To go down a list of offerings at the Daystar Center at 16th and State, one would have to ask why they're worried about being a true blue community center. But they are. The people who run it and inhabit it want it to be welcoming, accessible and a friend to all. They point out they're in the geographic center of the South Loop--and easy to visit. So what's the problem?
A few months ago a few community "leaders," if you will, sat down to try to figure that out. It has everything. Plays, movies, a nice size music venue, music lessons of all kinds and for all ages, language lessons, camp, concerts, a Toastmasters club, a Movie club, ice cream socials (next one is September 21), every kind of exercise class you can imagine--from Hatha yoga to "Zing." They have playgroup space, conference rooms, all kinds of events and parking. Community organizations such as the Greater South Loop Association hold their community meetings there.
And the crowning glory? A real live not-for-profit/profit hybrid coffee house--run by a young married South Loop couple--right in the middle of it all: Overflow Coffee Bar, which among other things, has fair traded, environmentally friendly coffee, tea, sweets, salads and sandwiches. Not to mention free wi-fi, art on the walls, open mic nights and documentaries galore. Their logo? "Changing the world one cup at a time." They help support neighborhood causes.
But the big red brick structure (used to be Wicklander Printing) on the corner wants more. They want more people to come and take advantage of it all--and to be known as a dyed in the wool community center. Maybe they can have a few well-publicized potlucks to further familiarize the neighbors? Maybe some homeowners associations can have their meetings there? More press releases to get the word out? More partners who will agree to familiarize their constituents and customers with the offerings--and the openness, usefulness and friendliness of the place?
Maybe it's because there is a religious school that shares the building called "Daystar School" that people get confused and think that if they come take a Zumba class in the building, there will be God-like overtones. There are also some offices in the front that rent space that have an evangelical ring. And small churches rent the music venue here and there for services. But Daystar Center really wants people to know that they're open to all and their offerings are very secular. All are welcome. Not to worry. No one will baptize or evangelize.
But publicize? Yes! To get the word out that they're there. Ready and waiting.