Scott Smith, the host and producer of the Frunchroom, writes about life on the South Side

The Way I See It

By Maureen Gainer Reilly, BAPA Board President   

On Sun., May 20, we saw yet another successful BAPA Home Tour where over 800 visitors, both local and Citywide, were treated to a look inside five unique, fabulous homes in our beautiful neighborhood.   

I am overwhelmed at the amount of people in Beverly Morgan Park who share their time, talent and treasure to support BAPA.   

For over a decade local rock star volunteers Kathy Sanders and Katie Durkin have run the event along with BAPA staff member Grace Kuikman. This small but mighty team coordinated over 130 (yes, 130!) volunteers who worked the tour. A special thanks to those who return year after year to support the event like the Morgan Park Juniors, the Beverly Juniors, the Beverly Hills Garden Club and a couple groups of friends who have been working houses together for ages. These fabulous groups are in addition to the five generous (and brave) homeowners who open their doors for hundreds of people to stream through their properties.   

In addition to raising funds to support BAPA’s programming there are other benefits of the tour that are harder to quantify; a young couple who decides to buy here, new patrons for the businesses on the tour, renovations for local contractors after people are inspired by creative ideas, and, most importantly,  the opportunities for connection and community.   

This event was manned by volunteers of all ages, races, religious affiliations and neighborhood areas and this is a testament to the team that has built this into an iconic event for all of Beverly/Morgan Park.  Our beautiful houses and area architecture define the tour but the real stars are the people who make the Home Tour so welcoming and who bring it alive.  The nurse who yelled out, “You all passed your stress test!” to the guests when they made it up the steep hill on Longwood Drive, the docent who told us about a family of raccoons that ate through the walls of one house, and the lively stories of an owner’s aunt in the state department who was kidnapped twice but still managed to bring back the artifacts on display we all got to enjoy.   

Thank you Kathy, Katie, Grace; the talented Home Tour committee that includes Robin Harmon, Molly Sullivan, Michele Pettiford, Anne O’Shea, Chanelle Rogers and Gael Mennecke; and the 130 volunteers and homeowners who make me Love Where I Live!  

Back in the Neighborhood

By Jacqueline Robertson

Being back in Beverly/Morgan Park after graduating from college is like realizing you needed a new prescription for glasses. You don’t notice the details that surround you, but you know that you have friends and family, and familiar businesses all around.

When you get that new prescription, everything is so much clearer! You can see the little things: the people who were always there, those who just moved in, and the importance of community.

I used to walk around the neighborhood all the time, not caring to glance at my surroundings. But being back after four years at Northern Illinois University — where everything is corn and cold — I can appreciate the things I didn’t think about before. Living in the small town of Dekalb, I noticed how much it was like Beverly/Morgan Park — there is a love and care for local businesses, people know each other and are always friendly.

Though there is an increase in neighboring big businesses, this does not stop many neighbors from going to the local businesses. For my first Halloween back in Chicago since college, I decided to walk around the neighborhood with the mission of choosing the perfect pumpkin for Halloween festivities. I decided to make my way towards County Fair, where I found the perfect specimen for my carving masterpiece! I used to visit this grocery store with my grandmother, but this time I looked at it through the eyes of someone from the neighborhood, not just someone running another errand.

The growing art community is amazing too. I was a frequent visitor to the Beverly Arts Center as a child, and love seeing how vast and popular events are now. Going to the art galleries and seeing the shows at the BAC gives me a sense of nostalgia and happiness that the art community is held in high esteem. Also, the Beverly Art Walk, organized by the Beverly Area Art Alliance, is astonishing and gratifying. As an artist, it’s great seeing area illustrators or sculptors get recognition and a chance to share their work with others.

My friends from outside the neighborhood love wandering around Beverly/Morgan Park with me and seeing what it has to offer. There are little free libraries in front of different buildings, allowing people to give or take various novels, sharing personal favorites and expanding the sense of community. Just walking around the neighborhood, one can’t help but check in on these little dwellings, exploring what new goods and adventures they have to offer. In the past, I wandered the neighborhood every now and then, just to get to a destination, earplugs in. Now I wander and take in the nature of my community. I love the houses here, especially in the fall, when the warm colors of the season blend with the unique architecture.

