Association discusses vocational training


Vocational training at a local teen center, a proposed garden at Beaubien School and a new safety committee were discussed at the Oct. 28 meeting of the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association.

In its second year, the Slingshots teen center, 4839 W. Irving Park Road, offers leadership workshops, recreational activities and training in carpentry, fashion merchandising and other vocations for students in sixth through 12th grade.

"The parents are saying, ‘I wish I had this when I was a kid. It would have kept me out of trouble,’" Slingshots founder Bob Anderson said at the meeting.

The nonprofit center offers a "by teens for teens" boutique program in which participants design displays for the store, price the merchandise and help collect clothing donations. The center encourages teens to "don’t just be a taker, but be a contributor to the community you live in," Anderson said.

Families who visit the boutique are given "slingshot dollars" which they exchange at no charge for clothes, Anderson said. Those interested in donating clothes to the boutique can contact the center, and jeans for older teens are of particular need, he said.

The name Slingshots refers to the fact that the center’s goal is to help children "hit their target" in life, Anderson said. The faith-based, nondenominational center offers Bible study once a week, but users of the center are not required to participate in religious activities, he said. The 10,000-square-foot center is open 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

It also was reported that the association’s Education Committee is planning to help with efforts to create a new garden that would consist of two raised planting beds at Beaubien, 5025 N. Laramie Ave.

Beaubien volunteer Gretchen Jansen-Ray said that the school plans to apply for a grant to pay for the garden and that any vegetables grown there could be used to give students "healthy lunch options" or be donated to the needy. "We’re hoping to get all the kids involved," Jansen-Ray said.

The association also is creating a safety committee due to concerns about recent shootings and graffiti in the 16th (Jefferson Park) Police District. Association vice president Brian Wardman said that the committee should work with the district to form block clubs to facilitate multiple 911 calls when a crime occurs in that area. "The police respond by number of calls," Wardman said.

Also at the meeting, it was reported that members of the association’s Tax Increment Financing/Zoning Committee plan to bring concerns about a proposed 12-story apartment and retail complex, which would feature five floors of parking, to Alderman John Arena (45th). The 153-foot-tall building would be constructed on the site of a 25,000-square-foot parking lot at 4849 N. Lipps Ave., which is next to the Jefferson Park CTA terminal and across the street from the 10-story Veterans Square office building.

"Our point is 12 (stories) is too high," Wardman said.

In the past the association has called for the height of new construction on the site to be limited to 50 feet because that restriction exists in the prevailing zoning in the Jefferson Park commercial district. A 6 1/2-story parking garage with ground-floor storefronts was proposed for the site 5 years ago, but that project was not approved.

The association also is seeking opinions on whether it should participate in a nationwide strategy that encourages coalition building among media outlets, institutions and community organizations. The strategy, which is called "Transpartisan Engagement," calls for people across the political spectrum to work together to help make the government more accountable, Wardman said.

Groups with diverse interests would come together on an issue in which a political outcome, such as a new law, would address the goals of each organization, Wardman said. The strategy, which was created by community organizer Lauren Coletta, is in its "infancy stages," but social media could help get it off the ground, he said.

It also was announced that the organizers of the Jefferson Park "Sunday Market" are planning to hold winter farmers’ markets on Sundays, Dec. 13, Jan. 31, March 20 and April 24, at Fischman Liquors, 4780 N. Milwaukee Ave.

The association’s next meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18, at the Congregational Church of Jefferson Park, 5320 W. Giddings St. A representative of Vaughn Occupational High School, 4355 N. Linder Ave., is the scheduled guest speaker.