I am writing this letter on behalf of the organization Opportunity Knocks in regards to the recent debate over the park district’s latest proposal to assume control of the River Forest Community Center. [River Forest Park District targets community center, News, May 26]
Opportunity Knocks is a relatively new nonprofit organization serving teens and young adults with developmental disabilities. Our home is in the River Forest Community Center, where we are currently offering after-school programs to more than 25 disabled young adults whose families reside in River Forest and Oak Park.
I do not wish to debate the details of the park district’s proposal, but I do want to talk about our organization’s experience at the community center. A little more than a year ago, we were a cause without a place to call home. We approached leaders at the River Forest Township, Civic Center Authority and community center to see if there might be space we could lease there. Upon verifying our legitimacy, these groups were very supportive of our mission. From the start, they embraced us and worked with us to carve out a space for Opportunity Knocks.
Many people were involved in making this happen. A tremendous amount of time and hard work went into negotiating the lease and completing the renovation of our new home. From the beginning of our relationship to this moment, we have had nothing but positive experiences with the staff and administration at the community center.
Their willingness to work with us was a major catalyst to our mission. Without the cooperation and support of the community center and the River Forest Township, we still might be struggling to get off the ground. That is not to say that we don’t pour our own blood, sweat and tears into the Knocks, but it is because of their support that we were able to more quickly and efficiently get to the work we set out to do. And now, we are doing some amazing things for a severely underserved population in our community.
More than anything, I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of the members of the River Forest Township board, the Civic Center Authority board, center Director Dick Chappelle and all of the wonderfully welcoming, talented and hardworking staff at the community center. We are very proud to call the River Forest Community Center our home.
Phil Carmody is an Oak Park resident and board president for Opportunity Knocks.