It isn’t always easy here – you have to want it to work and you have to work at it.  Small business is especially hard. I have been lucky to spend the last five years helping to build a Chamber of Commerce that supports the many unsung heroes who own and operate those businesses that add energy, vitality and character to our neighborhoods.

I have loved every minute.  I love the Oak Park and River Forest community.  I am grateful that I could work and raise my children here.  I appreciate all the blessings and privilege that comes with my address.

The more I understand this wonderful thing we have here, the more I see past it to those who do not share our bounty.  That concerns me. The Chamber is in great shape. Now it is time for me to take a risk and see what impact I can have elsewhere if I am willing to try.  Incredibly, I have been blessed with just that opportunity.

Beat the Streets Chicago is a twenty-year old nonprofit focused on positive youth development in some of the most challenged areas of the city.  Through a city-wide network of elementary and high school wrestling programs augmented with mentoring and tutoring, the organization builds community for the student-athletes while teaching the skills they need for success in an increasingly tough world.   I am humbled to be their next Director of Operations starting in October.

I am proud of what we accomplished here.  Our Chamber celebrates the humanity of our small business neighbors while helping them become leaders, promote their businesses and stay abreast of current issues.  The Chamber will continue to thrive even as our businesses thrive, bringing quality goods and services to our residents and visitors.

It has been a great run.  I appreciate all the support I have received – from Village staff, elected officials, partner agencies, my own Board and especially my team in the Chamber office.  Together, we provide that support structure that lets small business know we are glad they are here.

Thank you to everyone – you have helped me appreciate this amazing community even while inspiring me to venture forward.

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Cathy Yen

Cathy Yen is the Executive Director of the Oak Park River Forest Chamber of Commerce.  She has lived in Oak Park for 21 years and done business locally, first as a retailer and then as a small business...

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