July 14 was a big day for the North Riverside Historical Society. Actually, it was the day for the society, which until then had been just a loose aggregation of local history enthusiasts with a sense of purpose but little direction.
But on July 14 the society became a bona fide nonprofit, registered with the state of Illinois. The group has produced a set of bylaws, and soon the society will also have its own bank account and will be able to solicit donations as a 501c3 corporation.
The organization already has officers and a board of directors, named at the group’s Aug. 10 meeting. Queenella Miller, the village clerk, is the president of the society. Rounding out the list of officers are Dave Tomalis, vice president; Fire Chief Ken Rouleau, treasurer; and Jeannine McLaughlin, recording secretary. Among the society’s board of directors is Peter Culafic, Nancy Kwiek, Genevieve Wright, Diane Buonomo, Sam Buonomo, Richard Soumar and Bud Bureau.
Miller came to be involved in North Riverside history kind of by default by being appointed to the post of clerk. Her predecessor, Charmaine Kutt, had previously been the village’s unofficial go-to person for all things historical. Kutt had been chairwoman of the North Riverside Diamond Jubilee committee, which produced a commemorative history book in 1998.
When Miller was appointed clerk upon Kutt’s death in 2008, the torch was passed to her, although she is quick to point out that getting the society to its current spot has been a cooperative effort. And she’s looking for more people to lend a hand.
“We’re begging to get more memberships,” Miller said. “If we can get a couple, three people to sort through the collections, it’d certainly help and expedite us being able to display things.
“We need hands, we need manpower.”
Anyone interested in becoming involved in the organization is invited to attend the next meeting of the society, scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. at the North Riverside Public Library, 2400 Desplaines Ave.
Largely through word of mouth and the village newsletter, the historical society has started to collect items from residents, all of it stored inside Miller’s office at village hall on Desplaines Avenue. Among the items are Komarek School class and faculty pictures from the 1950s, lots of newspaper clippings, some family photo albums, Cub Scout memorabilia, commemorative plates, awards and cups.
None of the items has been catalogued, and Miller’s not exactly sure what all she has on hand yet. One item she keeps inside an envelope in a desk drawer is a pristine postcard of the Melody Mill Ballroom, which once stood on the site of the Village Commons building, from 1945.
The society does have a place to display their artifacts, once they are sorted through. This summer, the North Riverside Public Library board agreed to allow the society to enclose large wall alcoves in its first-floor meeting room as future exhibit space.
The glass enclosures were installed by public works employee Bob Skupa, and the $3,000 needed for the project was raised by Miller and other volunteers, principally by selling chocolate bars and taffy apples at village events and local schools.
In all, Miller’s effort raised almost $3,400, which included an $815 donation from the Rouleau family, which set up the fund to benefit the fledgling society in memory of Sylvia Rouleau, who died in June.
“The displays took every penny we had and some more,” Miller said.
Miller is hoping to start moving forward on cataloguing items in her office so that artifacts can be displayed in the library alcoves. But she knows it’s going to take a group effort.
“I couldn’t do this without so much help,” Miller said. “This is going to be something I think everyone’s going to be proud of. These are things that reflect the community’s past and its people.”