October 2015 Minutes


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Historical Society Museum


Mon., January 25, 7 p.m.: House Tour 2016 Planning Meeting, Historical Society Museum

Thurs., November 19, 7 p.m.: General GPA Membership Meeting, Historical Society Museum  


Amanda Carlson and John Krzyzanowski,  Paul Sommer, John Boline, Bill Briska,  Tom and Moe Lee, Kevin and Natalie Kearney, Dan and Pat Miller, Doug Tomsha. Harry and Pat Weiskopf, Catherine and Chris Arne, and Mike Burns

Before introducing Patricia Williams, the director of Neighborhood Housing Services of the Fox Valley, Dan Miller gave a PowerPoint presentation on his recollections of NHS in Elgin as he was a charter member of their Board.  The following is a summary of his words.

Dan Miller’s recollections of Neighborhood Housing Services of Elgin

I am very proud to say that the Gifford Park Association has a long association with Neighborhood Housing Services.  In The early 80’s city planner Pat Andrews told us that she had read about an organization called Neighborhood Housing Services.  She asked if we would like to attend a conference to find out about it and we did.  We agreed with Pat that we should pursue it for Elgin.  Three GPA board members were also NHS Board Members.  People got us confused.  The city and local banks helped us buy our first office at 326 E Chicago for $50,000.  GPA founding mother Audrey Behrens found an old picture showing how it originally looked.  The NHS board decided to restore the exterior.  Click here for more picutres. At the time there was only one contractor interested in old houses and he was also a GPA board member. While it was being worked on a man approached us saying that he had garbage picked the front door many years ago when it was altered and asked if we wanted it back.  We took it and were able to screw it right back in the opening.    We spent $50,000 to restore the exterior.  Lots of people thought we were crazy.  Being so prominent the home became an inspiration to the rest of the old house owners in Elgin.

The first director of NHS was hired from out of state.  The next director was a young woman.  GPA member Norda Landers lived across the street and was convinced that the young lady was a perfect match for city planner Tom Armstrong.  She got them together and they were later married.

NHS then hired Elgin Resident Mary Camacho.  She started the program of purchasing and rehabbing problem properties.  The first one NHS did was at 429 Division which was purchased for $30,000.  It was rehabbed and brought some great new people to the neighborhood.

The next purchase rehab was at 376 Prairie.  The substitute siding was taken off and it was deconverted back to single family.  Keith Brown, now a judge was president of the NHS board at the time.  We were spending a lot on money on the home so he got cold feet and did not get to finish the porch.  Subsequent owners have.

When we needed to hire a new director we were prepared to pay him or her $17,000.  I protested saying that we could not get a good candidate at that price.  The Board upped the salary to $35,000 and were very, very lucky to get Stuart Wasilowski who later became a city councilman.  He had an MBA and wanted to drop out of the high stress business world, where he was getting a headache every day, to do something more satisfying.


He suggested we get a new office.  I protested as I loved 326 E. Chicago but when I found out we would get another house in the neighborhood rehabbed I gave in.

205 N. Gifford was purchased for $40,000.

It was a rooming house where each door had a hasp on it.  It was owned by a pack rat and GPA members volunteered to clean it out filling several dumpsters.  GPA volunteers later did much of the landscaping with a $2000 gift from Hoffer Plastics for the materials.  NHS moved on to a new office and 205 N. Gifford fell into disrepair.  A custom home builder, out of work after the crash bought it and is finishing up a very thorough rehab of the interior and exterior.  Thanks goes to the City of Elgin for giving it a 50/50 exterior grant.

tuart Wasilowski began an ambitious program of purchasing and rehabbing problem properties. Ed Schock was the president of the board and later became a city councilman and Mayor.    Here are some of the problem properties that NHS brought back.


A developer had plans to tear down four homes to make the office building on Summit St.  I suggested to Stu that we move them.  NHS did move one to Fremont St.  The Gifford Park Association did architectural salvages on the rest.

The NHS office was moved to### Douglas where they rehabbed a two flat.

Angle Rosenthal became the Director.  &&& DuPage was given a large loan to get it on its way back.  It is currently four very nice condos.

Angle left and Rich Jacobs became the Director.  He lead the purchase and rehab of %%% Douglas.  A great Unveiling ceremony was done to take off the substitute siding.  The costs became so high that it had to be sold before it was finished.  The new owners finished out off nicely.

As in introduction to Patricia Williams I am showing this slide of 165 S Gifford. An NHS loan helped a great young couple buy this wonderful home with incredible neighbors.    :  )

Patricia Williams, the current director of Neighborhood Housing Services of Fox Valley was introduced.

Patricia told us that she grew up in Streamwood and moved to the west side of Elgin ten years ago. She was in the banking industry doing compliance work holding banks accountable for helping low to moderate income families and improving communities.  Banks do not like it but are required to do so by Federal regulations.  That work aligned well with her current job at NHS.  Even though she lived in Elgin she felt disconnected with the community so in July of 2014 she joined the advisory council of NHS and was later offered the interim director position and then the full time director.

Patricia explained that NHS is currently loaning money to low to moderate income families to buy houses. Loans are income based. Before they can get a loan they are required to take pre home buyer education.  They are walked thru the entire home buying experience and earn a certificate of completion. NHS also councils possible buyers and look a credit and they have HUD certified councilors to help people facing foreclosure.

