Letter from the Executive Director
Courage propels us forward, as the world changes before our eyes. With solid commitment to our community, the resolve of HPNC’s staff and board to act responsively and with strength has not waivered. This has been a time of intense and accelerated learning for all of us, as individuals, as a community, as a nation and world. I feel fortunate to participate in this collective moment alongside you—my friends, neighbors and community—in the heart of Hyde Park as we learn together in 2020.
Generations have actively built fortitude and resiliency into the HPNC community, and the past year has been no exception. I joined the organization as Executive Director one year ago, and in that time, our entire staff and board have worked with diligence to develop our team and enhance program quality. Community engagement, partnerships, and successful fundraising bolstered HPNC’s programs. Truly, it has taken the participation of everyone to create our strength.
In the wake of worldly events, nurturing a connected community has never been more important.
Prior to the social unrest following George Floyd’s death, HPNC launched a partnership with the UChicago Police Department to implement the PAL Mentoring program. Through group mentoring, this program aims to mend the relationship between police and youth. This summer we have seen daily reminders of just how fragile the relationship is between police and those they exist to protect, highlighting the acute necessity of fostering mutual trust and respect. We are committed to deepening this work.
In immediate response to the pandemic, we innovated, even as other organizations pulled the shutters. It wasn’t easy, but we made our early childhood and after school programs virtual and opened full-day in-person childcare for hospital workers. We partnered with grassroots community initiatives to provide meals for hospital front-liners and local families in need, while also supporting local small businesses when demand for their services diminished. Finally, we developed rigorous safety protocols to run a reduced-capacity summer camp and summer basketball program to provide some normalcy for our community.
Under the direction of our new Program Director, Dr. Johari Shuck, the Fall Learning Hub is our newest program innovation. This in-person, pod-based school day provides supervised remote learning support, with opportunities for live enrichment and recreational activities. By coming to HPNC, children get much needed social connection, and the adults in their lives can go to work. We have also linked with a private-practice therapy group to support our students through the experience of prolonged social isolation and a rapidly changing world.
With Dr. Sarah Diwan stepping away from development and returning to her roots as Early Childhood Program Director, she is leading the way to adapt our Early Childhood programs to a post-Covid-19 environment. Bringing art projects outdoors and fulfilling a critical and growing need as a connector to childcare resources through our Childcare Information & Referral Services, we continue to meet the moment, even for our youngest children.
From the start of the pandemic, the outpouring of community support for HPNC has been humbling and affirming—and it has kept our doors open.
Individuals like you have helped HPNC deliver our programs without interruption at a time when families need us most. The remarkable fundraising successes of our 110th Anniversary match and Legacy Circle giving, combined with high participation in our Pancake Breakfast and a successful summer fundraising campaign mean that we are alive and well, and keeping our community whole. We are more than halfway to our Learning Leadership fund goal, which has given us the confidence to offer scholarship awards to keep our Learning Hub accessible to all, upholding our core values of inclusion and excellence.
Individual support, together with foundations and institutional partners, have been critical in our ability to adapt to changing times. Grants from the UChicago Office of Civic Engagement the National Parents Union and have allowed us to upgrade our WiFi service and to purchase Chromebooks for remote learning. We expect to continue to offer the Learning Hub for as long as our schools remain virtual. Given the uncertainty of the pandemic, this is a moment to remain nimble and responsive, but also to take measured, careful action with safety at the center.
To develop safe, quality program space, to nurture pollinator habitats, and to beautify our surroundings, we are investing in our outdoor areas, thanks to generous individuals and an award from the SECC Neighborhood Enhancement Grant Program. We are expanding the Monarch Waystation to the front yard and adding a nature-play area and seating. Our Monarch Waystation and garden has always been a program highlight, and with the pandemic, enriching outdoor program space is essential.
The tradition of shared responsibility for our local community has been vital to HPNC’s ability to weather global challenges of unprecedented magnitude, and to move toward a buoyant future.
We recently added a full-time Development Director, Chris Younkin-Wilson, with the aim of growing our support base upon our existing funding foundation. Our immediate fundraising objectives are to reach our Learning Leadership fund goal to deliver on our value of inclusion through scholarships, and to weather the remaining months of the pandemic, so we can move ahead with our robust long-term goal of a major facility upgrade.
Our board of directors and staff leadership team has convened a Strategic Planning Committee to reorient our focus in response to these changing times. The time is ripe to enlist our wider group of supporters as co-creators of our community’s very own Hyde Park Neighborhood Club.
Fearless creativity to imagine a future beyond this unique moment is our brightest path forward, as we learn together in 2020.
Thank you for sharing in this journey.
Angela Habr-Paranjape, MSW