The Red Kettle bell ringers

Once again, Chicago is under occupation. An unwavering force of more than three thousand red-vested do-gooders has established operating bases throughout the city. Armed with bells, kettles and smiles, they are on a mission to feed millions. And that’s just the beginning.

“We helped over 140,000 people with assistance in Greater Chicago last year,” says Chez Ordonez, Public Relations Manager for the Salvation Army. “Mortgage, clothing, utility, prescription assistance. If you need help, the Salvation Army is going to help you.”

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Chanta Young, who rings the Red Kettle bell at Macy’s on State, says, “It’s all about the kids.”

One of the volunteers strengthening that devotion is Thurman Byrd, a Program Administrator for the Illinois Department of Human Services who started ringing a bell at the red kettle under the northern clock of the State St. Macy’s store five years ago.

“It was around the coldest day of the year,” he remembers. “But that first experience got me hooked. Parents giving their children coins to put into the kettle, the excitement that they were feeling, the joy of people experiencing happiness… it’s a very positive environment.”

The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle tradition was founded in 1891 by Captain Joseph McFee, who set up the first pot in San Francisco. Since then, it has arguably become the oldest and most successful crowd-funding effort on earth. Korea, Japan, Chile and several European countries ring the bell. Chicago’s kettles collected $2.3 million last year.

The Red Kettle at Macy’s is among the most popular of more than 1,000 in the city. Beginning December 12, it will host celebrity Bell Ringers of the Week. Radio personalities from WJKL 94.3 will join “Skates” and “Staley,” the mascots of the Chicago Wolves and the Chicago Bears, on Tuesday, Dec. 13th.

“We look for people who are truly willing to give their time, who are humble and want to give back,” says Ordonez, a former radio producer who volunteered as a bell ringer in Milwaukee before becoming the Salvation Army’s PR Manager in Chicago last year.

“When you ring a bell, you get a rush,” he continues. “I rang here when I first started. I tried singing, but it doesn’t work because I’m a horrible singer. People play music. Break dance. They’re engaging with the public.”

Thurman Byrd’s technique is to “just be who you are.”

“It never hurts to smile at somebody to get a smile back,” he says. “It’s values that I learned from my mom — open the doors for families to go into the store, thank them on behalf of the Salvation Army. It radiates with folks.”

Byrd arrived at the Macy’s Red Kettle location with a proven knack for giving back. He has spent years volunteering for the Chicago Hoop Squad, an organization that sponsors a basketball program for kids in Englewood. 

“We teach them values during practice,” he says. “It’s important for them to have a career instead of a job. It’s important to them to have an education.”

Besides coaching and teaching, the Squad organizes seminars and guest speakers for the kids. The events frequently take place at the Salvation Army’s Chicago Temple Corps, one of 29 institutions that also contain churches.

According to Ordonez, the Corps “function like community centers” and support the Salvation Army’s mission “to meet human needs without discrimination.” In addition to sponsoring neighborhood athletic programs, they distribute food, offer substance abuse counseling, provide day care, offer children’s activities and help the homeless.

“Last year,” he continues, “1,200 men, women and children found shelter through the Salvation Army.”

The Corps are largely funded by the annual Christmas Drive, which relies heavily on the change that people toss into the Red Kettles during Christmastime. These donations are solicited by thousands of employees and volunteers, like Thurman Byrd, who work in the cold without expecting any sort of material gain in return.

But they happily accept gestures of kindness.

“One day a family brought my buddy and me hot chocolate,” Byrd says. “That was a very powerful thing, because they appreciated what we were doing.”

— Daniel Patton

Holiday giving at New Eastside

gagnonb-01Few things in life bring greater joy than giving to those in need. Several New Eastside businesses are providing bins for food collection in support of the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Charitable opportunities will continue throughout the holidays.

