By MARK MONAGHAN
Hyde Park Neighborhood Club (HPNC) board members and supporters gathered on Sept. 12 on the 4th floor terrace garden of VUE 53 overlooking Nichols Park to kick off the club’s 110th anniversary year.
The gala cocktail party honored a group of significant financial supporters, the organization’s Legacy Circle, and welcomed the club’s new executive director, Angela Habr-Paranjape.
“There used to be settlement houses all over the city, this is the last one,” said Legacy Circle member Sue Freeling as she reminisced about her own history with the HPNC. “I took my kids to Tot Lot, which saved my life, and I was on the board for many years in the 60s and 70s.”
The club, according to the HPNC’s own written history, has its roots in the summer of 1908, when University of Chicago Divinity School Professor Allen Hoben turned his yard into a basketball court for neighborhood boys who were at loose ends. By late 1909, an effort to create a recreational space in Hyde Park for neighborhood youth had gained considerable momentum.
In its Dec. 5, 1909, editions, the Chicago Tribune reported: “Hyde Park will revive the old ‘town meeting’,” to discuss, “the advisability of starting a ‘neighborhood club’ for the benefit of boys and girls who live in restricted homes.” It was at that meeting that the Hyde Park Center was founded. In 1919 the Center became known as the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club.
“It has meant a lot of things to a lot of people, for well over 110 years now. It’s the best kept secret in the neighborhood,” said former board member Ray Willis speaking to the assembled gala attendees. “And we should be doing everything we can, outreach, and make this a more well-known or better-known facility.”
“I couldn’t be more happy,” said executive director Angela Habr-Paranjape as she was introduced during the party. This “is a place of inclusion where we build community.”
Currently, the HPNC serves over 700 children and families. It is housed in a 69-year-old building at 5480 S. Kenwood Ave., which needs some repair and attention. It is that repair and attention that is the focus of the club’s fund-raising efforts.
The club has received a matching challenge grant of $75,000 from an un-named donor for general operations and for facility support and has organized a public anniversary celebration and fundraiser for Nov. 1. To learn more about that affair or to donate to the club, visit www.hpnclub.org