After a year and a half has somehow flown by, we were finally reunited with my stepsister, Rachel, in Chicago. The last we saw one another, we had just started this journey and were in Florida in December 2014. We have managed to visit 30 states and 13 National Parks so far. She has proudly gotten her doctorate and moved to Chicago.
We thought it would be a great bonding experience and quality time to volunteer together. A rainy Chicago morning, we arrived at the AIC (American Indian Center). We found this opportunity on a unique site called meetup.com. They have a group called “Chicago Fun Volunteers” which focuses on meeting new people and helping others while having fun. We loved the mission as all of us are new to town and ironically enough Rachel has Native American roots. Our initial purpose was to cook and serve lunch to members with the opportunity to sit down and learn more about their heritage and the center. The AIC has been at this location since 1966 and serves as a place for Native Americans to meet, host special events, educational programs, gift shops, art galleries and theaters.
Upon entering the building you can go downstairs to the flea market/ food pantry or up a level to the tribal hall with museum pieces in the foyer. After putting out the salt and pepper they realized we would be more useful downstairs in the flea market. The shop is open every Wednesday from 10-1:30 pm. Anyone can come and fill up a bag of whatever they need for $5. Also, they sort through donations and keep the really good stuff for their once a month flea market set up outside when it’s nice out. They emphasized that people really need this operation but make quite a mess of the store when coming in. Mel, Rachel and I were able to tidy up the whole store while the other two weekly volunteers sorted through new donations.
Items they can’t take go to the Salvation Army. We were offered to bring home anything we needed as a thank you. We found a festival chair Mel thought was quite comfortable since ours broke last week at Summer Camp.
We were offered a tour of the building because unfortunately even though the building was given to them a German School bought it and will be making $10 million in renovations. The tour guide was also a volunteer but has been part of the organization for many years so he had slue of information. We started at the bottom floor and worked our way to the roof. The building was much bigger than we originally thought but the amount of space they utilize is less than half. Most of the rooms were unkept and vandalized with graffiti, beer cans, and garbage. The only room that has heat is the archery room because the Black Hawks hockey team gave them a grant. The guide told us someone had been living in one of the sections without anyone knowing. Also, on the 4th floor, two girls went missing and it is said their spirits call out for their parents.
After the tour, we went back to the tribal hall and sat down for a lunch with everyone. They have a special section for the elders. I thought it was quite special that one woman’s grandfather was a founding member. We felt fortunate to help and play a part in this historical building at the American Indian Center of Chicago.
The sun was finally shining so we went to explore the beautiful city. We visited Cloud Gate, Crown Fountain and Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park as well as the ferris wheel on Navy Pier. A perfect day filled with smiles and shared love of major city in the United States.