Toys for Tots collects new, unwrapped toys to distribute as Christmas gifts to less-fortunate children. There are two nearby drop-off boxes: inside Harold Washington College at 30 E. Lake St., and near the Glazed and Infused Donut Shop at 222 N. LaSalle St.

Lurie Children’s Hospital also accepts holiday toy donations, which not only brighten spirits but also bring comfort and healing to children at the main hospital as well as their outpatient centers. To arrange (or schedule) a holiday toy donation, please email donations@luriechildrens.org by December 18.

The Chicago Bears and Jewel-Osco are now in their 28th year sponsoring the Chicago Bears Coat Drive to support The Salvation Army. New and gently used coats can be dropped off at any Jewel-Osco location in the Chicagoland area through January 1, 2017.

The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program has inspired local resident Christina Lico to contribute through her job for the past fifteen years. “It was a tradition we started before our daughter was born,” she says. Her daughter, now four and a half years old, gets to select a gift for a child her age and pays for it with money she’s saved throughout the year.

“Families can also volunteer their time the week before Christmas to help distribute the gifts and meal boxes to the Angel Tree families,” says Lico. Interested New Eastsiders can get a “virtual tag” online here and simply drop off gifts at any Salvation Army location. 

And, if none of these stir your emotions, there is no shortage of additional opportunities to help those in need. Finding something that resonates with you can be as simple as going to a charity website to find what they need, or making a donation to spread cheer and warm hearts throughout the holidays.

— Angela Gagnon

Lend a hand for the holidays

As the holiday season begins,
few gifts are greater than lending a hand up
to those in our community who need it most.

Chicago is filled with volunteer opportunities
and ways to give back that will lead to many happy returns.

Local real estate brokerage Urban Real Estate 
has made it a significant part of its mission to give back,
year-round, to various organizations,
on behalf of its brokers and clients.

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Five places to check out today that are
always looking for helping hands, and open hearts:

  1. The Greater Chicago Food Depository is always looking for volunteers, not just at the holidays, but year-round.  According to its website, The Food Depository serves more than 812,000 individuals or 232,100 households each year. With an array of programs also focused on children, older adults and veterans, the organization also boasts a complete Volunteer Calendar where help is needed.
  2. ChicagoCares.org is a tremendous resource for learning more about getting involved. In addition to holiday activities, the group promotes hundreds of monthly group volunteer projects to help with immediate needs for organizations across Chicago.
  3. Union League Boys & Girls Club (ULBGC) was founded in 1919. Its mission, “To enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, responsible, and caring citizens,” still holds true. Young adults from across Chicago have received scholarships, education, mentoring and safety from the ULBGC.  
  4. All Chicago unites our community and resources to provide solutions that ensure and sustain the stability of home.
  5. Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Chicago Chapter supports funding and resources to cure cystic fibrosis, and to provide all people with the disease the opportunity to lead full, productive lives.

Wishing you and yours a heartfelt holiday season,
from your friends at Urban Real Estate.

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Click here to view and print the poster version of this page.

Outreach helps New Eastside homeless

The Chicago Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team
maintains more than just law and order
on the streets underneath New Eastside.

Visiting the dark thoroughfares at least once a day,
the four-person squad mixes compassion, counsel and respect
to pursue a mission that is unlike any police effort in the country.

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“We try to all work together,” says officer Bob Bullington, a man of exceptional kindness who has been on the Chicago Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team for nearly a decade.

“The whole thing is to make it a happy medium between, you know, respecting the homeless’ rights, but yet the residents’ rights and the tourists’ rights, too.”

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Officer Bob Bullington, Officer Jaennette O’Brien and Officer Mike Harvey of the Chicago Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team. (Patton)

While the team looks for and responds to evidence or allegations of illegal activity on the lower streets, their regular efforts are part of a community-driven wellness campaign.

“We are here to assist various city agencies, church groups, condo associations, merchants associations, businesses, residents,” he says.

Equipped with the power to summon welfare shelters, rehab facilities and charity organizations in a single phone call, the team offers street-dwellers a way out that does not involve going to jail or visiting the emergency room.

