After more than 80 years operating as the village’s go-to resource for civic engagement and volunteerism, the River Forest Service Club is rebranding as the River Forest Civic Association, in an effort to drive a larger, more diverse membership. 

“I think people were confused because it used to be tied, kind of, with military service. Did you have to be in the military to be a part of this or join and immediately volunteer for service activities?” said Dan Potter, president of the group. Potter has spent 12 years as a member of the club. 

The group has two primary goals — helping people feel connected to their community and honoring those who served the village and the nation. The soon-to-be-named Civic Association realizes these aims by sponsoring the River Forest Memorial Day parade, networking events among neighbors, guest speakers, candidate forums and much more. On Nov. 14, the club will sponsor a “Candidate and Campaign Supporter 101” program at 7 p.m. at the River Forest Public Library, 735 Lathrop Ave., which will review the balloting process and steps for pulling together a campaign team. It is the first of many events the club is sponsoring. 

Later in the month, at 7 p.m. on Nov. 27 at the library, the group will hold a meet and greet with the village’s relatively new Police Chief James O’Shea. After the new year, at 7 p.m. on Jan. 30 at the library, in what Potter described as a “herculean scheduling effort,” the Civic Association will hold a conversation with Village President Cathy Adduci, Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone and Elmwood Park Village President Angelo “Skip” Saviano about common issues that concern the towns. Once the election nears in April, the group will likely also sponsor candidate forums with the League of Women Voters. 

“Members become movers and shakers, are on the village board, park district board, school district, everything. They’re either people who have gotten on these boards or you can see that probably someday they will,” he said. “There are a lot of board seats opening up in April, so maybe we’ll attract some people.” 

After the group held its annual free picnic after the Memorial Day parade last year, Potter said he realized many of the people served didn’t know anything about the organization that was providing them with free hotdogs. Once they found out, they had never heard of the River Forest Service Club. 

“There was a time when everybody up and down my block knew what the River Forest Service Club was,” Potter said. “But there’s been so little outreach from the organization, and so many new people up and down my block just in the 14 years I’ve been here, probably half of the new people don’t even know we exist.” 

After assuming the role of president a month ago, he said one of his main goals is outreach. When the club was founded in 1935, he said it was composed of the town’s “movers and shakers” at the time, which meant primarily white business owners and military men. But now, he aims to expand the group’s membership beyond racial and gender lines. 

“We’ve got people, and we’ve got dollars, but we need I think we need some new energy,” Potter said. 


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