NHS sponsors a Neighborworks day every year where volunteers help with landscaping and minor repairs of homes.  This year volunteers painted a fence.

Neighborhood Housing services of the Fox Valley is associated with NHS of Chicago which has been in business for forty years.  Their goal is to preserve and rehab houses and build community partnerships.

The Elgin office used to be at 163 E. Chicago.  Client feedback was that the open space did not lend itself well to privacy for the clients.  The office has been moved to 1 American Way which was nicely renovated for NHS giving individual offices for privacy.

Patricia Added that they helped the Heritage Commission with their recent Bungalow Thematic District initiative and that they continue to promote the program.  .

Patricia explained to the group that NHS is currently looking for people to serve on their Advisory Council.  They are looking for a diverse group of individuals willing to volunteer approximately an hour a month.

Pat Miller added that she knew in the past the NHS director had to spend a lot of time doing fundraising which took away from time to do actual NHS business.  Pat asked Patricia if she has to do fundraising.  Patricia responded that they get grants from Kane County, Grand Victoria Foundation and Banks.  It helps banks comply with the Community Reinvestment act.  Patricia asked the group to help her identify possible new fundraisers.


Moe Lee asked how NHS gets clients and Patricia responded that 40% are word of mouth.  They are included in the 311 app that gives out local news.  NHS of the Fox Valley has their own Twitter and Facebook pages where we post whatever we do.  We are building our presence in Social Media.  NHS also partnerships with Realtors to spread the word.

Pat Miller asked if NHS gives loans to people which include money to rehab it.  Patricia answered that they do but it typically extends the closing up to 120 days.  The rehab has to be done before the sale.

Pat Miller asked if NHS planned to get back into the purchase rehab business.  Patricia responded that NHS of Chicago just got a huge grant to do exactly that so perhaps we can tap into it.


 A motion was made and seconded to approve the minutes of September 17th. It passed unanimously.

Pat Miller reported that GPA currently has $100,699.58 in the checking account and CDs.

A motion was made and seconded to approve the treasurer’s report.  It passed unanimously.


HISTORIC DISTRICT (Dan Miller  847-697-3370)

 The hard copy of the Historic District Walking Tour brochure is almost finished.  A huge thanks goes out to Jean Bednar for her volunteer efforts. 

The Historic District self-guided tour and Housewalk tour apps were not ready for the housewalk but the bugs are currently being taken care of.  (Secretary’s note:  The developer is meeting with us on 11/3 to show us the finished product) Pat reminded the group that the cost of the apps was to be $4500 and we have paid half of that.  We did get a Neighborhood Improvement Grant to pay for the printing and half of the phone apps.

Historic District entryway sign

Pat Miller explained to the group that she recently met with city and sign representatives at the corner of Chicago and Liberty to discuss the new Historic District entryway sign.  A computer generated image of the lettering placed on the stone wall was distributed with the agenda.  It was originally favored by the city rep that the lettering go on the fence; but, since it is not curved to follow the wall that would be difficult. A full sized mockup of the proposed sign was taped to the wall to see how it looked.  The sigh was highly visible from north bound Liberty

Pat showed the group an example of the aluminum letters that are to be used.  They will be a soft matt black finish.  Pat added that concerns about vandalism were voiced.  Doug Tomsha added that the intersection is so heavily trafficked and lighted that he did not feel v and both directions of Chicago St.  The proposed sign will have alumina letters with custom placed attaching posts to align with the mortar joints.  Vandalism would be a problem.  Pat added that originally it was proposed to back light the sign but it was decide not to.  Kevin Kearney suggested that it would look better if the lettering were centered vertically on the wall.

Pat asked members to think of places to relocate the old sign.

Pat suggested that when the new sign is installed we should have some type of ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the new sign and wall.

Pat also added a huge thanks to Colby Basham of the city for his help on this project.

HOUSEWALK (Bill Briska  847-421-4022)

Bill Briska announced that the first planning meeting for the 2016 Housewalk will be January 25th at the Historical Society Museum.  This is our 35th anniversary so come and help plan something special.

MEMBERSHIP  (Moe Lee  708-828-9706)

.Moe reported that we currently have 146 confirmed members.  Dan congratulated her on her extraordinary efforts.


 Pat Miller suggested to the group that we think about and dream of ways to get our money working in the neighborhood.  Dan used the old GPA cliché, “We need people to take the ball and run with it.”  Pat suggested that we do something like Marshall Michigan does where they have done photo documentation of the interiors of their houses.  We could also document all of our art glass or original doors.

Slate of Officers for 2016

President – Dan Miller

Vice President – Bill Briska

Secretary – Barbara Evans

Treasurer – Pat Miller

At Large 1 – John Boline

At large 2 – Mark Preradovic

All of the above candidates except John Boline are technically off of the board because of term limits dictated by the Constitution.  Moe Lee wondered if we should change the Constitution to eliminate term limits.

Tom Lee moved to adjourn.  Moe Lee seconded the motion.  It passed with a loud, unanimous vote.

Many thanks John for bringing goodies baked by his wife Sara for us to munch on as we socialized after the meeting.

Respectfully submitted,

Dan Miller, acting secretary