Posts Tagged ‘Volunteering’

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

This weekend, I’ll be voLUNTerring, once again, for the Logan Square Arts Festival, in the beer tent on Friday night from 4:30-7:30pm—stop by!

Volunteering in my neighborhood is something I see as my responsibility as a civic-minded individual fond of building and enjoying the profits of a strong community, and it’s fun!

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“The monument” in the park in the center of Logan Square, where people congregate and enjoy life in our beautiful corner of the world.

I love my neighborhood—Logan Square—where I have lived since relocating to Chicago in 2007. I’m thoroughly at home in this place. Many of my closet friends live here, too, and we can walk easily to visit one another on weekends. The numerous joys of neighborhood living include running into friends on the streets, at cafes and bars, in the parks, and on the train.

Over Memorial weekend I encountered two friends who quickly and eagerly encouraged me to join them at the BBQ where they were headed. Just this week, I was pausing at an intersection to look at a rose blooming along the fence at the corner at Kedzie and Fullerton. My friend Joey was passing. He said hello and we stopped to catch up and we discussed the book he was reading. I could recount an infinite number of frequent and lovely encounters I share with friends and neighbors; we should all be so lucky!

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Chicago is a city of neighborhoods, a gift bestowed on urban citizens that yields incredible benefits; unfortunately, the plague of neighborhoods has always been and will always be gentrification.

When I moved into Logan Square, I paid a reasonable rent, $800 per month for a one-bedroom apartment. Without such a low rent payment, I’d never have been able to stay in the city and build a life here. That particular apartment’s rent was increased to $850 a month the second year. The third year, I was extended the surprising offer of $1050 per month, an increase of $200 in 12 months; I certainly hadn’t experienced a $200 increase in salary. I moved to another apartment elsewhere in the neighborhood. The rental company, the reviled M. Fishman, was able to rent out my far-from large or luxurious place for $1150 that year. Due in part to this unchecked and illogical increase in rents, the current going rate for renting a one bedroom apartment is a ludicrous $1400 per month.

M. Fishman has the distinction of being the worst landlord in Logan Square, perhaps all of Chicago. Anyone who isn’t in his pockets truly despises the man’s business practices. He was instrumental in driving rent prices up and hard-working low-wage workers (including college students and artists) and middle class (healthcare professionals, educators, lawyers) residents out. In fact, a local artist made artwork depicting the ways M. Fishman’s prices were forcing locals out of the area; the young woman’s art was selected for display in the local Art Fest a few years back. As a board member of I am Logan Square, one of the festival’s sponsors, Mr. Fishman objected. The artwork stayed. It was he who was asked to leave (he was asked to step down from I am Logan Square). I’ve heard a rumor that the man has chronic insomnia; trouble sleeping seems a most appropriate condition for him.

Despite my manifold connections to the community, I’ll have to leave Logan Square soon. Other friends and neighbors left long ago. Many young couples found the escalating rent too much to pay. The family who lived on the first floor of my current building was forced out due to a huge rent increase just last month. They had lived in their apartment for twenty years, raising a daughter who now attends RMU, where I work as a professor.

Meanwhile, terrible, and tremendously costly, building projects are invading Logan Square. In addition to being hilariously over-priced, the truly hideous “towers” condominiums projects are effectively ruining the view of the city visible down Milwaukee Avenue. I expect even the head foreman would confess that the buildings are ugly.

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Well, this corner used to be cozy. . .

I enjoy living simply, and I respect my neighbors, whether they have more or less than I do. Apartments are the happy households of countless Americans. Not everyone will have a house, but everyone needs a home. Neighborhoods benefit from the investments, both economic and intangible that contented neighbors bring to a community. Indeed, it is the diversity of a neighborhood that makes it strong, which is why building and renting to members of only one economic stratum strips a place of both personality and heart.

What is lost when truly rooted residents are forced out cannot be quantified. Perhaps that is why so many people have difficulty understanding the real value of a neighborhood.

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By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty.

To all the do-gooders, past, present, and future, I bid you a Happy National Volunteer week!

Studies show that volunteers lead lives that are measurably more enriched and fulfilled. Here is evidence on the powerful impact of giving from The Globalization for the Common Good Initiative. PBS also has a special segment called “This Emotional Life” which also offers insight on giving and altruism. Happily, volunteerism is trending in The United States, a remarkable reminder that kindness never goes out of style.

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I’ve been volunteering at 826 Chicago since 2008. What a great place this is—miles and miles of exceptionally sweet, smart, and absurdly generous people. Not only have I had some great experiences promoting literacy and strengthening my community, I’ve met truly incredible people, making fantastic friends along the way. I help school children with creative writing projects andBoringStore homework, or help staff The Boring Store,  a fund-raising storefront that specializes in selling ridiculous wares, such as samurai sword umbrellas and stainless steel fish flasks (I have one, of course), all to benefit Chicago Public School students! Even now, plans are underway for the annual 826 Chicago “Prom” (21 and over) dance and fundraiser. This year’s 826 Chicago Prom themes are fantastically weird.  This year’s Prom 9 From Outer Space promises to be replete with neo-futuristic costumes galore! If you are interested, buy your tickets here.

LPConservatoryRecently I began the training program to become a volunteer docent at The Lincoln Park Conservatory. Expand my volunteering life to the Lincoln Park Conservatory is the best decision I’ve made in 2014. Naturally, the conservatory is sublime, but even more impressive is the team of seasoned volunteers, who work as part of The Lincoln Park Conservancy, devoting their time to teach my trainee class a considerable amount about the Chicago Park district, and I mean a lot: the history of the parks, the origin of the plants, the nature of interpretation, and the importance of green spaces are all part of the training curriculum, and like a true nerd, I’m thrilled to have homework!

Most significantly, I began volunteering thanks to the extraordinary example of the people I know and love. Nearly all of my closest family and friends support the work of amazing non-profit organizations. Below is a (incomplete) list of the fantastic organizations my friends and family have enriched with their time and talents.

The American Red Cross

Autism Speaks

Bike Walk Logan Square

Boy Scouts of America

Chicks Against Hunger

Cleveland International Film Festival

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Donate Life

Girl Scouts of America

Habitat for Humanity

The Humane Society

The Peace Corp

Teach for America

The United Way

Veterans of Foreign Wars

Over the years, I’ve become increasingly involved in volunteer work. Allow me to highly recommend you do the same!