Beverly/Morgan Park is a place for those young and old; a welcoming area of Chicago for those who are new to the big city, and those – like me — who return after years of living elsewhere. There is always a home here, and a bond that brings people together.

Beverly/Morgan Park has grown and changed for me; these new hypothetical glasses have cleared my vision and allowed me to see my neighborhood with a fresher perspective, and I’m excited to see more.

The Way I See It

By Scott Smith

Back in October, Crain’s Chicago Business published an article about how home sales in Beverly are on the rise and some of the reasons why.

Before saying more about that article, a couple of declarations are in order.

I serve on the board of the Beverly Area Planning Association (BAPA) and I’m a board member with the Southwest Chicago Diversity Collaborative (where we’re working on the launch of a spring festival that highlights the need for more bike- and pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods). I  also work with the Beverly Area Arts Alliance, where I produce a live storytelling series called The Frunchroom that tells stories about the South Side that don’t always make the headlines.

Like most people, I volunteer because of a belief about where neighborhood development should and must come from: a participatory community that has a voice in our neighborhood—and city. It’s the opposite of the typical top-down, politically driven model Chicago has often embraced.

Over the past few years, I’ve watched as small businesses here have created niche communities that become economic drivers, particularly in those places that elevate artists and writers.

Crain’s Chicago Business backed up what we’ve all seen with data and reporting: At the end of September, Beverly showed “a steep increase in home sales for the year to date.” How steep? An increase of 27 percent over the same period in 2016.

The piece goes on to quote real estate agent and Morgan Park resident Francine Benson Garaffo, who says that new groups and businesses formed in the past few years have “brought a new energy into Beverly,” and highlights two new breweries and a meadery, as well as the Arts Alliance and The Frunchroom. (The Wild Blossom Meadery & Winery on the border of Beverly and Washington Heights grew out of a brewing supply store on Western Avenue.)

We have to recognize what a hard turn this was, especially when the Arts Alliance’s Art Walk and Horse Thief Hollow (one of the two breweries mentioned) debuted. At the time, there was nothing like those breweries in the neighborhood. While both were warmly embraced, Western Avenue was (and still kind of is) a haven of shot-and-a-beer joints.

And while there were some art galleries in the neighborhood, most are like the Vanderpoel Art Museum—hidden away gems, and not something the neighborhood was known for to outsiders.

The changes are due to individuals who envisioned change and put entrepreneurial thinking behind it. It wasn’t thanks to a city or the ward office. It was people—many of them volunteers—banding together in common cause who then attracted like-minded folks to follow behind them. Horse Thief begat Open Outcry and the Meadery. The Art Walk begat The Frunchroom. Et cetera.

You see this spirit of volunteerism-meets-entrepreneurialism in BAPA as well. Though it has only three full-time staff members, it has an army of volunteers, homeowners, and local businesses who make it possible to create a yearlong slate of events like the Ridge Run, the Beverly Home Tour, Bikes and Brews, and more. They’re also not afraid to take on the city and advocate for the neighborhood, like in the current campaign to save the Ridge Park fieldhouse.

The Crain’s article also had something interesting to say about public schools in our neighborhood. In an interview with a new Beverly resident, schools were cited as “the top draw.” The elementary school they moved here for is Kellogg School, a public school with CPS’s highest rating, 1+ and scores a seven out of 10 points on the Great Schools rating service.

In a time of upheaval for Chicago Public Schools (CPS), it’s worth noting that people are moving to the 19th Ward because of our public schools.

It’s great to see the neighborhood’s arts scene, new restaurants and public schools creating an atmosphere where home sales and prices are on the rise. There are two lessons here:

If you have a vision for change in your community, you and your friends have the power to make it happen.

Decisions about our communities—especially our schools—should be participatory.

During the 2019 political campaign season, I’m sure many people will want to take credit for the rise in Beverly’s sales and home prices. I just hope they’ll mention the people who actually made it happen.

The Way I See It: Importance of Neighborhood Schools

By Meg Burns, Principal, Sutherland Elementary

As a Beverly/Morgan Park resident for 25 years, I have a profound commitment to the success of my local public school. We are privileged in this neighborhood to have outstanding educational choices. One of those choices has always been Sutherland Elementary.

