Kathryn Argentar, Friends of Audubon School

By Stephanie Sack | Thursday, October 6, 2011

Kathryn Argentar, human dynamo. Credit: Stephanie Sack.

A fierce champion of Roscoe Village, resident and volunteer Kathryn Argentar has cheerfully and faithfully lent her many talents to the neighborhood since 2001, most recently the Audubon Elementary School, 3500 N. Hoyne Ave. From marketing to fundraising, event planning to public speaking, as the President of Friends of Audubon School, Kathryn is responsible for bringing in $200,000 in funding annually via a network of approximately 100 volunteers. Through walks, mixers, auctions, and fairs, Kathryn coordinates, promotes, and manages a range of ongoing effrots to ensure that money is raised for Roscoe Village’s elementary school.

Her efforts further extend to internet-based commincations, as she also writes and distributes an online newsletter called Roscoe Village Parent Network (email here to subscribe) that spolights family-friendly happennings throughout the area.

In between her many engagements, meetings, and rendezvous, Kathryn took the time to answer a few questions about her infectious passion for Roscoe Village, its children, schools and residents.

1. You are very involved with all sorts of groups and activities in Roscoe Village. What makes you so passionate about the neighborhood?

When, after working in the corporate world for 15 years, I was fortunate enough to be able to stay home with my children after they were born, I was looking for a way to get involved in a volunteer capacity. I was introduced to a Roscoe Village moms’ group and through that, met a Roscoe Village Neighbors board member. The group seemed so vital – all about giving back, bringing people together and giving a voice to everyone. I ran for the Board and was elected in 2001 and immediately got involved in the Education Committee.

The public schools in our neighborhood are and always will be a cornerstone of the community. People come and go, but making sure all children in Roscoe Village get a first class education seemed like such a simple and noble cause – it was easy to be passionate about it. I started meeting with Audubon teachers, going to Local School Council meetings and quickly realized we had a diamond in the rough – just needed a little polishing and some strong leadership. It was so energizing being part of an initiative to affect so many that involved businesses, families and local government.

The way I see it I’m making an investment; not just for my family but for the families who, for a variety of reasons, are unable to give of their time or money – and also for the generations to come. The impact of Roscoe Village Neighbors and Friends of Audubon (which we formed in 2006) is that we have a tight-knit community with an award-winning school. Audubon was just awarded a Blue Ribbon Award by the U.S. Department of Education – a prestigious honor. And as for the Parent Network that I manage, it’s just a great way to meet people and share all the wonderful things that the neighborhood has to offer.

2. How long have you lived in Roscoe Village and what drew you to the area?

We moved in 16 years ago this month. I was looking for somewhere I could “walk to stuff”, but we were already priced out of the Southport corridor. Our agent brought us over here and I saw the Village Tap, El Tinajon, Sal’s. There was a butcher shop where Glam to Go is now! I just immediately got the “small town feel” of the place which was quite familiar to me since I grew up in a small town in Ohio. But the idea that this existed in a city the size of Chicago within a mile of Wrigley Field was fantastic.

The fact that the footprint of Roscoe Village is quite small by city standards really contributes to the small town feel. I mean, you really have a single four-block pedestrian/business district on Roscoe and a four-block more commercial stretch on Belmont that anchors the community. You can’t help but run into your neighbors continually and that keeps people connected. In fact, my daughters joke about how I can’t go anywhere without running into at least one person I know. Great for me – a little embarrassing for them, though. It’s just so different from some places where people drive to the end of their cul-de-sac and pull into the garage, never having the opportunity for human interaction.

3. Many other small neighborhoods in Chicago have changed very dramatically over the last ten years or so. Do you feel that Roscoe Village has changed significantly, and in what way?

Well, certainly there has been a lot of new home construction which, I believe, came about because of the neighborhood’s reputation as a great place to raise a family because of its exceptional public school. However, as a community, we’ve worked very hard to retain the character and scale that makes Roscoe Village the special place it is; RVN’s Zoning Committee has done an incredible job in that regard.

In many ways, however, it hasn’t changed. My neighbors across the street from me and adjacent to me have been here longer than I have and I love that. We can welcome new residents while appreciating the fact that there are countless households in the community who are responsible for helping us grow and get to where we are today.

4. Where is your favorite place to grab a bite in the neighborhood?

There are so many good choices! It really depends on who I’m with. Kitsch’n is so much fun and great for families. I love the food at John’s Place and bring all my out of town guests there for lunch and to Piazza Bella for dinner. Of course, the beer garden at the Village Tap is ideal on a summer day. Volo is the perfect place for date night (love the outdoor patio in back with the cabanas!), and Nohea Café has amazing sandwiches – perfect for a breakfast meeting. And Riverview is my go-to place when it’s been one of those days and I just don’t feel like cooking dinner. Great salads!

5. What insight or advice would you offer to someone thinking about moving into Roscoe Village?

I’d suggest that they join RVN right away to get connected to all the events and issues facing the neighborhood. If they have kids, I’d invite them to get my Roscoe Village Parent Network email distribution and I’d encourage them to attend the many family-friendly events (Shop for Schools day, Halloween parade, Winterfest, Spring Brunch and of course, Retro on Roscoe).

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