The Hyde Park Neighborhood Club’s (HPNC’s) website states that “2020 has been unexpectedly complex. Beginning mid-March, due to the Covid-19 public health crisis, HPNC was forced to suspend all regular programs, leading to over 75% loss in revenue.”

The HPNC’s Annual Meeting, held virtually on June 24, focused squarely on of the effects and consequences Covid-19 pandemic for the club and its future.

Before delving into these issues, the meeting celebrated the full first year (as of July /August) of Angela Habr-Paranjape as Executive Director; honored the service of three board members who are cycling off the board, Eileen Holzhauer, Bethany Pickens and Miriam Siereg; welcomed Johari Shuck as Director of Programs; and marked the beginning of the transition of long-time HPNC leader Sarah Diwan from Director of Development to Director of Early Childhood Programs.

Board Chair Emlyn Eisenach then introduced the agenda for the meeting with the document, HPNC’s Path Forward, A Post-Covid Future, and a presentation of the document’s guiding principle, "We are a Neighborhood Hub that is responsive to changing local needs." The complete document can be seen on the club’s website.

Following Eisenach, Habr-Paranjape reviewed how the HPNC navigated the past several months.

“It’s been a Covid reality,” said Habr-Paranjape.

Early during the pandemic, the HPNC provided emergency childcare for health workers and then “pivoted” its after-school programs to remote learning. More recently, HPNC started providing administrative support for the Kenwood Food Project and Feeding Frontliners, two Covid-related, neighborhood-initiated efforts, with its “Neighbors Together” program. The club is planning socially-distant-athletics, particularly basketball drills, and will continue its PAL mentoring program with the University of Chicago Police Activities League.

Program fees typically account for 50% of HPNC revenue [the other 25% of lost revenue comes from grants supporting programs], said Habr-Paranjape. Because of safe social distancing practices, revenues will not, in the future, rise to their old levels as the number of participants in individual programs and the number of programs offered will necessarily be reduced. In addition, she continued, costs will rise, as students no longer will be able to share supplies and because other expenses will be accrued as the club accommodates Covid-related best practices.

All of this puts a strain on the fiscal balance sheet of the HPNC, during a time when the club had imagined, last year, that it would be planning an upgrade of its facilities.

New sources of revenue have been and are being pursued. The HPNC received a Covid- related PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loan, and University of Chicago Civic Engagement provided funds for Chrome Books and an internet upgrade at the HPNC to facilitate its remote learning program.

Following Habr, board member Julia Parzen said, “We are ready for strategic planning, but the world is not ready for us to go deep.”

“There are things we can do,” she added. As a neighborhood hub, the HPNC can provide “bright moments.”

Parzen then discussed the possibility of dovetailing HPNC’s programs with the Chicago Public Schools’ future schedule, which might involve multiple sessions per day or alternating school days for different cohorts of children.

“We would like to get your ideas about our path forward, input from the attendees and the community,” continued Parzen.

Retiring board member Eileen Holzhauer then responded that there is a “sense of isolation,” in the community, and wondered if there were ways the HPNC could provide opportunities for socializing.

Community member Emily Buss noted the openness of the HPNC to community entrepreneurs with their ideas, and then asked, with reference to the summer weather, “Are we doing everything we can do, while being outside?”

Parzen interjected that the group, “Was beginning to formulate what the questions will be, during summer and for the winter.”

As the meeting came to a close, HPNC Legacy Circle member Linda Swift said, “[You] think you can work on the building, and then a volcano explodes. It’s just so hard, to put more money into the old building. Don’t let the idea of a new building, completely disappear, in this time of disaster.”

Following the meeting, Habr-Paranjape stated that, “Our immediate goal is to raise $50,000 by August to make up for lost revenue and increased expenses due [to] COVID through that point [of time].

“The truth is that it is very difficult to project beyond summer, given the uncertainty of CPS’s plans, public health requirements, and funding sources. The support of individuals will be our lifeline during this exceptional time, so that we may be in a position to respond as public officials release information.

 “In the meantime, we have prepared and are constantly adjusting various scenarios and creative possibilities to get ourselves ready, come what may.

“It’s going to take effort, participation, and the investment of our neighbors to move through these unusual times and to emerge anew, but if there is one thing Hyde Parkers can do, it’s putting our heads and hearts and hands together to make a difference for our community.” 

Donations to the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club can be made through their website: http://hpnclub.org/index.php/donate/.

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