The long, confining winter -- combined with the near-constant onslaught of negativity in the news -- has left me starved for examples of human positivity. Though I realize cabin fever amplifies negative emotions, it has nevertheless felt like I’ve been surrounded by so much irritability, stress and frustration that I consciously seek out smiles, kind gestures and understanding. And so, the 56th Annual Community Service Awards Dinner of The Chessmen Club of the North Shore (on March 22nd) couldn’t have happened at a better time of year.
Although I’ve lived in Evanston for over sixteen years, I only recently learned of The Chessmen Club.
Last year, I wrote a column about my frustration with what I perceived to be a lack of discernable economic development on Evanston’s West Side relative to other parts of the city -- prompting 2nd Ward Ald. Peter Braithwaite to contact me. He explained that my comments had upset a number of 2nd and 5th ward residents, which truly surprised me. I explained that my intent had been to draw attention to the imbalance of economic development, particularly near the intersections of Dempster & Church along Dodge Avenue. As I saw it, development seemed to happen everywhere except the west side. Dempster Plaza looked like a ghost-town, KFC was closed, frequent shootings occurred near the high school, businesses were shuttered near Church & Dodge…it just didn’t make sense to me. I’d written that column as a way to help, but as Ald. Braithwaite pointed out, I wasn’t seeing the whole picture.
At that time, Braithwaite suggested I attend a 2nd Ward Aldermanic meeting (which I did) to understand the issues facing the 2nd ward and the people working to bring about change. He also invited me to attend a Chessmen Club benefit. He said I should learn more about the positive things happening in and around his ward.
The Chessmen Club of The North Shore
Since its inception in 1958 by two ETHS classmates who became friends and fellow Evanston Police officers, The Chessmen Club of the North Shore has been guided by its mission of service to the youth and elderly of the community. According to its website, the Chessmen Club’s activities have included “raising monies supporting local youth groups, providing scholarships and related financial support to deserving college bound youth, presenting civic awards to outstanding citizens and donating food baskets to the poor and elderly.”
Founded by Andrew Rodez and Wiliam Logan, Jr. (who both went on to become the first African American Police Chiefs in their communities), The Chessmen Club has provided over 55 years of positive role modeling, support and service to the Evanston community. Their commitment and outreach has touched the lives of thousands of residents. According to Logan, Jr. in a video shown at the event, “Andy was an avid chess player and he liked the emblem of the knight and he believed it showed power and dignity.”
When you have a few minutes, I encourage you to watch and share these videos:
- Chessmen Club of The North Shore Film
- Chessmen Legacy Fund
- Past Honorees
- Christmas Basket Program
- Meet Our Scholars
Two of my favorite quotes from the videos include:
Honoree Betsy Jenkins – “To be honored by them…I’m going to carry that with me for the rest of my life. In my work at Fleetwood –Jourdain, we’re always looking for that one child that just needs that little, extra push to make it into the future.”
YMCA CEO Bill Geiger – “They’ve inspired the YMCA to strive forward, to be that inclusive, welcoming environment for the entire community… So, the recognition from the Chessmen Club not only knits organizations together, but it helps establish and deepen those relationships, so that together we can have a greater impact in Evanston.”
During this year’s event, Mary Wilkerson was introduced as the Chessmen Club’s 2014 Honoree. Before she even took the microphone, the packed room rose to give her a standing ovation. Wilkerson spoke to the importance of getting involved, of not standing on the sidelines, and of being a part of making solutions happen. She explained that taking the time…and making the effort…is what truly brings about change.
I’m grateful to live in a community where I can grow and learn from others…to have opportunities to help and be helped…to discover new perspectives and share mine, as well.
An Evanston friend shares this quote in the signature line of her emails -- and it captures my feelings about our community’s need to work together:
Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other's welfare, social justice can never be attained. --Helen Keller
Congratulations to the members of The Chessmen of The North Shore. I wish you not only continued success, but also increased awareness throughout our community:
- William "Bill" Logan - Founder & President Emeritus
- Keith D. Terry - President
- Hon. Peter Braithwaite -V.P.
- Ngozi Watts, Esq. - Secretary
- Leonard English - Treasurer
- Jim Davis - Asst. Treasurer
- Rev. Dr. Gessel Berry
- Adrian O. Brewington
- Dudley Brown, Jr.
- Omar A. Brown
- Neil Davidson
- George Dotson
- Harvey L. Echols, M.D.
- Carl Hampton
- Rodney A. Harvey
- Darryl R. Henderson
- Fred Hunter
- Marty Long
- Jabari Porter
- Robert "Bob" Reece
- Hon. Scott Rochelle, Esq.
- Markham W. Thomas
- Andre Wallace, Sr.