“We try to figure out what their situation is without prying too much and ask them, you know, if they’re staying, if they want help,” Officer Bullington continues. “We can to talk to Family Services or find out where a shelter’s at or how to get some clothing or food or even how to get into rehab. If they want the advice, they take it. If not, they walk away.”

On Thursday mornings, the team joins the Department of Family Services & Support and the Department of Streets & Sanitation in a subsection of their beat officially known as the “Lower Wacker Drive Area (LWDA),” which is more or less the subterranean New Eastside.

Together, they conduct the weekly “Off-Street Cleaning” process, a checkup to make sure that all homeless in the area adhere to rules specifying exactly what items they may possess and where they may store them.

The LWDA and Off-Street Cleaning process are part of the 2015 Bryant Settlement Agreement. Crafted and signed by lawyers representing the Chicago and 16 homeless people who claimed that the city had illegally seized and destroyed their property, the Bryant Agreement includes a commitment to “respecting and protecting the rights of homeless persons.” Its sole exhibit — titled, “City Policy and Procedures Governing Off-Street Cleaning” — is the foundation of Chicago’s unique approach to homelessness in New Eastside.

The exhibit states that “homeless persons” are entitled to “keep only ‘portable personal possessions,’” including a sleeping bag or bedroll, two coats, two pairs of shoes, not more than five blankets, and not more than three bags.

“From October through April,” it adds, “homeless persons may have up to five additional blankets and one additional sleeping bag or bedroll.”

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Sunrise on Lower Wacker Dr (Patton)

“Every Thursday morning they come out here and tell us what we can have, how we can have it, and where we can be,” explains Jack, who lived on the 300 block of E. Lower Wacker Dr. with his wife, Abby, for most of the summer. “As long as it looks good, they’ll keep moving.”

Jack and Abby are 20-somethings who met in the high school of an upscale western suburb where they both used to live. He is the adopted son of a successful professional couple. She is the only child of a mother and a stepfather who, she says, took them “on his journey across the country to hide from every law enforcement agency possible.”

Jack works for a bicycle courier service and stores his transport across the street. Abby panhandles at the intersection where Wacker Dr. meets Lake Shore Dr. and does her best to sell her paintings of “bubbles and polka dots and landscapes.” They store their savings in a bank safety deposit box and hope to move into an apartment before winter. 

According to Officer Bullington, Jack and Abby are “nice people” who are “just passing through, trying to get (their) lives together.” They are also typical of a national trend, he continues, that makes today’s homeless population different from the one he encountered nearly a decade ago.

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“Jack” & “Abby” on Lower Wacker (Patton)

“What we’re seeing down here, it’s not the chronic homeless person,” he explains. “The people are in their mid-20s, you know, and already been through every family member and burned every bridge. For some reason or another they end up in downtown Chicago. A lot of them have families. That’s the sad thing. A lot of them have children.”

Although the team still encounters mentally ill people and arranges for them to be transferred to the proper facilities if they appear likely to cause harm to themselves or others, he believes that “most of them are really down on their luck… Bad choices in life, bad relationships, bad career moves.”

This benefit-of-the-doubt approach has helped the team achieve positive results. Officer Jeannette O’Brian, a 20-year veteran, recalls a day last spring when a homeless person they visited regularly asked for help getting into a rehab program.

“He was ready to go,” she remembers. “He actually approached me because one of the other homeless had told him, ‘You should talk to homeless officers because they can get you in.’ I said, ‘We can make it happen today, if you’re ready to go today.’”

A few weeks ago — when she saw the man at a convenience store and learned that he had kicked his drug habit, moved in with his girlfriend’s parents and is enthusiastically seeking employment — the incident became one of her greatest achievements on the job.

“He said, ‘I woulda been dead or in prison if you didn’t get me in rehab that day.’”

Note: the names of the homeless persons described and quoted in this story have been changed to protect their privacy.

