HPNC seeks to grow early childhood membership

The Hyde Park Neighborhood Club (HPNC), 5840 S. Kenwood Ave., held its annual community meeting Wednesday night, May 17.

Financial statements and reports for fiscal year (FY) 2016 as well as steps the HPNC can take to grow its membership going forward were discussed during the meeting.

Approximately 11 board members gathered and began by reflecting on the positive outcomes of FY 2016.

Last year the HPNC saw an increase in grant funding and donor contributions.

They received a total of $132,000 in grant support, receiving grants from the University of Chicago, The Department of Family and Social Services Athletics and The Department of Family and Social Services Mentoring. In terms of community support they saw an overall 95 percent increase in total contributions.

This new revenue allowed them to establish a scholarship fund, expand programming, conduct building renovations, and more.

The club also started to focus more on building partnerships with other organizations to offer new services and classes to the students that participate in its after school and summer camp programs.

“We are consistently talking to non-profits who may be interested in utilizing our space and part of that negotiation always has to do with not only what space do we have that they might need but what is it that they can bring to the table for us and the kids that we’re serving,” said HPNC Executive Director Sarah Diwan.

HPNC Board President Eileen Holzhauer also discussed the importance of planned giving as opposed to sporadic giving and how some donors who donated in the past are beginning to donate less and less.

“Our elder donors right now were involved in the club during a period where there was very active community engagement,” Holzhauer said. “I think we’re going to have to work awfully hard to make sure that we build that center.”

Looking forward to how to increase membership in the HNPC’s early childhood program in the future, the club teamed up with consultants from the Booth Alumni Nonprofit Consultants group to discuss the next steps they should take.

The consultants collected qualitative and quantitative data for six months through surveys, interviews, and research. Through studies done on the large geographic area the HNPC draws children from the consultants found that the HNPC could add 500 new kids to its numbers in three years.

Strategic Planning Consultant Leah Pittacora said, “We have information that says on any given day you’re about 40 percent of capacity at the Tot Lot and that gave us this idea of going towards doubling to 500, you’ve got about 442 children in the program if you get about 500 more you’re going to bump yourself up to 85-90 percent capacity on any given day.”

The model the consultants created aims to add 75 students by 2018, 150 more by 2019 and 275 more by 2020. The end result would be a revenue build-up of $265,000.

In order to increase membership the consultants suggest a more strategic marketing plan and building a larger web presence. They believe the HPNC should focus more on partnerships with the University of Chicago and local businesses as well as community outreach through participating in community events.

For their research the consultants compared the HNPC with other leading early childhood programs and found that the HNPC’s Tot Lot program, which includes programs for infants, toddlers, and parents, was unique. Recruiting students through the Tot Lot program but retaining those students with other programs and classes could be the key to growth. One suggestion offered was to extend Tot Lot hours to Sundays so that when children start aging out of the program and heading to preschool on weekdays, the HPNC can continue to form relationships with these students.

Among the other suggestions to increase revenue were introducing more Play N’ Learn classes, doing more special events in the summer, and introducing three-class passes for $21 and introducing summer passes at reduced prices.

The consultants estimate that achieving these recruitment and financial goals will require a $30,000 investment over the next three years.

This story was originally published here.

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Silver Room On The Table forum focuses on artists’ role in enhancing Chicago neighborhoods

Moderator Mario Smith and other discussion participants listen as Raven Smith speaks about her experiences living in the South Shore neighborhood during the 4th annual Community Trust On The Table discussion “Art, Culture and the Future of our Communities,” at The Silver Room, 1506 E. 53rd St., Tuesday, May 16. –Marc Monaghan

The Chicago Community Trust hosted one of its annual On The Table forums Tuesday night at the Silver Room event space and art gallery, 1506 E. 53rd St.

According to a Chicago Community Trust press release, On The Table was created “in an effort to elevate civic conversation, foster new relationships, and create a unifying experience across the region.”

