HPNC Breakfast serves pancakes and memories to Hyde Park community

Cook County board President Toni Preckwinkle takes her turn at the griddle during the HPNC Pancake Breakfast. (Photo by Mrinalini Pandey)

Staff writer

On May 2, residents of Hyde Park filled the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club (HPNC), 5480 S. Kenwood Ave., to enjoy pancakes and fun activities with family and friends.

Local Hyde Parkers, politicians, musicians and athletes flipped pancakes throughout the morning in half-hour shifts. Cook County Board President, Toni Preckwinkle, Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th), Ald. Sophia King (4th), former 25th District Representative Barbara Flynn Currie, former Chicago Bears Player Otis Wilson and Musician Bethany Pickens fed hungry community members.

“I’m just really proud to be a part of this. It is amazing that it has been going since 1964. I hope that we can continue this for many, many years in the future. It is a part of the main core values of HPNC, which is community. This is the one time per year that we do invite everybody, of all ages, to sit down and share a meal with each other. Rekindle old friendships and make new friends and new connections to HPNC,” said Sarah Diwan, who recently stepped down from being executive director of HPNC.

The morning festivities were supposed to coincide with celebrating long-time volunteer Mary Duplain who started working with HPNC in the 1950s. Even though she could not attend the event, everyone there talked about years of her community work.

“I had the pleasure of interviewing Mary for the Hyde Park Historical Society’s Oral History Project a few years ago. I had to record a second session with her because she had a huge list of 18 places where she had either held a part-time job (including HPNC) or had done a lot of volunteer work. While Mary is very modest, she has played an important part in Hyde Park history,” wrote local Hyde Parker Kathy Huff.

Liz Steggeman, who started at HPNC in their Tot Lot program in the 1970s and returned as a bus driver, was ecstatic to be participating in Pancake Breakfast as an adult, “Pancake Breakfast is awesome.”

Throughout her memories of how HPNC’s building has changed over time, programs that she participated in as a child, and coming back as a bus driver, Steggeman’s love for HPNC runs deep. “It’s really rewarding to see everything come full circle,” said Steggeman.

Steggeman’s favorite memory as a middle schooler was volunteering with seniors when there was an adult daycare.

“In sixth grade, I started volunteering with the senior citizens when we had an adult daycare here. It was like having 30 extra grandparents who were checking your homework and making sure you did everything you were supposed to. I had one senior, his name was Dudley and I called him ‘Cuddly Dudley’,” said Steggeman.

Throughout the day, friends and family talked caught up over food, participants were able to join in on fun activities like face painting, touring the facility and sit in on a tumbling performance.