— Daniel Patton, Staff Writer

Meetup brings New Eastsiders together

As leader of the Windy City Explorers Meetup group, Tom Besore loves roaming the city — yet also sees the value in connecting locally.

“It’s good to know people in our immediate surroundings,” said Besore, who attended the group kickoff of the Lakeshore East/New Eastside Neighbors Meetup at Filini Oct. 20. The Lakeshore East resident laughed as he added, “We’re using the Internet to get off the Internet.”

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The inaugural meetup

Group organizer Tricia Parker also saw a “social paradox” in Lakeshore East. “I’d go out running at night, about 8 p.m., and I’d look back at our neighborhood and see all the buildings lit up,” said Parker, who lives in The Tides. “I’m sure everyone was enjoying their views, but I wondered — would we be happier if we were out connecting with each other? And if so, how could we do that?”

Before moving to the New Eastside seven months ago, Parker lived in the heart of the financial district, which she says was “very noisy” and “a completely different world.”

“It felt isolating because few people actually lived and worked in the Loop,” she said. “Here, we truly have a ‘village in the city’ that’s invested in a high quality of life. Part of that life is enjoying all the neighborhood has to offer with our community members.”

Seeing what she thought was a lack of a “core” neighborhood group regularly bringing neighbors together, Parker started the meetup as a way for residents to connect.

“There’s no way to talk to each other unless there’s a reason,” said Amanda Lederer, who moved to New Eastside a year and a half ago.

“I wanted to know new people in the neighborhood,” said Alvin Chin, who lives in the Regatta. “[The event] was nice and casual.”

Currently, the New Eastside Meetup boasted nearly 160 members.

November’s meetup is a “Modern Matchmakers” lecture about businesses like Uber, Airbnb, and OpenTable by economist David Evans at Tavern at the Park on November 16. $20. 6:30 – 7:45 p.m. www.meetup.com/lakeshore-East-New-Eastside-neighbors.

December events include a gathering at Mezcalina and a “pre-holiday” lunch.

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Pictured above right: the inaugural meetup. Front Row, Left – Jillian Cavanaugh, Amanda Lederer, Tricia Parker, Thet Soe. Back Row, Left  – Kevin Chao, Chantal Tardif, Marisa Pilipshen, Gina Chang, Tom Besore, Jason Aubrey, Christina Moretti.

Aqua fishpond in the park

img_9286aa2All summer, three tiny orange, white and red fish have been thriving in a wee pond next to the Aqua Condominiums. Darting through shadows cast by ferns, hyacinths, lilies and hydrangeas, they are the latest beneficiaries of Jerry Kemperman’s knack for nature.

“They’re Comets,” explains the Aqua Facility Engineer. “They’re a cross between a koi and a goldfish. The bright orange one I was calling a shark. The other ones I call redheads.”

Kemperman built the pond in May. Measuring about two shoeboxes in diameter, it nestles in a garden by the sidewalk across from Lakeshore East Park that he has been tending “for about four years now.”

“It was all weeds,” he explains.

He says that constructing the pond was simple — “basically a plastic liner and a circulating pond filter and that’s it.” The self-contained, battery-operated device — available at hardware stores — can be installed with ease. Incorporating it into the environment required much greater finesse. Luckily for the fish, the area is not frequented by predators and Kemperman has been working with ponds for decades.

“The first I pond ever did, I was living at the Grand Plaza,” he recalls. “Indoor. Somebody gave me a single fish in a jar, a five-dollar beta fish. That was probably 2000.”

Since then, he and a like-minded legion of diggers have waded deep into the great outdoors.

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Pond digger Jerry Kemperman (Patton)

The group includes a thoroughbred horse trainer from the Southside neighborhood where Kemperman grew up, a farmer and a contractor from Kentucky. All of them are members of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“We currently care for nine ponds,” Kemperman says. “Our largest is in Kentucky. It’s about 220 feet long, 65 wide, and about eight feet deep.”

