By Kristin Boza
Our community has a rich history of making a big impact in the lives of our neighbors. While there are many heroes of all types living in Beverly/Morgan Park, the stories of the following three people have made positive effects in a variety of ways through helping others.
Sister Pat Mahoney
22nd District CAPS Volunteer and District Advisory Committee Chair
Sister Pat Mahoney began volunteering for Chicago’s Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) 25 years ago after being asked to serve. “At the time, CAPS was a new form of policing where the community works in partnership with the police to improve the quality of life in the community,” Mahoney said. “As a Sister of Providence for more than 62 years, I take seriously our mission statement, which in part says we are called ‘to honor Divine Providence through works of love, mercy, and justice in service among God’s people.’ I have been blessed to work with our police officers and volunteers who also serve among God’s people.”
Mahoney has served as a Court Advocate in which she follows cases of importance to the district by representing the community and supporting victims and witnesses at court hearings. “It shows the judges, prosecutors, and the defense that we care about what happens in our community,” she said. “I have worked with countless volunteers in the 22nd District over the years who by their presence makes our community a better place.”
As a Beat Facilitator for Beat 2211/2212, Mahoney and an assigned community policing officer meet with the local community to review crime statistics and ways to solve problems, and to listen to community concerns.
“Crime is not a police problem; it is a community problem. By working together, we can make progress,” she said.
Eight years ago, Mahoney was named District Advisory Committee (DAC) Chair. This committee is comprised of all of the volunteers who chair all the CAPS committees. The purpose of this group is to ensure that the lines of communication are open between the community and the police.
Mahoney takes volunteering seriously because the work is so important. “I believe none of us are graced or gifted for ourselves,” she said. “Community can only grow and thrive when we reach out beyond ourselves to serve. More than ever, we as a community need to work together. Volunteering with CAPS is one excellent way.”
Founder of the 19th Ward Mutual Aid
Tim Noonan is the ultimate community volunteer and initiates projects that make a long-lasting contribution to the neighborhood. Whether he is working to save a long-forgotten monument honoring Gold Star Mothers in the Dan Ryan Woods, or working as a parent representative and FOIA/OMA officer on the local school council for Kellogg School, Noonan can be counted on to meet any challenge.
When COVID-19 hit and many local families faced the loss of their jobs, Noonan used his skills to coordinate a combined effort, engaging several local agencies and non-profits that could make an enormous impact by working together. The effort began with a series of conversations with BAPA, the Beverly Improvement Association, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and Turpin Cares. Noonan also sought advice from mutual aid organizations in other Chicago neighborhoods.
The 19th Ward Mutual Aid was created from these conversations and collaborations, and includes an essential Free Store that is open every first and third Wednesday at the BAPA Community Room, 11109 S. Longwood Dr., 4:30 to 6 p.m. for personal care items, and every Wednesday, 4 to 6 p.m. to distribute food. Until the end of November, the emergency food distribution was held at Morgan Park Presbyterian Church, 110th and Longwood Dr., where Pastor Ben Heimach-Snipes offered its space for the Free Store food, including a commercial refrigerator and deep freezer. (Visit 19aid.com for information on the new location).
“When I saw the creation of other mutual aid groups, I thought we could do it here,” Noonan said. “I reached out to several influencers to help get the word out. On our first call I met with Greg Owen-Boger, vice president of Turpin Cares, a non-profit sponsored in part by Turpin Communication that distributes food, hygiene products and relief items to people in need on Chicago’s South Side. Turpin Cares was already an established group, and we would amplify their mission while also directly helping those in need.”
Noonan has experienced job loss in the past due to an economic downturn and was out of work for nearly 10 months. “My heart goes out to each and everyone that drives into the parking lot [for the Free Store]. I know it takes a lot of courage to wait in line,” he said. “I try to make the experience as hassle-free as possible, and I want them to know this is a judgment-free zone.”
The 19th Ward Mutual Aid group adopted the motto “Neighbors Helping Neighbors.” The idea is that if families can use the money they do have for rent or mortgage and the group can help them with food, more neighbors will be able to stay in the community, according to Noonan. “Our enclave here is really special and we should be proud. If I did not have faith in our community, we could not have started the group. It is the power of our wonderful volunteers that allows the Free Store to continue.”
Noonan encourages anyone seeking to make a difference in their community to find what they’re passionate about and not be scared to get involved. “Don’t be afraid of standing up or fighting for what you’re concerned about,” he said. “You need to be passionate, organized, have a vision, and most importantly, be honest. Oh yeah, and there is a lot of hard work involved too!”
Facebook Small Business Spotlight Interview Series
John Harrell is a State Farm agent and acutely understands the stress small business owners are facing. As he was selling auto, home, and life insurance and helping clients plan for retirement, he was able to smoothly pivot to Zoom calls when business shut down orders were enacted in March due to COVID-19. But many small brick-and-mortar businesses that have suffered as they adapt business practices to stay viable.
A former actor, Harrell is always looking for creative outlets. When he saw how local businesses were struggling with the pandemic and lockdown, he realized he could help them creatively promote themselves, and the Facebook Small Business Spotlight series began.
“I just wanted to do something creative and different to keep my mind working while helping other people promote their businesses,” Harrell said.
To date, Harrell has featured 30 different local businesses and organizations, and credits Caroline Connors from the Morgan Park Beverly Hills Business Association and Erin Ross from the 95th Street Business Association with helping him find small business owners to interview and spotlight.
“Caroline and Erin do an incredible amount for all the small business owners, and they’ve given me a tremendous amount of support for this project,” he said.
One of the best parts of the project for Harrell is discovering new businesses that he otherwise wouldn’t have known about.
“I’m not a baker, so I wouldn’t have gone into Cakewalk Chicago otherwise, but I found out it’s a really amazing place,” he said. “I’ve realized how diverse our business community is and how these small businesses make our community so vibrant.”
Harrell is also aware of how business closures could impact the broader community.
“As a State Farm agent, I work with realtors and mortgage brokers so I know that side of the industry; when businesses go away, it becomes more difficult to sell a house. We’re all so interconnected, and I don’t think everyone understands how integral these small businesses are to our community,” he said.
Watching businesses pivot has been eye-opening for Harrell. “I’m blown away by the creativity of these small business owners that are forced to do something different and rethink their businesses. If you’re passionate about a particular place, be sure to tell everyone about it to encourage them to support it as well,” he said. “If we all eat local, shop local, and buy local, we can help our small business community survive.”
Watch Harrell’s Small Business Spotlights on Facebook by searching #SpotlightsWithJohn.
Do you know a local hero who should be profiled in The Villager? Send their name and contact info to firstname.lastname@example.org.