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Rogers Park/West Ridge Historical Society Honors History of Chicago's Far North Communities

By Kelly Church

The Rogers Park West Ridge Historical Society is a group whose mission is to share the story of the far north side of Chicago. According to the historical society's website, the residents believed their part of Chicago qas a place with much to celebrate and, thus, the organization was formed in 1975 by a group of long time residents of the community.

"Our mission hasn't really changed much in all these years," Ken Walchak, President of the organization, said. "It is to collect, preserve and share the story of the diverse community of Chicago's far north side. What has changed over the years is how this gets done. We are much less a repository for old stuff than we are an organization that shares information."

Walchak said outreach efforts in the community helps the organization spread information. The historical society publishes information, hosts tours, offers speaker programs and has many other outreach efforts in the area. One of the more unique programs is the community cookbook, which Walchak said was born from a conversation about hosting a food fundraiser. It was a short leap to also selling a cookbook.

The community cookbook is in part a celebration of ethnic diversity in the Rogers Park and West Ridge areas of Chicago, and part an effort to raise money. The historical society has been collecting recipes since March 1, and any resident is welcome to submit their own recipe to the cookbook. Once published, the name of the cook who submitted the recipe will be printed with it, preserving their place in the history of Rogers Park and West Ridge. Residents are welcomed to submit recipes in memory of others, too.

"The funds from the cookbook will go to our chronically underfunded organization," Walchak said.

Walchak, who studied history in college, later became an architect and joined his family's business in Rogers Park. He's lived in the area his entire life, which he credited for his love of the history of the community and why he continues to be involved in the historical society.

"Rogers Park [and] West Ridge are two incredibly diverse neighborhoods and I think it behooves those of us who live in a community to know as much as we can about it," Walchak said. "I think that our friends and neighbors here in the community should join the society because it's the right thing to do. They will feel better about themselves and help those who live and work here to live a better and more enjoyable life."

Residents can get involved with Rogers Park/West Ridge by making donations, volunteering and becoming a member of the historical society. For more information on membership, visit rpwrhs.org.

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