Meeting features update on challenges of PAA
by BRIAN NADIG
A member of the Polish American Association, 3819 N. Cicero Ave., discussed challenges that the social service agency sometimes faces at a meeting of the Jefferson Park Forward on Nov. 16.
An incident in which a severely ill woman was abandoned at the association’s headquarters in Portage Park illustrates some of these challenges. A man brought the woman into the lobby and initially staff members assumed that the man went to move his car and would return, but he did not, PAA board member Eva Prokop said. A letter left by the man indicated that he was the woman’s former husband and that he could no longer watch over her.
"We got her into a care facility," Prokop said. The association later got her a plane ticket to send her to Poland, she said.
The association was founded in 1922 and provides a variety of employment, education and immigrant services. About 20 to 30 percent of the agency’s clients are not Polish, Prokop said.
The association has a day program for a dozen homeless men who eat at the group’s facility on Cicero and help out with maintenance and other work and then are transported in the evening to an overnight shelter, Prokop said. A former client of the program became a worker at the association and will soon be retiring, she said.
The association also has "a basement full of used clothing" for needy families, Prokop said. "Whatever they can carry out they can have," she said.
Prokop also discussed the history of Polish immigrants, adding that immigration patterns have changed since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and Poland’s joining the European Union in 2004.
"Chicago is dwindling in its Polonia numbers," she said. "There’s a large population of (Polish) immigrants in London."
The standard of living has improved in Poland compared to about 40 years ago when stores’ shelves would be empty and visitors were expected to bring "American jeans" to family members still living in Poland, Prokop said. While Polish citizens were eager in the 1970s to "come here to build a new life (in the United States), that life is possible there now," she said.
Prokop encouraged those seeking more information on Chicago’s Polish history to visit the Polish Museum of America, 984 N. Milwaukee Ave.
When asked if Jefferson Park is well known in Poland for its Polish roots, Prokop said that visitors from Chicago will be more likely asked if they are from the North Side or South Side than what specific neighborhood they live in.
The association also has an office on the South Side at 6276 W. Archer Ave. For more information, visit www.polish.org.
Also at the Forward meeting, economic development committee chairman Dennis Davis reported that the city clerk’s satellite office at 5430 W. Gale St. is expanding and will have a new entrance and lobby. The building was once the 16th (Jefferson Park) Police District station.
Davis said that a larger facility should help prevent the long lines which can be seen outside the building at the end of the month when motorists are trying to purchase a new car sticker.
Also, Forward president Ryan Richter reported that the group’s members-only events, such as its recent home-brewing competition, is bringing new members into the neighborhood organization, which was formed 2 years ago.
Forward also is co-sponsoring "Holiday Sparkle," a tree-lighting ceremony with music and free hot cocoa from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7, at the Jefferson Park CTA Terminal, 4917 N. Milwaukee Ave.