Thursday, August 23, 2012

Barack Obama Learning Center - Daring to Dream

Board Members -  D. Carter, E. Proctor-Harris and G. Dudley ©Toni Ruppert
“This is a dream come true.” “It’s been twenty-five years in the making.” I heard this over and over at the Barack Obama Learning Center Grand Opening in the Village of Phoenix, IL.  On Sunday, August 19, 2012 - many residents, officials and well-wishers came for the ribbon cutting ceremony and open-house.  The energy was high and the smiles were genuine as the community welcomed its first library.

This is the first public building in the US named in honor of President Barack Obama
It’s good to know the history of this library.

Phoenix Library Board President Jessica Buckner
and Recording Secretary Martina Mahaffey ©Toni Ruppert

In the Phoenix Rising, a publication of the Village of Phoenix, writer Martina Mahaffey shared the history of Phoenix’s pursuit of a library of their own. The Phoenix Public Library Board of Trustees was established in April of 1987. Over time, the residents were serviced by the Harvey, IL Public Library. A “library room” was eventually established in the William Hawkins Multi-Purpose Center in Phoenix.  After four years of planning and visiting other libraries--the new library was established as a partnership between the Phoenix Public Library, the Village of Phoenix and the South Holland, IL School District 151.
Library Director -Kaleena Woodard
and artist Toni Ruppert. ©Toni Ruppert

I was there with a few hundred well-wishers to celebrate the library opening.  I was invited by Xavier Menzies, Library Director for the Markham Public Library in Markham, IL.  I had the opportunity to work with Menzies while creating art for the Markham Public Library. 

The Barack Obama Learning Center  - celebrated by many.

One resident, Barbara Stewart and I talked about the value of education and the seeds of knowledge established in us as children.  I was impressed to hear that her grandmother instilled in her a love of reading by having her “read” comic strip pictures and share what she thought the pictures were about. Barbara is now a journalist.
The Stewart family celebrates. ©Toni Ruppert

Mayor Terry Wells and Thornton Township
President Frank Zuccarelli ©Toni Ruppert

I reconnected with Art Burton, my former freshman advisor at Loyola University Chicago who now teaches history at South Suburban College.  Burton would often speak of his hometown Phoenix, IL. 

Dr. Florine Robinson and Toni Ruppert
©Toni Ruppert
Brett Fickes, Area Instructional Leader for Thornton High School in Harvey, IL spoke of knowing Phoenix Mayor Terry Wells for many years from Thornton High School where Mayor Wells teaches Modern U.S. History. 

I also celebrated with Dr. Florine Robinson, Chair of the Senior Citizen Committee for the Village of Hazel Crest, IL.  It was absolutely fabulous seeing her again - Dr. Robinson was the first person who purchased a painting from me.

What I Learned

I have 3 takeaways from speaking to people at the event including Mayor Terry Wells, former Mayor January Belmont and her daughter June Mitchell:

Phoenix Mayor Terry Wells
and Brett Fickes(School District 205)
©Toni Ruppert
Former Mayor January Belmont
with her daughter June Mitchell ©Toni Ruppert

  • If you’re going to do something, do it right. - The ceremony, the open-house and the library itself is first class.  
  • Teamwork makes the dream work. - This library was built via a “tri-partnership” as Martina Mahaffey called it in her article. I noticed an overlapping of the faith-based, political, community and educational arenas. Pooling resources together made this building possible.
Brenda Mason and Mae Buchanon
were in charge of the beautiful tables of food.
©Toni Ruppert

  • Human relationships are ultra important and perhaps more so than financial capital.  I noticed a genuineness as I connected with people.  Having good relationships builds projects...and public libraries.

If you’re in the Phoenix, IL area which is about 35 minutes south of Chicago, IL, do visit the library. It is a testimony to dreams.