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BABY STEPS: West Elsdon Civic moves forward slowly

Given up for dead by some, the West

Elsdon Civic Association took “baby steps” forward on Tuesday night, toward

what may be a new life for the 74-year-old community organization.

The steps

were taken at the group’s quarterly meeting at Divine Word Polish National

Catholic Church, 3842 W. 57thSt. About a dozen West Elsdon

residents attended.

“I’m all

about incremental progress,” said Eric M. Vigueras, a West Elsdon homeowner and

a new WECA member who described a door-to-door plan to recruit new members. “I like

to start very low, very basic. The plan was so easy, ladies and gentlemen, that

it was fool-proof, and I think it still is.

“The plan is

just to deliver flyers to people who live on the adjacent streets. These are

the people who are most likely to come to a meeting here [at the church]. So we

just walk across the street and go up and down, go up and down, and then do the

streets on the other side [of the church].

Theshoe-leather effort will start at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.Oct. 1 with a brief, ad hoc meeting

at the church, following by the group splitting into teams and ringing

doorbells for about an hour.

WECA members

are encouraged to be a part of the effort, as are other civic-minded West

Elsdon residents.

West Elsdon

is the neighborhood immediately east of Midway Airport, stretching from Cicero

to Central Park Avenue, roughly between 52nd and 59thStreets. It draws its name from the

once-mighty Elsdon rail yard near Central Park Avenue.

WECA nearly

folded its tent for good earlier this year, in the wake of a December 2015 vote

by its aging, dwindling membership to dissolve. The once-robust group typically

attracted 40-50 people to its monthly meetings, but in recent years that had

fallen to as low as five or sixÑand meetings had shifted from monthly to quarterly.

A public

rallying cry to save the group–made by the Southwest News-Herald and

othersÑhelped motivate a handful of younger residents to step forward and

consider taking the reins. The group was spurred to action by the Archer

Heights Civic Association, which helped organize and encourage the newcomers.

Representing

the neighborhood immediately north of West Elsdon, the AHCA is one of Chicago’s

oldest and most effective neighborhood advocacy organizations.

“I’m hopeful

that these new members of the West Elsdon Civic AssociationÑnow that they have

joined and their dues have been acceptedÑwill start to move ahead and

regenerate this group,” said AHCA President Thomas S. Baliga, who attended the

WECA meeting Tuesday night. Door-to-door outreach has long been a tool used

successfully by the AHCA.

“I’m

optimistic,” Vigueras said after the meeting. “We took baby steps tonight. If

we go out and distribute flyers–and even if that brings in just five or so new

members every time we do itÑwe’re making incremental progress toward being a

group with numbers, with a voice, with strength, with the ability to attract

attention and make West Elsdon a better place.”

After the ad

hoc meeting next month, the next regular WECA meeting is set for early

December. New members, Vigueras included, may possibly step forward and be

nominated as WECA officers for 2017. Current officers, most notably longtime

President James Mazenis, have indicated they have no plans to serve the group

as officers next year and welcome those who want to step forward as a new

generation of WECA leadership.

(Editor’s

Note: More news coverage and photos in the print edition of the Southwest

News-Herald, available on local newsstands. Or better yet, call 708-496-0265

during weekday business hours and order convenient home delivery for about 50

cents a week.)

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