I have been privileged to have many conversations with parents and community members about the future growth of Sutherland. There is so much this wonderful school has to offer, and I’m proud to have been given the opportunity to enlist the trust of the community who for years has revered and respected the Sutherland name.

Despite recent challenges, Sutherland has always had a core of unwavering community support and dedicated parents, talented teachers and staff who have worked hard to keep the school moving forward.  The goal of any neighborhood school is to be filled with children from the community it serves. As the new principal of Sutherland, my pledge is to make Sutherland a viable and desirable choice for Sutherland neighborhood families.

Sutherland is where my own children attended and thrived. As a Sutherland parent, it’s where I was inspired to begin a career in education. My continuing goal will be to ensure that Sutherland is a place where local children can receive an outstanding education, connect with neighborhood families and grow to become strong members of our community.

The Way I See It: Christ the King School at 80

By Father Larry Sullivan,  Pastor, Christ the King Parish

Tradition, shared experiences, collective memories.

These are the things that Christ the King School and Parish have created over the course of 80 years.  And, they’re what bring us together as a community this fall.  Christ the King School will celebrate its 80th anniversary in September, and to commemorate we are planning a grand celebration on Sat., Sept. 16 – CK80 Come Together.  More than 650 tickets have been sold and our guests include parishioners, school families and alumni from around the United States.

We will begin the celebration at 5 p.m. with a special Mass with Bishop Jerry Kicanas as the main celebrant and guest homilist Fr. John Costello.  During Mass we will honor the Sisters of Mercy, CK’s founding teachers, and Allan Dressel, a beloved CK teacher, coach, parent and alumnus.  Several former CK choir members will join the choir for the occasion. The Mass will be followed by a celebration with food, drink, musical entertainment by the Gentlemen of Leisure band and lots of surprises. The Christ the King School Foundation Board, along with honorary chairpersons, Matt and Joyce Walsh and Dan and Patty Walsh, have been working to create an unforgettable event.

The family of Christ the King is a diverse community in the heart of the Beverly neighborhood in Chicago.  We are proud of our varied ethnic backgrounds and strong bonds between generations. We are a people of deep Catholic faith and solid Christian values.

Today, our school serves more than 370 children, dedicated to providing education of the highest quality, and guiding these children to be faith-filled and considerate young adults.  I like to think that our students are who they are, in large part, because of the love, time and energy CK dedicates to each and every student. There is little doubt that the bonds our students make in this grammar school are unique. Many of our CK alumni have made lifelong friendships in the halls of Christ the King and have deep ties to the Beverly/Morgan Park community.  Many people who are no longer in Chicago, still call CK their “home” parish.  And we welcome these friends home.

The Christ the King School community has 4,447 graduates, many living and working around the world, and each with a story to tell. We look forward to hearing those stories on Sept. 16 and showcasing the changes in the school and the new traditions CK has crafted in recent years.

I am proud to say that Christ the King School and Parish are thriving, and we continue to serve each other and those in nearby communities generation after generation.  We look forward to welcoming all friends of CK in September and look forward to the next 80 years. Event and ticket information can be found at www.ck-school.org.

BAPA History: Neighbors Working Together Achieve Good Things

By Tom Hogan, BAPA Past President

My wife, Cathi, and I have lived in our house across from Crescent Park since the summer of 1986. We moved into this home after having lived in the Old Town/Lincoln Park areas during the first years of our marriage. We both spent a good deal of our childhood/teenage years living in different parts of the Beverly/Morgan Park neighborhood. As a result, we had a good idea of that we would experience as our family grew.

Our two sons were able to play unsupervised in Crescent Park after they reached an age where they could cross the street by themselves. They had many friends with who they would play in the park after their school day at Clissold or on their days off. This provided them with the opportunity to work out their own differences without too much adult interference. This was much the same way Cathi and I were able to transition through our childhoods.

We first became involved in neighborhood activities in the late 1980s/early 1990s when Cathi joined a group of people who helped guide a long overdue revamp of the Crescent Park playground. That committed band of volunteers spent hours traveling to parks in other neighborhoods and suburbs to gather ideas for Crescent Park. Their efforts led not just to a refreshed play area, but to several lifelong relationships with many great neighbors. This network of people later formed the foundation of the Beverly Breast Cancer Walk.

