Giving Back to Community

Community spirit is a highly prized value in the Deerfield Bannockburn Riverwoods area, where service groups volunteer their time, talent and know-how to provide services, inform the public, raise funds for worthwhile causes and bring the community together.

The Deerfield Area Historical Society, celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2018, displays vintage artifacts at its historic village on the southwest corner of Deerfield Road and Kipling Place.

“We have a historic village of five buildings, three of which are original buildings in Deerfield, pre-1850.

Stupple said the society’s primary mission is to preserve the area’s early records, distribute information about the area’s history and reach out to grade schools.

“Every year, all the fourth-grade students spend time in our little red schoolhouse. They use slates and dip pens. They eat a lunch that would have been typical of the time,” Stupple said.

The schoolhouse was built by the historical society in cooperation with the Deerfield Lions Club. While the building itself does not date back to the area’s settlement, the contents are authentic.

The carriage house was recently constructed to house a donated collection of antique, restored carriages.

“We have a rather impressive collection of old carriages, dating from the late 1800s to the early 1900s,” Stupple said.

The three original buildings on the site include the Ott cabin. Built in 1837, it is the oldest building in Lake County. An 1847 log house was later “modernized” with siding. The society removed one wall of siding so visitors can view its original state, she said. The village also is home to a small, two-story farmhouse.

The historic village is open from 2 to 4 p.m. Sundays June through September. Admission is free.

The society also presents educational programming for scouts and senior groups.

Stupple said the Deerfield Area Historical Society is guided by an eight-member board of directors and counts 200 people among its membership. It is supported entirely by donations.

For the past 10 years, the Friends of the Deerfield Public Library have worked to enhance the library and its services.

“Our purpose is to support the Deerfield Public Library and to raise funds to provide things that are not in their budget,” said Elaine Haney, the volunteer group’s president. “We’ve raised over $100,000 for the library.”

In May 2017, the group introduced its “Baby Garden” in the Library’s Preschool Pavilion.

“It’s a little enclosed area where crawling people can go. It’s a clean, safe area,” Haney said. Parents can supervise their littlest ones playing inside the “garden” while older children use the library’s other amenities.

The Friends collect and sell gently used donated books in the library’s Used Book Corner. They also have an annual sale at the Deerfield farmers market.

“We have some really nice cookbooks and children’s books that we save for our summer sale,” Haney said.

The Friends have sponsored art displays, a self check-out station, drive-up locations for the drop-off of library materials and summer reading programs.

The group also stocks a free supply of paperbacks at the Deerfield Road train station for commuters.

Annual memberships, available for $15 per year, also help raise funds for the library.

“We are here to help serve the community and supplement the library services,” Haney said.

The Optimist Club of Deerfield was chartered in 1972 and is part of a global organization, said Judy Geuder, a member of the local club for the past 17 years.

“Our main focus is on kids,” Geuder said.

Each spring, the club sponsors an essay contest for middle school special education students within the Northern Suburban Special Education District. Each student writes an essay on the same topic and the Optimist Club chooses the top winners in each class, plus the overall first-through-third-place winners. All entrants receive a framed certificate and dinner is served to the students, their families and teachers at the club’s premier event.

The Deerfield Optimist Club also awards scholarships to graduating seniors at Deerfield High School who have provided exemplary service to their communities.

Christmas tree-shoppers in the area have been making a pilgrimage to the club’s tree lot for years.

“We sell Christmas trees at Jewett Park from the day after Thanksgiving through Christmas,” Geuder said.

Volunteers from the Deerfield High School wrestling team help unload the trees shipped in from neighboring states. The school’s tennis team helps with sales. Proceeds fund the club’s activities and donations for the entire year, she noted.

The club recently introduced its Service Recognition Award, an annual monetary award given to Deerfield High School students in recognition of outstanding community service.

“Last year we had one student who created a blog for web security,” Geuder said. “We have another student who creates sock puppets. She donates them to nonprofits so they can raise money with them.”

