HPNC honors Raoul and ex-Rep Currie

Hyde Park Neighborhood Club board member Bethany Pickens (left) presents Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul with a 2019 Accomplished Alumni Award plaque during the Hyde Park Neighborhood’s 110th anniversary gala. (Photo by Marc Monaghan)

Contributing writer

Former State Representative Barbara Flynn Currie and current Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul were honored with Accomplished Alumni Awards by the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club (HPNC) during the club’s 110th-anniversary-year gala last Friday night.

After receiving his award from HPNC board member Bethany Pickens, Raoul spoke of his own time as a teenager playing basketball at the club and then related how he as an adult had “been able to use the neighborhood club as a center to make a contribution to awareness.” said Raoul, referring to the screening program available through the club.

“I would host a 3-on-3 basketball tournament here, and at the same time we had a men’s health fair,” Raoul said. “We were introducing people to the type of screening that they needed to do.

“It was a few years before I myself was diagnosed with prostate cancer.”

“I want to just thank the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club for continuing on for a hundred and ten years,” said Raoul. “And in whatever way I can continue to make a contribution, … I pledge to do so.”

After receiving her award from board member Eileen Holzhauer, former Rep. Currie looked out over the crowd of 125 plus people and said, “I used to call you the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club, but I guess it’s now HPNC.”

“It’s a little like Kentucky Fried Chicken, which doesn’t exist anymore, it’s KFC. Future Farmers of America, there isn’t a Future Farmers of America, it’s FFA.

“So now we have HPNC and I am prepared to go with the flow, to move with the times, exciting.”

Currie then spoke of former Executive Director Sarah Diwan.

“We owe a major debt of gratitude to our Sarah,” said Currie. “She understood and carried out the mission of HPNC in extraordinary ways.

“And I can only say ‘Angela’,” referring to the HPNC’s new Executive Director, Angela Habr-Paranjape, “‘you’ve got big shoes to fill and I know that you will be able to fill them’.”

Taking the stage, Habr-Paranjape announced, “Now, I don’t know if you heard the amazing news, but we had a generous donor who was willing to give us [a] $75,000-match.

“And the original plan was to close out that match tonight, but the amazing thing is, we closed it out before this event.”

“He [the generous donor] has put another $25,000-match challenge on the table!” said Habr-Paranjape. “Any gift we receive from tonight through Dec. 31, will be matched, up to $25,000, that will all go toward our scholarship fund.

“What does the scholarship fund allow us to do?

“It limits barriers to participation for families whose luck has turned. It means that money is not an object, so, families can continue to come.

“I am confident that our community, the community in this room, the community outside of these walls will live up to our 110-year legacy and keep our quality programming accessible to families who need it today.”

Students in the HPNC tumbling program performed early during the evening, and the Peter Lerner Jazz Trio, accompanied by Bethany Pickens on the keyboard, provided music throughout the event.

To learn more about or to donate to the club, visit www.hpnclub.org