Two years of COVID have brought a great deal of change to Oak Park and River Forest, some temporary and some permanent. In this year’s Answer Book, we have attempted to capture a snapshot of where the community is right now, and what you need to know about it.

Here are some of the highlights:

One major change in our villages has been the rapid growth and expansion of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) directors in local government bodies, schools and nonprofits. Only a couple of years ago, this was job title/position that only few people had even heard of. Michael Romain, DEI Director at Growing Community Media, gives you important insight and context into what the job is and how we measure its success (see page 42).

In our Arts section, Michelle Dybal, speaks to several artists about the new landscape of music, theater and visual arts. What opportunities did COVID open up for artists and how will those changes carry forward? (see page 9).

Our education reporter, F. Amanda Tugade, spoke to two college bound graduates from Trinity High School about their experiences coming back to in-person school for their senior year. If you are looking to feel more hopeful about the future, I recommend you turn to page 23.

One of the big local topics of conversation over the last year has been housing. Our Homes editor, Lacy Sikora, gives us a round of perspectives on the state of real estate sales, apartment rentals and homelessness in our villages (see page 51). On page 54, you’ll find infographic on housing sales.

Tom Holmes, our religion writer, reached out to group of local clergy to examine the disruption leveled by COVID on local religious institutions. It is a frank and poignant discussion about adaptation, spirituality and community (see page 87).

Check out also the most read stories last year on oakpark.com (page 64). You might be surprised.

As always, we want to thank the OPRF Chamber of Commerce for partnering with us on Answer Book. The chamber is an unsung hero in these villages, holding together our community of local businesses, and advocating and supporting our local entrepreneurs. Please support our local restaurants, stores, services, non-profits and, of course, our newspaper.

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