All posts by SEOPCO

SEOP stories – Jim Kelly

We want to share some of the stories of our neighbors in South East Oak Park and there’s really no one better to start with than Jim Kelly. Jim was one of the founders of SEOPCO in 2003. He was one of a small group of people inspired to form a community organization that would work diligently to create a reinvigorated sense of place and identity for the our neighborhood, and to showcase the south east area to the rest of Oak Park as a vibrant, diverse and welcoming place to live.

Here’s a little bit more about Jim Kelly and his partner, Bruce Broerman.

Jim and Bruce live on the 1000 block of south Harvey. Jim was a Peace Corp volunteer, then worked for 25 years in Peace Corps training. He moved to the neighborhood in 1988 to join lives with Bruce. Jim and Bruce were founding members of the Oak Park Area Lesbian and Gay Association. Bruce has two children and five grandchildren who affectionately call them Papa Bruce and Papa Jim. In this year of 2020, the oldest is graduating from high school and will be off to college, while the youngest will finish kindergarten and begin first grade. Jim served as a SEOPCO board member for 13 years, and current board members still call on Jim’s expertise and experience.

The thing that Jim loves most about living in SEOP is his neighbors.

One thing that he has learned about the neighborhood is that some Oak Parkers used to call the neighborhood “North Berwyn” as a derogatory term. These days we are proudly South East Oak Park.

Jim describes SEOPCO as a neighborhood advocate.

We’ll be posting more of the South East Oak Park stories. If you’d like to share your story with us, we’d love to hear it. You can use this Google form to submit a response.…/1FAIpQLScYqkEp8RFzIWWQ0b…/viewform

2020 Accomplishments

  • Carried out in March our first ever Cabin Fever event at Oak Park Friends School, featuring musician Mark Dvorak. SEOPCO collaborated with two important organizations, Beyond Hunger and Music & Potlucks.
  • Initiated a meeting with neighbors and five leading Oak Park officials to discuss the proposed Taco Bell at Roosevelt and Austin in February. Neighborhood concerns were aired, the role of the Village in the development was clarified and mitigations to traffic and noise issues were discussed. 
  • Kept the community informed about Zoning Board meetings and changes to the Taco Bell proposal. 
  • COVID 19 – 
    • Communicated village news via Facebook and our email list regarding the SIP from the village, parking, 
    • Promoted the restaurants that were open and how they were accommodating customers
    • Helped publicize their efforts as Oak Park Porchfest was forced to become Couchfest, moving their stellar music series from our porches to Zoom.  
  • Inaugurated our series SEOPCO Stories, sharing  some of the narratives of our neighbors in South East Oak Park.
  • Represented the neighborhood in the hiring process for new Police Department’s Resident Beat Officers and Neighborhood Resource Officers.
  • Worked with our Neighborhood Resource Officer, Derrick Verge, as the monthly meetings he hosts with John Rumoro moved from Barrie Center to online. Each month Officers Verge and Rumoro gather to discuss how to increase safety in South East Oak Park.
  • Partnered with the Rotary Club of Oak Park and River Forest to make donuts for the Oak Park Farmer’s Market. It’s a fun morning and a great way to raise funds for Pilgrim Congregational and both of our organizations.
  • Reimagined our annual BarrieFest as a moving musical feast by partnering with Fitzgeralds. Five musicians performed short sets in seventeen locations, offering a socially distanced good time for many appreciative South East Oak Parkers.

2019 Accomplishments

Friends and neighbors – here’s a sample of what we did together as a board and as a neighborhood in 2019

  • Organized our annual BarrieFest, which took place on a picture-perfect Saturday Sept. 7. Bands played throughout the afternoon as approximately 500 neighbors visited our business fair and enjoyed the bounce houses and climbing wall. The Oak Park Fire Department stopped by, as well as representatives from the police department and Legacy Sports. Carnivore and Opportunity Knocks catering were busy throughout the day selling delicious sandwiches. It was a wonderful afternoon to visit with friends and meet neighbors!
  • Informed our neighborhood about local events, communicating via Facebook, our email list and Twitter.
  • Worked with our Neighborhood Resource Officer, Derrick Verge as he hosted monthly meetings at Barrie Center. Each month Officers Verge and Rumoro gather to discuss how to increase safety in South East Oak Park.
  • Participated in the Art’s District’s What’s Blooming on Harrison fest in May, passing out some cool highlighters and spreading the message about our organization.
  • Partnered with Park District of Oak Park to bring “Movies in the Park” to our neighborhood, with an evening showing of Paddington 2. This same event was shared with Washington Irving Elementary for their Back to School event.
  • Monitored developments on the Eisenhower Transportation Corridor. There was no significant movement this year, but SEOPCO continues to stay in touch with this important issue, with the help of Citizens for Appropriate Transportation.
  • Assisted local business It’s A Sign in their efforts to move from Madison Street to a new space on Roosevelt Road. 
  • Publicized the first season of Oak Park Porchfest and contributed safety equipment for their excellent concert series.
  • Initiated a collaborative partnership with Oak Park Friends School, who will have an ongoing presence on our board. We’re also making plans to hold an event at OP Friends in early 2020.
  • Partnered with the Rotary Club of Oak Park and River Forest to make donuts for the Oak Park Farmer’s Market. It’s a fun morning and a great way to raise funds for Pilgrim Congregational and both of our organizations.

SEOPCO D200 Candidate Forum

South East Oak Park Community Organization will be holding a forum for candidates running for the District 200 OPRF High School Board. The forum will be held on Wednesday, February 27 starting at 7:00pm at Irving School.

Six candidates are running for three open positions on the board. We’ve compiled some information from the candidates on their background and positions, available at this link: