Talk of The Town: March 2024

March Forth: Community Engagement!

With the winter months almost behind us, many of us are once again looking outward—to our neighborhoods and communities. So this month, as we anticipate spring-like weather and getting out-and-about, Talk of the Town is focusing on ways to engage with our neighbors and build greater community connections.

Community Champions: Local Businesses With Heart

One way to strengthen neighborhoods and the greater Chicagoland community is to support businesses that are giving back. Here are a few to explore.

Wilmette Eye Care | 1125 Greenleaf Ave, Wilmette: Owner and chief optometrist Dr. Andrew Kohn is as passionate about giving back as he is about caring for his patients. In addition to volunteering his professional services locally, he has gone on international missions to Central America and is president of the Illinois chapter of Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity.

Marty’s Martini Bar | 1511 W Balmoral Ave, Chicago: Every weekend, this gay-popular martini bar hosts its “Martinis That Matter Sunday” fundraisers, with sales benefitting local organizations. So far this year, their beneficiaries have included Sarah’s Circle and the Chicago Dance Health Fund.

Two Hound Red Brewing Co. | 486 Pennsylvania Ave, Glen Ellyn: As residents and business owners in the community, the families behind this brewpub are committed to giving back. With nearly $20,000 donated to date, they have supported many local groups including the Glen Ellyn Food Bank and Wheaton North Band.

Sip of Hope | 3039 W Fullerton Ave, Chicago: This is the world’s first coffee shop where 100% of proceeds support proactive suicide prevention and mental health education. Plus, all of their baristas are trained in mental health first aid.

How to Host a Block Party

With hundreds of block parties happening all summer across Chicagoland, there’s a good chance that you’ve been invited to an event in your neighborhood or at least seen a nearby street blocked off for the festivities. If your neighborhood isn’t on the block party bandwagon, here are some things to know if you want to organize one.

First, don’t go it alone. A successful block party needs community involvement, so talk to your neighbors to get them onboard and put together a working group. Once you’ve confirmed interest and availability among neighbors, the next step is securing a permit so you can close the street and gather without worrying about traffic. In many communities like Wheaton, Elmhurst, Evanston and Northbrook, applications can be made online with the Public Works Department.

Most municipalities require applications at least two to three weeks before your event with information including contact person, date and duration, and exact location. Other requirements might include the number of participants, whether a majority of neighbors have been notified, and whether or not alcohol will be consumed. In Chicago, the application process begins by contacting your Alderman’s Office.

Putting on a block party is a team effort, and this planning process can be as much of a community builder as the event itself! Like any party, good food will be a critical element to your success. Some neighborhoods ask each resident to provide food for their own household while others opt for a community-wide potluck.

Finally, be sure to have a plan and plenty of volunteers to clean up and return any rented or borrowed items. The next day, you want to have your neighborhood looking like the party never happened!

Chicago’s Cultural Mosaic: Strength In Diversity

From city to suburb, Chicago’s cultural and racial diversity is one of its greatest assets. There are no fewer than 10 cultural heritage museums where you can explore the vibrant tapestry of traditions, perspectives, and experiences that enrich Chicago’s identity. Here are five to put on your list:

Du Sable Black History Museum and Education Center | 740 E 56th Place, Chicago: Explore a vast collection of art and artifacts that promote understanding and appreciation for the experiences and achievements of African Americans throughout history.

National Museum of Mexican Art | 1852 W 19th St, Chicago: Well curated exhibits and specially planned programs capture the wide range of Mexican cultural expressions and art forms, from ancient to modern.

Ukrainian National Museum | 2249 W Superior St, Chicago: One of the most important folk art collections outside of Ukraine is enhanced by a fine arts collection of paintings, drawing and sculptures.

National Indo-American Museum | 815 S Main St, Lombard: Founded in 2008, NIAM is dedicated to documenting and sharing the full spectrum of the Indian American experience in all its linguistic, religious, socio-economic and regional diversity.

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