In the mid-1990s, I joined BAPA’s Board of Directors. At that time, this neighborhood was confronted with working through issues which had been at the forefront since the 1960s: Racial change, home values and school choice. We were also faced with replacing the funding bases BAPA had enjoyed in its earlier years when local financial institutions were bought and moved out of the neighborhood. I served with many great people who didn’t always agree with one another, but who understood that compromise is not always capitulation. We set a path for the organization on all of these issues which, in hindsight, has allowed the work of BAPA to continue and the organization to thrive.

While I was president of BAPA (1998-2001), a group of real estate agents working in the Kennedy Park Civic Association area were telling residents that quick racial change was coming. This panic peddling tactic that had fostered so much white flight in the City during 1960s and 1970s caused quite a bit of concern to all of the Kennedy Park area residents, African American and Caucasian. Working with the civic association, BAPA held a series of meetings in residents’ homes. There was plenty of discussion – some helpful and some not – about what should be done.

BAPA told the real estate agents that we knew what they were doing, and that we would disseminate widely what we knew if they didn’t stop. As a result of neighbors working together on this important issue, the real estate agents did stop. This couldn’t have happened unless the residents had significant trust that BAPA would follow through on its promises.

I know BAPA works best when its objective is clear and those who are executing it trust one another to follow through on its promises. This can only be done when neighborhood residents form alliances with one another, working on smaller projects that form a foundation to benefit the larger community, much like that committed band of Crescent Park volunteers did.

If you like what the current BAPA Board is doing, tell them so. If you don’t like it, get involved yourself and work toward compromise. Together, we the residents of Beverly/Morgan Park can live in the Village in the City.

BAPA History: Events and Community Engagement

By Willie Winters

“When a community comes together, good things happen.”

After reading former BAPA executive director Chuck Shanabruch’s article in the April issue of The Villager, I was reminded of how difficult the challenge of maintaining a strong, vibrant community can be. Chuck laid out the key programs and areas of work that BAPA has so steadfastly maintained over the years.

During my tenure as executive director, BAPA continued to push the organization’s original mission and, I believe, accomplished good outcomes in many areas including maintaining quality schools and improving retail corridors, community safety and housing. This was due to a talented BAPA staff which at the time included Adeline Ray, Marcia Walsh, Alice Collins, Pam Holt and Grace Kuikman all working together with a strong and committed board.

BAPA board members worked tirelessly to keep our community moving in the right direction. I was especially grateful for the insightful and professional direction we received from the board presidents. Tom Hogan, Rosa Hudson, Greg Richmond, Mike Stanton and Melody Camp were terrific leaders who made tough decisions, all in the interest of keeping BAPA strong and on task.

Mike Sise, who headed up the Beverly Morgan Park CDC, deserves special recognition for his development work in our community and for gifting BAPA’s current location to the organization in 2005.

Programs are the outward mechanisms of an organization that push forward the mission, but in order to keep programs solid you have to have resources. BAPA is self-funded, largely through the generous donations of community residents and businesses. Community events are also a significant source of income and support for BAPA’s programs.

During the eight years I was with BAPA our events underwent significant changes. Many folks in our community don’t necessarily like change, but it’s necessary to breathe new life into events with both subtle and sometimes dramatic changes. In 2001, we changed the route of the Ridge Run (which celebrates its 40th run this Memorial Day!). The route was extended south of 111th Street for the first time with the idea of including more parts of the community in the race while giving the runners a change of scenery. (The route has since moved back north of 111th Street due to higher costs of street closures etc.) We also added chip timing, enhanced runner refreshments, dri-tech shirts and the youth mile. The Memorial Day celebration included the traveling Viet Nam Wall one year.

We introduced a fall festival on the grounds of Morgan Park Academy that was mildly successful the first year and even visited by the young Obama family. The next year it was, literally, snowed out.

The Snowflake Ball was one of BAPA’s signature events and great fundraiser for many years but as The Plaza deteriorated and lost business, we saw a drop in attendance.  We moved it to St. Xavier University for a few years, but it never gained back its old charm and we decided to cancel it.

