to listen again, the service will remain on the church Facebook page. To receive the monthly Bethany Union Church Unifier newsletter, send a note to 1750 W. 103rd St., or email   

Even though this year’s Vanderpoel Art Association Student Art Show has been canceled, work by  student artists can be viewed in the 2020 class project comic books, “Comic Bork 3: The Empire Strikes Bork, at There is a volume for each of the classes showing the talents of the artists and storytellers. The graduating 8th graders whose work is included are James Miller, Jade Madden and Patrick O’Malley. Plans call for Vanderpoel art classes to resume in the fall. 

Marist High School will be offering virtual summer campto help kids improve skills in a variety of sports as well as science, chess and cheerleading. Camps are for children in kindergarten through 8th grade, and offered in sessions that begin June 2, June 9, June 16 and June 23. View camp offerings and registration deadlines at    

Beverly Arts Center has adapted its class curriculum to provide safe and socially distant options for students. The summer session will begin June 8 and be offered online through Zoom. Learn how to dance, play an instrument, paint a portrait, direct a film, or be a star of the stage, all from the comfort of your own home. Info/registration: 

The following Local School Council (LSC) meetings will be held virtually. Visit the school websites for links and access code. Kellogg School LSC, Thurs., Jun. 4, 6 p.m. Sutherland School LSC, Mon., Jun. 15, 6:30 p.m. Morgan Park High School LSC, Wed., Jun. 17, 6 p.m.