v28-4 From the President

Vol. XXVIII No. 4 - FALL 2017

By Robert Remer

Bringing in New Blood

We hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving, and we wish you a wonderful upcoming holiday season. Like many of you in your personal lives this time of year, we think about all we have done the past year, counting our blessings, and what we hope to accomplish in the coming year.

I know as I get older, I start thinking in longer periods of time… what life has afforded over the decades, what to accomplish in the time that life has left… the bigger swaths of time. In that same vein, it may be time to apply that same thinking to the Edgewater Historical Society – what we have done and what we hope to accomplish in the future.

Well, like people, organizations don’t always think about securing the future when they are riding the waves of success, only to scramble to figure out how to fix the future when faltering, often too late.

At EHS we don’t want to fall into that trap. We are pleased right now to have a fully engaged board, a great team of volunteers, great exhibits, a long string of nearly three decades of home tours, robust documentation of Edgewater’s history through the quarterly Scrapbook, our archives, and our website; great attendance at programs and book clubs, a record number of members, a very healthy balance sheet, a strong record of advocating preservation, and a pretty darn good reputation in the community. With all that, we also know that we can’t continue that record of success without bringing in new blood to take the reins.

The board, while energetic and committed, is getting older. I for one am now in my 70s, having originally gotten involved in Edgewater block club activities when I was 30. Back then, there was a whole cohort of activists in Edgewater who were involved in fighting crime, improving neighborhoods and schools, developing community organizations, and fighting corruption. That brought forth many talented and committed neighbors who went on to make big changes to make Edgewater what it is today. And many of those activists and committed neighbors have been among the strongest contributors to the Edgewater Historical Society as members, as donors, as contributors to our archives, etc.

Edgewater is now one of Chicago’s most attractive communities, much more prosperous, safe and livable than when my wife and I arrived in 1976. With progress, though, there appears to be less activism, although there is heightened interest in residential preservation, the environment and our schools, and more families are settling in Edgewater.

My point is that a generation of activists begat and strengthened the Edgewater Historical Society and Museum, and we have to now look to a new generation to pick up where we are leaving off. There is not a generation of battle hardened activists waiting behind us to take over, because most of the big battles have been won. So we have to reach out to perhaps a different type of committed volunteers and leaders to take EHS into the rest of the 21st century.

That’s where you come in – our members and our public. We are actively looking at succession planning for the board of directors at the Edgewater Historical Society; we want to recruit new blood with talent, energy, and commitment for the next generation. Could that include you?

It takes a lot of different types of skills and interests to make the organization work, including historic or architectural research, writing and editing, event planning, fundraising, communications through social media, curating exhibits, archiving and collections management, budgeting and investment management, property management, and much more. If that means you, then we want you. Let us know if there are areas you have skills, interests and leadership abilities to help us. “New blood” and “new generation” does not rule out anyone of any age, but includes anyone ready to make a commitment who can bring fresh eyes and perspective. Let us hear from you.

I cannot conclude this column without special mention of someone who has made EHS such a success – Vice President Kathy Gemperle, our founding president, who does so much for us including editing the Scrapbook, curating our many successful exhibits, and most recently completed running our successful 28th annual home tour. That awesome task entails researching homes, reaching out to homeowners, putting together the home tour books, and leading a whole team of docents for our major source of funds for the year. Kathy has announced that she will run one more home tour for us next year, and will then take a much needed rest. In terms of succession planning, Kathy’s many roles will be especially hard to fill. We must not forget that she was the driving force to form EHS, and was the super charged driving force behind getting us our museum. Those are hard shoes to fill. But the challenges of doing those tasks are rewarding for the right people. We can’t thank you enough, Kathy.