August 24, 2022

Whether it be at a neighborhood meeting or a local event, I am frequently in the community listening to residents voice their concerns about Kankakee. It is a large aspect of my job and I use those conversations to help our team assess where we are and how to get to where we want to be. Some expressed concerns are unique and very specific – a problematic neighbor who legally smokes marijuana in their home but the smoke blows into other residents’ homes – and some concerns are expressed regularly, regardless of which neighborhood a resident may live. I’m sure you can think of some of these concerns before I name them – more renters than home owners, a need for more things to do, troublesome road conditions, and violent crime. Each of these concerns is valid and numerous projects are actively underway to address the concerns listed here and more.

Oftentimes we focus too much on the negative and overlook all of the wonderful things also happening in Kankakee. I regularly challenge residents to name a positive aspect of their home – something they love about this community. It is always encouraging to hear the responses: Kankakee residents love our parks, access to and development of the river, the numerous art and music events available throughout the year, and our ever-increasing number of local businesses. People tell me repeatedly that they love the sense of community here. Those positive attributes are a result of the hard work of many dedicated people who decided to get involved.

Have you been wondering how you can help move Kankakee in the direction you want to see it go? Whatever your concerns may be, you can be part of the solution. Progress will never happen if everyone stays home. Your commitment to positive change can be as big or small as you wish. Reach out to your alderperson. Attend or tune in to a City Council meeting. Join or start a neighborhood association. Volunteer with a local organization. Donate to a cause you are passionate about. Go to an upcoming community event. Do all of the above! The important things to realize is that your voice and presence matter, and you can make a difference.

One upcoming event I would like to highlight is the Bike Against Violence ride on Saturday, August 27th, 2022. This annual event is led by Kankakee law enforcement and a handful of leaders from local organizations. I participated in the ride in July after overcoming my fear of not being able to finish. I hadn’t ridden my bicycle in several years and certainly did not feel I was in the physical health to do so. Despite my anxiety, I showed up and I am so grateful for the experience. Even with my Outreach work, I still managed to meet people I hadn’t connected with before. I witnessed strangers supporting strangers, including me. For most of the ride, I was at the very end of the route struggling to keep up. The encouragement I received was moving. I am not at all surprised that many community members requested a second ride to be scheduled after the initial ride. This second ride features a new route that takes participants through the east side of Kankakee. At the ride’s conclusion, Mac’s BBQ will be available for free for all pre-registered participants. Why a bike ride? I believe the bike ride serves two purposes. Firstly, it is a literal journey that riders go on together and opportunity for people to meet and connect in a new way. Secondly, it serves as a metaphor for the work we as a community have ahead of us in our struggle to end the violence. That work will be difficult, and it will have its setbacks before its triumphs, but it will be worth it to find the solutions to significantly reduce the violence we’ve been experiencing in our community.


Whether you attend this Bike Against Violence event or another upcoming community event, please make sure you share your thoughts with me about our community.