v26-3 From the President

Vol. XXVI No. 3 - FALL 2015

By Robert Remer

21st Century Volunteer Leadership at EHS – Could That Include You?

The Edgewater Historical Society was founded 27 years ago by dedicated community members from many backgrounds and community experiences. Edgewater was at an apex of community activism, with a litany of successes atop an already distinguished 100 year history. The momentum to start EHS was partly to memorialize the community’s many victories (of the 1960s, 70s and 80s) taking control of its destiny. Many people came together to form block clubs, fight crime, get rid of crooked politicians and absentee precinct captains, get housing and business areas revitalized, improve the schools, fight crime, add park and recreation facilities, get the very first Edgewater Library in the 1970s, help to feed and clothe the poor in Edgewater, stop the proliferation of high rises on the lakefront, and protect our beaches.

EHS was born amid an atmosphere of activism. Many founders and still current board members came from those roots. In 1988 they were in their 30s or 40s, had set down some roots in Edgewater and then set out to improve their community. The last decades of the 20th century in Edgewater were a testament to what community activism could accomplish. So much so, that today’s problems and challenges pale by comparison. Edgewater is now considered one of the most desirable places in Chicago. The success of EHS rode the crest of that wave with tremendous support and participation from those who witnessed or participated in those decades of activism.

Recently we learned of the passing of two former board members and the retirement of Betty Mayian, a former president and go to person on the Board of Directors. This got me thinking about replenishing the leadership of an organization and how important this is for the future activities of the group. Since we want to continue as a strong and viable organization, we obviously will need future leaders for the 21st century.

I commend the work that Martha Kraeger did in support of the Edgewater Historical Society. She was one of our founders who passed in July. She was in the forefront of bi-partisan efforts to rid Edgewater of crooked politicians who fixed elections and held back development.

Mark Palermo, former board member and also a lifetime member – his passing in August took us by surprise. A well respected teacher at Senn before he retired, Mark was often involved in community issues. In his own church he was an activist for LGBT equality. At EHS he was deeply committed to our mission, and was a principled force on the board. (see page 4)

Betty Mayian and husband Ara recently moved to Arizona. Betty was there at the genesis of EHS; a board member of the Edgewater Community Council, she helped start an oral history project celebrating the community’s 100 years; that was the core group who began EHS. Betty was also involved in community functions memorialized in a recent City Council resolution honoring Betty and Ara. She was witness to and participant in many of the positive improvements to Edgewater over the years. She was a past President and lifetime member of EHS and did just about everything that could ever be done for the museum.

The current board of the Edgewater Historical Society that includes 18 members is probably one of the best and most active boards we ever had, evidenced by wonderful exhibits, programs, tours and our continued activism in support of preservation. Our collections have grown as has our reputation. But where are our future board members and leaders to come from?

That is where you, our members, come in. We need you. Volunteer opportunities abound.

Think about stepping up and becoming more active in EHS. You don’t have to be an archivist or an historian, although that would be great. We want you to appreciate Edgewater and preserve and promote that history. We always need volunteers with a variety of skills and backgrounds – accounting, architecture, writing, research, social media, publicity, fund raising, archiving, curating, building maintenance, gardening, history, special events and outreach. And if you don’t fit that list, we could probably use your special skills as well. Become a museum docent once a month for three hours, for example; it’s a great way to get to know us better and learn about local history. You might help us write articles or research homes. Tell us you are interested and we will get back to you. You may want to get more involved in organizing activities or being considered for our board and a future leadership position.

The next decades’ leadership of EHS must come from you our members if we are to continue our successes. We do have the challenge of keeping Edgewater a great livable place. What better place to do that than at the Edgewater Historical Society and Museum.