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Ideas for a better Chicago ‘On the Table’ across the region

Tue, Jun 17, 2014

For its 99th birthday May 12, The Chicago Community Trust asked people at nearly 1,100 dinner tables to ponder bold solutions for building strong, safe and dynamic communities. At “Table 301” in Maywood, discussion focused on how to better market the village so young people would be proud to return after completing their educations.

Pre-dinner introductions in Maywood include, from left, Lena Hatchett PhD of Loyola University, former Maywood Mayor Henderson Yarbrough, Jason Gipson of Athletic Konnections.

Pre-dinner introductions in Maywood include, from left, Lena Hatchett PhD of Loyola University, former Maywood Mayor Henderson Yarbrough, Jason Gipson of Athletic Konnections.

Maywood has had foreclosures but it also has 17 houses on the National Register of Historic Places. The village is also the starting point for the Illinois Prairie Path, the first rail-to-trail conversion in the U.S., which heads on to Wheaton and branches in a Y-shape to Elgin and Aurora, Geneva and Batavia.

Creative couples had already been attracted to some of Maywood’s Prairie School homes. Younger people might want to move to the village 12 miles from downtown – but equidistant to both airports – so that they could have gardens and energy-efficient, sustainable buildings, dinner guests said.Beautification of the Prairie Path was another idea designed to appeal to activity- and price-oriented young people. Efforts didn’t have to cost much, because residents had shown they would not pluck community flowers.

More than 11,500 participants from every Chicago residential ZIP code and 11 area counties celebrated the Trust’s birthday at the May 12 “On the Table” dinners. The community foundation planned the event because in 1915, the idea for its creation came during a mealtime conversation hosted by Chicago banker Albert Harris.

As the Trust looks to its centennial next year, it is seeking similar new ideas and collaborations to strengthen Chicagoland neighborhoods and communities. Three to five ideas will be presented during Chicago Ideas Week in October.

A quick look at comments from www.onthetable2014.com:

a dinner at the James Tyree Community Center emphasized the need to educate principals and administrators on strategies for supporting students with learning disabilities

a table of formerly unemployed Cook County residents and Skills for Chicagoland’s Future staff recommended expanded employer hiring advocacy so that more jobseekers can get back to work.

a gathering at Homan Square suggested entrepreneurship and small business incubators for North Lawndale.

Cook County Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough, Maywood Park District Supt. of Buildings and Grounds Mike Dawson and Maywood Village Trustee Mike Rogers.

Cook County Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough, Maywood Park District Supt. of Buildings and Grounds Mike Dawson and Maywood Village Trustee Mike Rogers.

Victoria Haas, an architectural and environmental historian and co-host of the Maywood dinner along with Anthony Williams, chef and co-owner of the Meal of the Day Café, said that “immediate feedback was that everybody seemed to be just so energized: really, really revved up and excited.”

Gabriel Lara of the Quinn Center at the former St. Eulalia School sat opposite Jason Gipson, executive director of Athletic Konnections, a sports-youth mentoring program with volunteers like himself: college-educated men who have returned to Maywood. Since May 19, Lara has offered Gipson office space and in return found volunteers and programming for Quinn Center, Haas said.
And Haas said that since Prairie Path cyclists sometimes get lost before its official start on Maywood’s First Avenue, she would seek intergovernmental funding to get a directional stripe painted.

Suzanne Hanney
StreetWise Editor-In-Chief

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