Though obviously proud of their achievements, the group is also very respectful of the ways of Mother Nature.

“When you’re trying to establish a new pond, it takes like six to eight weeks,” he continues.

“Whether it be a pond or a tank, you’ve got to establish a bacteria bed or biological filter to remove toxins that fish metabolism creates. Don’t overuse any chemicals that they try and sell you.”

He also advises not to overfeed fish, and prefers to take care of the Aqua’s on his own. Later this month, he’ll move them into a co-worker’s home for the winter, but encourages visitors to have a look until then.

“I think it’s really cool when I see kids stopping by to check out the fish.”

— Daniel Patton

Great Loopers sail through New Eastside

For Charles and Quinton Hagen, a 5,000-mile journey began with a single $6 dinner at Mariano’s.

“Every dollar counts,” said Charles, of Two Rivers, WI, who along with 12-year-old son Quinton is sailing “America’s Great Loop,” a circumnavigational waterway along the Eastern U.S. The Hagens were among a handful of “Loopers” scrambling for the Chicago River before the weather turned for the worst.

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Murphy and Charles (Parker)

“This is the latest I necessarily remember still having boats on the Great Lakes,” said Kimberly Russo of America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association (AGLCA), an organization that helps boaters safely navigate the route.

The scenic but challenging Great Loop — open to anyone with a sense of adventure — starts in Florida in spring and sees boaters through Chicago by September.

From Chicago, the counterclockwise route dips through six Central states before depositing Loopers in the Gulf of Mexico. The route then swings right, hugging western Florida and the Atlantic Coast all the way up to New York City, where Lady Liberty looks on as Loopers turn northward up the Hudson.

Once boaters reach the International Peace Bridge in Canada it’s still nearly 900 miles through a complicated system of locks, rivers, channels, and lakes, to reach Chicago.

While changing tides, swift currents, tricky maps, and low bridges might deter some boaters, Loopers feel an irresistible pull to glide past Civil War cemeteries, historic cities, and pristine nature reserves.

“[The Great Loop] has meaning, it has value, there’s something to it,” said Charles Hagen, who like many Loopers plans to take about a year to navigate the route. “It’s not Disneyworld.”

“The kids are really seeing where history actually happened, instead of reading it in a book, and they’re having a great time,” says Russo.

According to Russo, about 300 boats are out on the Loop at any given time, but only 100 or so complete the whole circuit each year. Those who do complete the route receive a special flag from the AGLCA (and lifelong bragging rights).

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Quinton, Charles and Murphy (Parker)

For Charles Hagen, who got waylaid by technical issues in Racine, WI, doing the Great Loop means life has finally come full circle—even if it meant starting in October storms.

“I thought about doing the Great Loop for a long time,” says Hagen, 53, who walks with a cane and suffers from PTSD as a result of an Air Force accident in 1985. “I could have been homeless, but now I’m here to tell veterans, ‘If I can do the Great Loop, they can too.’”

Hagen says he got the idea to complete the Great Loop after watching YouTube videos of other families on the trip. A stern warning from his doctor pushed him out of the office — and into Plan B, his recently acquired Catalina sailboat.

“My doctor said I needed to do whatever I could to get my stress down,” says Hagen, who set sail from Manitowoc Harbor on Oct. 18 and arrived in Monroe Harbor Oct. 25. Accompanying Hagen is his service dog, Murphy. Murphy reminds Hagen to take his medication in the morning, and gently licks him awake if he has nightmares.

“I wake up and see her and go ‘nightmare, all right,’” says Hagen. “She gives me a sense of control over it. She has this uncanny ability to seem to know me better than I do.”

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Just in front of the Hagens will be fiftysomething couple Mike and Claiborne Ryan, of Charleston, S.C., in their newly purchased Karma. With its creamy leather seats, teak finishes and quadruple GPS systems, the 47-foot yacht seems ready to handle whatever fate rolls its way.

