The marionette performance stole the show at Jan Hus Presbyterian Church and Neighborhood House Sunday afternoon. The piano and acoustic bass were pretty good too.
“Even as it is our 100th year celebrating the Neighborhood House, this was our first open house,” the East 74th Street church’s pastor, the Rev. Beverly Dempsey, said. “It offered an opportunity for our partners and all of our community guests to get to know each other and begin conversations that will further strengthen the neighborhood.”
The Carter Burden Center Luncheon Club and Senior Program, for example, has met in the church basement for 17 years. Meals are served at noon Monday through Friday. Within the Neighborhood House, the Luncheon Club and Senior Center also hosts bingo games, classes such as Tai Chi and beading, and also provides a “Meals on Heels” service, delivering food to the neighborhood’s homebound. “We provide a vital service and have a strong commitment to the seniors we serve,” Carter Burden's program director, Abigail Unger, said.
Others beside the Carter Burden Luncheon Club who partner with Jan Hus and the Neighborhood House are Stoneledge Farms, which has a community supported agriculture weekly pickup in the church’s sanctuary from June through November; the IKEN Science Academy; and Chicago City Limits, which puts on shows each Saturday.
Noboru Kataoka, 66, has held thrice weekly classes for his NYC Kendo Club at Jan Hus for 34 years. “When I first found this space, the pastor was very kind ... and every pastor since has been equally kind,” Kataoka said.
The centerpiece for the afternoon was the performance of “Fairy Tales with Strings” by Czech puppeteer, writer, and director, Vit Hořejš.
“The puppet show was, as promised, charming. I was captivated, having never seen a marionette performance before,” Dempsey said.
The church also hosts several dozen 12-Step support groups a week, offers shower facilities, food, a mailing address, job support and clothing for those who need the services. “We are creating an environment for the neighborhood to thrive,” said Dempsey, who was installed as pastor in September 2014.
“The Neighborhood House, then, becomes a space for the widest range of the economic spectrum to share just community,” she said. “The result is thousands of people each week who live in our neighborhood feeling stronger and healthier in every dimension.”