Chicago residents of varying races, backgrounds, and ages gathered in small groups at meetings all over the city to share a meal and engage in discussions about issues central to the city. Anyone can sign up to host a mealtime conversation and they can take place anywhere.

Participants shared information about their activities and discussions on social media with the hashtag “#onthetable2017”. Participants posted photos and updates from meetings happening in Jackson Park, Little Italy, and more that focused on topics like diversity in the Chicago tech industry and how to inspire the lives of Chicago youth.

Last year, residents organized around 2,000 conversations with an estimated 25,000 participants.

The topic of the Hyde Park Silver Room gathering was “Art Culture and the Future of Our Communities.”

Chakka Reeves, a filmmaker and digital media educator, had the idea to host the event after embarking on making a documentary about The Silver Room Block Party, an annual summer celebration of art and culture. Reeves discovered that the neighborhood the Silver Room was originally located in, Wicker Park, was dangerous in the past but after the neighborhood started filling up with artists and creative people and the Silver Room opened in 1997, the neighborhood became more attractive to commercial businesses and rent costs started to go up.

“I started wondering what role does art culture have in ethically developing communities and also in spurring gentrification,” Reeves said. “I feel like artists make places worth living.”

Reeves also discussed the ways in which the artist’s role is undervalued.

“I’m an artist and I can give you work that will make you enjoy your neighborhood but I can’t afford to live here and that dynamic is what made me want to have this conversation,” Reeves said.

Approximately 10 residents gathered in the art gallery and discussed the gentrification they see happening in Hyde Park and neighboring communities like Kenwood, Bronzeville and Woodlawn.

Before moving to Chicago, Shiela Lewis had only positive perceptions of the city until she moved to Streeterville and Lincoln Square and discovered that the city was “intentionally segregated.”

“When I got here I was very aware of my blackness like I’ve never been in my entire life,” Lewis said. “I left the north side because I couldn’t find enough black people and then when I came south I was like ‘Gosh, can I get one white person?’”

While some gentrification can seem obvious, for other neighborhoods it can seem to be swept under the rug.

Several participants agreed that there was gentrification happening in Hyde Park but that it wasn’t overt.

“This doesn’t feel like gentrification because Hyde Park has always felt affluent. Here it feels like just beautification, not like things are getting pushed out for the new things,” Participant Samuel J. Martin III said. “Borders was here and yet they came in and didn’t push out the small bookstores, the small bookstores outlasted them.”

Participants also discussed how the subtle gentrification emerging in Hyde Park causes drastic gentrification in its surrounding communities.

“Growing up Woodlawn was not a place I would go,” said Sharon Samuels, who now lives in Woodlawn. “But now when we go to 63rd and Cottage Grove now we’re seeing the effects of Hyde Park spill over into these neighborhoods. It’s pressure from the [University of Chicago] and the city.”

On The Table participants also have the chance to win money for the ideas they come up with to better the community. The Chicago Community Trust gives out “Acting Up Awards” of up to $2,500 to select groups who apply by submitting a video proposal of their idea.

Participants brainstormed several ideas including presenting a more positive view of Chicago through promoting artistry, doing a collective art piece and sending it around the city, promoting less political action and more social action, and spending more time getting to know fellow residents and new neighbors.

Some participants, like Raven Smith, felt their communities were too isolated from the arts.

“I want to see more restaurants in South Shore, more colorful décor on the buildings. A Harper Theater in South Shore, that would be neat,” She said. “There aren’t a lot of entertainment places there.”

Participant Silvia Gonzalez echoed the need for not just artists but for entire communities to come together.

“I’ve seen how communities have brought together organizers and educators and artists that are trying to use the arts as a vehicle to change the things that don’t support the things that matter in those communities,” Gonzalez said. “From my experience it cannot fall on the artist and they can’t show up in a community and lift it up off the ground.”

Reeves and discussion moderator Mario Smith ended the meal and discussion with a call to action.

“If you were bold enough to come to the table then you’ve already begun making Chicago a better place to live by default,” Smith said. “This can’t be a once a year discussion.”

This story was originally published here.