The League of Women Voters-Deerfield area is part of a national organization celebrating its 98th anniversary and provides voter services and education.

“We register voters,” said Rosemary Heilemann, who shares the local league’s co-president duties with Rita Kirby. “Our most successful voter registration drives have been at the high school.”

Heilemann said about 70 high school students registered to vote during a recent two-day voter registration drive.

Membership is open to women and men and to teens as young as 16. The age was recently lowered from 18.

“Teenagers are interested in issues and politics,” Heilemann said.

The league also has voter registration drives at the Deerfield Public Library, during the village’s Independence Day celebration in Brickyards Park and at the summer Farmers Market.

The league presents candidate forums, sometimes in conjunction with other local League of Women Voters groups.

Heilemann said the league conducts studies and creates presentations about public policy issues with the goal of educating the public. The League of Women Voters-Deerfield area is currently advocating the abolishment of the electoral college, she added.

“We educate people on the issues,” she said. “We’re proud of being part of a national, state and local organization.”

The Deerfield Park Foundation is a volunteer nonprofit group that helps bring park amenities and programming to the community.

“Their focus is on funding of recreational and educational programs and to promote and develop recreation and educational services,” said Jeff Nehila, executive director of the Deerfield Park District. “They’re very much in a support role. It’s a separately run entity.” ›

Nehila said the foundation helps people in need with financial assistance that enables them to participate in park programs.

“Each year they contribute $15,000 to our scholarship program that helps people in need be able to afford our programs,” he said.

The Deerfield Park Foundation also raises funds to enhance the parks and park district facilities.

“They actually helped cover the costs of some fitness stations and other projects in our parks,” Nehila said.

Each Fourth of July, the foundation sponsors a chance for anyone to use the district’s two outdoor pools without charge.

And the eight-member group presents an annual college scholarship to students, giving priority to students who have worked at the park district.

Nehila said the foundation raises funds through donations and through two annual events. The foundation has a golf outing in cooperation with the Deerfield High School wrestling team each June at the Deerfield Golf Club. They also have a moonlight golf event each fall.

“We’re really grateful to have the foundation,” Nehila said.

The Rotary Club of Deerfield, the local contingent of an international organization, offers help to children who have suffered child abuse, burn victim survivors, and to children whose parents struggle with addiction. The group also strives to help the homeless, said Natalie Kirsch, the Rotary Club of Deerfield’s co-president. Internationally, Rotary is making efforts to eradicate polio and bring medical facilities and equipment to remote regions of countries such as Guatemala.

The club meets at noon Thursday at the Italian Kitchen and at 5:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month at the Warehouse Eatery in Deerfield.

In 2006, a group of concerned residents formed the Riverwoods Preservation Council in an effort to educate people about threats to the area’s natural woodlands, wildlife habitat and plant life and to collectively take steps to preserve the area’s natural resources.

“Riverwoods is a special area because of the oak woodlands that we have,” said Michael Clayton, president of the council.

Clayton said the group works to preserve the existing woodlands and to ensure that optimal conditions exist for the survival of oak forests’ next-generation growth.

The group is supported solely by contributions and is not affiliated with any governmental entity or homeowners group.

The all-volunteer nonprofit group recently updated its “In Our Own Backyard,” a guide to living in harmony with the natural environment in Riverwoods and the surrounding area. The guide is available for purchase.

The council is also working on a plan to restore the 17-acre property surrounding the new village hall. Clayton said the council would like to see the site become a community gathering spot that offers a wetland preserve and natural play areas for children.

Other activities include working to minimize the impact of the widening of Deerfield Road and strengthening the open space language in the village’s updated comprehensive plan.

“We’re working hard to preserve, protect, and enhance the magical place that is Riverwoods,” Clayton said.

With about 100 members, the council presents an annual recycling event, contributes articles to the Riverwoods Village Voice, and periodically presents educational programs about the environment. w