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Mike and Claiborne Ryan (Parker)

“On the Mississippi, we’ll be watching out for debris and traffic,” says Mike, “but at the end of the day, you float with the traffic.”

Mike and Claiborne plan to hire a skipper from Chicago to St. Louis, along the Illinois River, to help orient them to the boat.

“[Mike and I] are in discussions about divvying up responsibilities,” laughs Claiborne, who says she’s looking forward to relaxing yoga sessions in Karma’s flybridge.

Mike says he’s unfazed at falling a month and a half “behind schedule,” due to a drawn-out process purchasing Karma.

“We’re timing things just right,” Mike said, smiling. “We’ll get a lot of fall foliage.”

— Tricia Parker

Riverwalk hosts 1st annual Fall Fest

img_0661bThe Riverwalk’s first annual Fall Fest will offer special attractions and discounts to visitors of all ages on the weekend of October 7- 10. Anchored by an Autumnal village at Wheel Fun Rentals, the good times will extend to nearly a dozen participating restaurants and vendors along the bank.

“We’ve got a 14-foot inflatable slide and then, like, a bouncy house and a variety of different games,” says Dwight Brathalt, one of two partners who operate Wheel Fun Rentals.

In addition to the fleet of pedal-powered surreys offered throughout the summer, Wheel Fun Rentals has adorned its location with “1,600 pumpkins and 30 bales of hay and a bunch of cornstalks and a variety of decorations.” Winding into the shadows underneath a nearby thicket of trees, the natural bright orange and dull brown hues transform the space into an eerily beautiful harvest hamlet.

The whole scene is too good for Island Party Hut, a short walk east, to resist.

“We’re gonna be doing things in combination with the pumpkin patch,” says partner Steve Majerus. “If you have a pumpkin patch ticket, you get 15% off your total bill, including booze and food.” To make sure that kids have their share of spooky fun, the Hut will also supply markers and paint so they can decorate pumpkins while the grownups get into the spirit of things.

img_9672a2Unlike most vendors along the Riverwalk, Fall Fest marks the beginning of an extended season for Island Party Hut. The tropically-themed rumming hole plans to remain open until December 21 — the darkest day of the year marked by the Winter Solstice. It will dial up the warmth by adding walls and heaters to the party tent and celebrate the onset of winter with a big bash on December 21st.

Between Halloween and Christmas, the Hut will embrace the holidays with a Christmas tree lot — “so you can have a drink while you shop for your tree,” says Mr. Majerus — and offer boat rides on the Island Time, a 65-foot, 90-passenger Skipper Liner.

Although the plans are subject to change depending on the weather, Mr. Majerus is optimistic that the impending fall will be as comfortable as the previous one. “Last year, we closed on November 1,” he explains. “November was beautiful. We wish we could have been open the whole time.”

But until then, it’s all about fall. Additional vendors participating in the fest include Cyrano’s Café, between the Hut and Wheel Fun Rentals. On Sunday October 9th, the riverside bistro modeled after Monet’s garden will host a farmers market stocked with soups, baked items, and pies prepared under the experienced hand of Chef Didier Durand. The McCormick Bridgehouse Museum, just west of Michigan Ave., will offer discounted admission and, right next door, O’Brien’s Restaurant will “do a little cider” and offer seasonal entrees.

“We want to really showcase the vendors,” says Michelle Woods, Assistant Project Director for the city’s Department of Fleet and Faculty Management. She has been helping to develop the Riverwalk since 2002, when “Mayor Daley said we should capture more land along the river, like Daniel Burnham had said,” she remembers.

With the help of Congress, Ms. Woods and the city redefined the river’s navigational channels to make way for the destination that it is today. When Mayor Emanuel took office, the location found another champion. “Mayor Emanuel came in, he loved it, and he got construction financing,” she says. “The new portion would not have been built if it wasn’t for his leadership.”

From Lake Street to Columbus Drive, the Riverwalk is a cozy natural path nestled in an urban metropolis. The sense of community that comes to all who enter is unlike anything on earth.

“As a business owner, you’re always worried about yourself,” says Wheel Fun Rental’s Dwight Brathalt. “But down here, it seems like everyone’s in it together.”

Bridgehouse Museum hosts Asian Carp feast

Advising friends and supporters that, “If you can’t beat it, eat it,” the McCormick Bridgehouse Museum hosted an Asian Carp feast on August 24.

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Terry and Dirk Fucik

Dozens of fish lovers showed up to sample the invasive species on the northern bank of the Chicago River under Michigan Ave., just outside the Museum’s lower entrance.

Dirk’s Fish & Gourmet Shop supplied, prepared, and served the Asian Carp burger-style.

“We have been promoting Asian Carp now for about ten years,” said Dirk Fucik, owner of the shop and griller for the occasion.

“It’s a good, juicy fish, just very bony,” he continued. “If I ground it and put it side by side with ground Tilapia in a blind taste test, the carp would win every time.”

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Dave and Emily Schmidt

Dirk’s wife Terry handled chef responsibilities. “You can do a lot of things with it,” she said. “Meatballs, meat loaf, burgers, taco meat.”

For this occasion, she included a Cuban-style burger with a “grown-up” ketchup of tomato, jalepeno, chutne.

Several guests agreeed that the Asian Carp was good eating.

“It’s delicious,” exclaimed Chicagoan David Schmidt. “It would be great on a taco. It’s just like ground beef.”

McCormick Bridgehouse Museum — (312) 977-0227

Dirk’s Fish & Gourmet Shop — (773) 404-3475

— Daniel Patton, Staff Writer

Mid-America Club offers opportunity, networking, and friendship

A chance meeting with a neighbor and a flyer for an open house
prompted my husband and I to visit the Mid-America Club.
We quickly became proud members and
have enjoyed the benefits ever since.

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Gina Apack and Melissa Czyz

Located on the 80th floor of the Aon Building, the Mid-America Club is surrounded by a breathtaking panorama that converts the city into a galaxy of twinkling stars at night. Treat your guests to this spectacle and they are unlikely to forget it, especially those visiting Chicago.

As members, we enjoy many of the social events hosted by the club, including Member Mixers, Member Wine Tasting nights, movie nights, and cooking classes by renowned chef Michael Pivoney.

img_9536bThere are also a number of occasions specifically designed with families in mind. During Christmas Brunch, Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus greet and interact with children. At Eastertime, the Bunny always makes a visit. Mother’s Day brunch is incomparable.

Membership includes children at no cost, which is a boon for my family and I because our four year-old son has grown to love the place.

He is always treated as an esteemed guest and, like most kids, is fascinated by the variety of food on the Chef’s Table during breakfast and lunch.

The kids menu is a treat, but we have also successfully introduced him to a number of world delicacies.

img_9571bChef Pivoney’s daily breakfast and lunch menu also comes complimentary with membership and it is a treat for the taste buds.

Besides regular networking events and presentations by global experts, the club’s business possibilities are endless. The monthly IT MAC Connect invites IT professionals to explore a new tech topic every month and is open to members and non- members in the field.

As always, the MAC is also a social club with members meeting over drinks and food to socialize, and its Pedway connection often allows them to enjoy these times without having to go out in the cold during the winter months.

img_9487bIt also offers access to the Chicago area network of private clubs — including golf, dining and private rooms — as well as tickets to members-only events at clubs around town.

The MAC hosts an open house every month, and the next one is scheduled for September 28th. Attending one may lead to a world of opportunities, so why not give it a shot?

For more information about the Mid-America Club, call Gina Apack or Melissa Czyz at (312) 861-1100 or visit www.clubcorp.com/Clubs/Mid-America-Club.

— Reemaa Konkimalla, Community Contributor

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