Thursday, April 6, 2017

Pick Up the Torch, People of Clearing

By Tim Hadac
Manging Editor
Southwest Chicago Post

More than a year ago—14 months, specifically—I waved a red flag about the dilapidated state of the Clearing Civic League and urged men and women of good will to step forward and pick up the torch, so to speak.

Sad to say, the torch is still lying on the ground, its flame growing weaker.

I say that after seeing the latest edition of the CCL’s monthly newsletter, in which editor Marie Zilka—an exceptional woman who has served the league and the larger community so faithfully for so many years—noted that the CCL is now “in dire need” of leadership.

Nominations for the year’s officers will be accepted at the group’s May meeting.

If no one steps forward, the group will be without a president, vice president, recording secretary and sergeant-at-arms.

“In the past year, four officers have passed away, and the remaining officers are over 70 years of age, Marie Zilka added in the newsletter.

It’s almost a “last one out, turn off the lights” situation.

That’s sad because the Clearing Civic League, founded in 1960, has a long history of effective neighborhood advocacy—most notably several decades ago under the leadership of its longtime president, the late Richard Zilka. The CCL was an important voice in fighting blight and promoting prosperity in the neighborhood.

Neighborhood groups like the Clearing Civic League have a proud history in Chicago and across the nation--fostering the good and fighting the bad, speaking truth to power, rallying people around important causes, and reminding us all that the common men and women are the real owners of a community--not politicians or big business or street gangs. 

Reminding us, too, that there is strength in numbers and that when smart men and women stand up and stand together, they can work wonders they could not work alone.

So who will pick up the torch in Clearing?

I’m not asking that rhetorically. This is a real challenge to the 20,000 or so people who live in Clearing.

There are thousands of smart, able-bodied men and women in Clearing, yet the Clearing Civic League’s meetings typically attract just a couple dozen—typically good people who have been coming for years, but are generally tired at this point.

So I challenge those who have not yet stepped forward—men and women in their 20s, 30s, 40s. If you’re waiting for the other guy to do it, he won’t. It’s up to you.

Please don’t be intimidated by the fact that you may be relatively new to the neighborhood—and CCL members are typically old-timers who have been around for decades. All of them were once “the new guy” in the group.

Here’s my challenge to current CCL members: do everything you can to make newcomers feel welcome. Offer a handshake, introduce yourself—and for heaven’s sake, smile. I’ve lost count of how many silent sourpusses I’ve seen at civic meetings across the Southwest Side over the years.

Clearing Civic League meetings are typically held on the second Tuesday of the month at Hale Park, 6258 W. 62nd St. The next one is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 11. See you there?

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