Neighbor to Neighbor Volunteering in our Community



A neighbor is a person who shows kindliness or helpfulness toward his fellow-man and a volunteer is one who offers themselves or their services for some undertaking or purpose.  Here in our community we have lots of neighbors who volunteer.

We welcomed Powell’s Bookstore to our community last spring.  A group of interested individuals got together to discuss children’s activities at Powell’s and out of this meeting our neighbors from Little Italy, Lisa Kulisek, and University Commons, Daryl Seaton, volunteered to do a Read Aloud for our neighborhood children.

Almost every Friday at 10 a.m. you will find Lisa sitting back in the children’s reading area with book in hand and a group of little people mesmerized by her stories.  Lisa’s adventures in motherhood have fueled her desire to volunteer at her daughter’s school (John M Smyth Magnet Elementary-our neighborhood school).  As vice chair of the local school council she hopes to spread the message that access to high-quality public education is the best way to address the issues of inequity that our city (and our neighbors) face and that a fair and equitable school system can and must serve ALL of Chicago’s children, not just the lucky ones.  Lisa sees parents as a huge and untapped resource who, when given the opportunity to organize, will be a force for change.

Saturday’s at 11 a.m. Daryl and his wonderful voice is at Powell’s.  He loves reading because it transports him to other places and time periods.  The joy from that journey is what he hopes to share with kids and impart to them.  He considers these journey’s a true gift and he believes he shares this gift every time he reads.  Daryl is very interested in being involved in the neighborhood for his family and helping in any way he can to continue making it an even better place for families to live and raise children.

What a better way to get to know a neighbor is that conversation over the back fence or in this case it was thru the fence.  That is how Jessie Johnson, the tenant President of Barbara Jean Wright Courts, and I connected last spring.  Always thinking about what can be done for the neighborhood, Jessie said wouldn’t it be great if we could get someone to teach the local kids either cheer-leading or hip hop.  The only problem was the cost of paying someone!  No problem (I said to myself), I will put an email out to the University Commons community and see if anyone will volunteer.  Immediately there were responses from Sandy Hamstra and Colby Evans, both former cheerleaders!

Sandy moved back to Chicago last year with her husband and two boys and lives in University Commons.  She is currently staying at home with her boys and enjoys volunteering in both our community and her church.  She loves this unique community and all that is has to offer for families and hopes to continue to be a part of opportunities that seek to bring the people of Chicago together.

Colby and husband Jesse have lived in University Commons for a year now but Colby has worked as a nanny in the neighborhood for the past four years.  She loves the community feel that this neighborhood provides and is excited to see and take part in some of the wonderful community activities and organizations.

This cheer-leading endeavor was perfect for everyone!  Under the sponsorship of our local social service organization, the Marcy-Newberry Association (soon to be celebrating its 130th year of service), local girls from the Barbara Jean Wright Courts and the Brooks Homes were trained by Colby and Sandy in cheer-leading techniques which lead to them learning teamwork and developing friendships.  Ultimately the girls marched and cheered in the Bud Billiken Day Parade.  The girls would never have had this opportunity if it wasn’t for Sandy and Colby volunteering.

People say life comes full circle, and that’s the case for Janet Wilk Cornelius who grew up in Pilsen in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  College, marriage, family, suburban life and now back to living in University Commons, in the same 60608 zip code she grew up in.  Janet connected immediately to our community when she moved and recently started teaching knitting to teenagers at the Marcy-Newberry Association.  Knitting is a love of Janet’s and this is a life long skill that the girls and a boy are learning.  One day they too will be able to pass this on to others the way Janet is doing with them.

How lucky we are to have so many wonderful neighbors who are giving of themselves.  Thank you for being who you are. It is now the new year.  Think about what you’d like to contribute to our community, whether it would be joining a task force, an interest group or passing on your talent, we welcome you!

Wishing you, your families and our entire community only the very best for a Happy and Healthy 2013.  We at Connecting4Communites are excited about what we want to achieve in the upcoming year!