Fortunately we were able to bring an exciting new event to the community in the summer of 2003, the Beverly Hills Cycling Classic. Thanks to assistance from David Kennedy, who was with the Mayor’s Office of Special events at that time, we were introduced to the operators of the oldest criterium series in the country and became the first Chicago location for the race. The BHCC still takes place every July, providing the excitement of bicycle racing along with the opportunity to spend time with friends and neighbors in a festival setting.

All of the BAPA events are designed to bring people to our community while bringing our community together.  We want others to see the beauty of our neighborhood and perhaps come back to purchase a home and become part of our community.

Hundreds of residents were introduced to the Beverly/Morgan park community through BAPA events. Many people have remarked of how they were impressed by all of the volunteers who welcomed them to our community.

More importantly, events build community. The Beverly/Morgan Park area is divided into little communities by geography, parishes, churches, schools and civic associations. Community wide events bring everybody together to celebrate, participate and share our stories. Because at the heart of any good community is a story that must be told, improved on and shared. It’s what makes our community and any community special.

See you in the neighborhood.

 

By Mary Jo Viero

January 15 marked my one year anniversary as a staff member at BAPA. When I think about what happened over the last year, I am overwhelmed. I have met so many nice people, worked with business owners that I now know by name, experienced all of the events that BAPA hosted and witnessed the incredible community spirit of Beverly/Morgan Park.

One of the best aspects of being BAPA’s community organizer is that I am constantly meeting new people. It’s exciting, fun and interesting. One of my tasks is to revitalize our civic and homeowner associations. These are the smaller groups within the larger BAPA service area. They organize and work within their boundaries to formally or informally try to improve the quality of life in their area. They build relationships with their neighbors, create a unified voice, work together on projects and problem-solve. Over the course of the year I realized how important these groups are to our larger community. Each area has its own unique personality and a unique set of priorities and concerns. I met with the amazing and dedicated people who work with the BIA (Beverly Improvement Association), SWMPCA (Southwest Morgan Park Civic Association), WBCA (West Beverly Civic Association), BRHA (Beverly Ridge Homeowners Association), VIA (Vanderpoel Improvement Association), EBA (East Beverly Association) and CPCA (Crescent Park Civic Association). These are vibrant community organizations that host regular meetings and events, and work hard to improve their neighborhood.

I tried but had a hard time getting neighbors involved from SWBIA (Southwest Beverly Improvement Association), CAMP (Civic Association for Morgan Park), KPHA (Kennedy Park Homeowners Association), and the OMPCA (Old Morgan Park Civic Association) areas. I hope if you live in one of these areas, you will call me to ask how to get involved.

The more vibrant and effective our associations are, the more vibrant and effective our entire community will be. BAPA serves as the umbrella to all of these organizations. I want to try to get them talking, and sharing ideas, discussing their challenges and their successes. Most of all, I want these groups to empower themselves and each other.

Our first meeting for 2017 for all of the civic associations was in January. Even though it was pouring rain, amazing people from all corners of our community showed up. One of our main topics of discussion was how we can bring more of our neighbors to the table. My feeling is that we all have something that we are passionate about. If we can engage people by offering ways to tap into those passions, we will all be better. If someone loves to garden or loves trees, they can get involved with tree grants or weeding Wednesdays. If someone is concerned about safety, they can attend their CAPS meetings and reach out to BAPA to help find solutions. For some, being social and planning activities makes them happy. There are endless opportunities to be involved with community events.

The point is, we need you. We need all of you.

You don’t have to come to every meeting, but if you can give a few hours of your time and exercise your passion, it will benefit you and the entire community.

I know that for me, the more I get involved the more I love where I live.

For more information, contact me at 773-233-3100, mjviero@bapa.org.

The Way I See It

By Heather Wills, Chair, BAPA Education Committee

It is still a marvel to me on how my family and I had the excellent fortune to stumble upon the community of Beverly/Morgan Park eleven years ago. We had been living in a condominium on the North Side. We wanted to remain in the city, but transition into a house. Our big prerequisites were a robust, vibrant and diverse community, along with strong schools.

I had told my husband about working in Beverly/Morgan Park as a nanny one summer while home from college. It had been for a family that lived in the St. Cajetan parish, which meant absolutely nothing to me at the time, being a good protestant from the suburbs. We decided to take a drive down one spring evening and knew with certainty that we had found our neighborhood; the community where we would set down roots and raise our family.

When you think about strong neighborhoods, places featured in Chicago Magazine or areas where statistics are touted in the Chicago Tribune, schools are always an identifying factor. The whole community of schools is taken into consideration, not just the public, private or parochial schools. In order to keep all our community schools prospering, even the ones our children do not attend, we need to be deliberate in helping them succeed. One of BAPA Education Committee’s vital goals is to involve the community in meaningful partnerships with our local schools. This includes schools helping schools by making connections with one another, as well as the community becoming familiar with all their neighborhood schools.

I have been in the field of education for the past 16 years, and am sure that I am not alone in thinking that teaching is one of the most fulfilling occupations, also one of the most demanding. I once heard a devoted and respected teacher say that she spent her career knowing that she had daily failures in the classroom. If you question that, think about how you feel as a parent on any given day, or is that just me? The Education Committee will be working with local schools and The Villager to highlight some of our phenomenal teachers and programs. Our schools and teachers are doing some incredible work with students and it should be recognized.

Open and fluid communication between parents, schools, local elected officials and other community stakeholders is another important goal of the BAPA Education Committee. We are privileged to have numerous school choices for our children in the community. We may not always agree on policies and decisions, but we can work together in creating a climate and culture where everyone feels heard and valued.

There are so many things that I have grown to love about the Beverly/Morgan Park community. I am thankful that we found a neighborhood which values education, and understands the importance of working together. I hope that we will continue to grow in our efforts and stand alongside schools to help them maximize the academic achievement and social competence of all students in a safe, nurturing and developmentally rich environment.

The Way I See It: The Concept of Community

By Kira Obermeier

You know that saying, “It takes a village?” Yeah, I never really bought into that idea.

I always associated that concept with ancient tribes or old folklore. And honestly, I thought it was a bit of a cop-out. As in, let other people raise your kids so you don’t have to. But this week I had quite the experience, where this concept of community was front and center.

I was raised on the south side of Chicago – in the neighborhood of Beverly. My parents had a group of friends who all had children at roughly the same time. So I grew up with their kids who felt more to me like cousins, or siblings. It’s an interesting and unique bond we share. We have all gone down different paths in life, and yet when we see each other it’s as though time stands still and we are seven years old, barefoot and playing hide-and-seek again.

One of the “kids” (we’re all in our 20’s and 30’s these days, some even have their own kids) had a very special week. She was crowned Ireland’s Rose of Tralee, which you may not have heard of but trust me, it’s a huge deal. It’s essentially Ireland’s version of Miss America – but you’re competing with women from all over the world. Maggie spent the better part of a year fundraising and working her butt off – and she kept making cut after cut after cut. She and her family made the trek all the way to Ireland for the final competition. The rest of her family and friends gathered to watch the finals at Fado (an Irish pub where Maggie tended bar for years), where they were kind enough to live-stream the final results. Even Papa Rose (Maggie’s grandpa) came out for the fun.

Maggie won.

The shouts of joy and pride and pure bliss that escaped us all echoed throughout the bar. We were all on our feet, screaming, crying, smiling so hard it hurt. I was struck by how special it was that though thousands of miles apart, we were able to gather, witness and celebrate her. There were so many people there – friends, family, neighbors – and we all were so emotionally invested in Maggie. “Ah,” I thought, “so this is the community people seek.” Where our bond runs so deep that we’re willing to stop whatever we’re doing on a Tuesday and root for our girl; where we all feel a bit of pride that she’s one of ours.

In this community, we are all each other’s mothers – we are all each other’s daughters. We are sisters, brothers, friends.

In my daily life, my world is small. I spend a lot of my time by myself. I run by myself, commute by myself, go to the grocery store by myself. We’re all busy. But then something wonderful, or sometimes terrible, happens and we connect, the way we are meant to. Something momentous can take us out of ourselves and into the world.

To Maggie, I love you. What an honor to be a member of your #tribe.

(Kira runs the successful lifestyle blog, The Imperfectionist. Find her online at theimperfectionistblog.com or on Instagram @kiraobermeier. Rose of Tralee Maggie McEldowney is a native of Beverly/Morgan Park.)