On a recent wintry evening, 30 members of the Foster Senior Club gathered at The Barn Steakhouse to retell stories of their personal history in the city. Amy Morton, the owner of the Barn Steakhouse, sponsored the event. First Repair, founded by Robin Rue Simmons, organized the Jan. 24 dinner.

Foster Senior Club member JoAnn Cromer displays her journal. Credit: Camila Vick, C2C Communications Associate

The club members were encouraged to jot down their thoughts and past experiences in journals sponsored by a grant from Cradle to Career.

Gerri Sizemore, a member of the Foster Senior Club, was selected for one of Cradle to Career’s community building grants during the pandemic. Sizemore used the funds to purchase journals for members in her project, called “Sharing is Caring.”

“We’ve been wanting the opportunity for them to share from their journals,” said Kim Holmes-Ross, Cradle to Career’s community engagement director and interim executive director.

“So over their meal, they shared excerpts from the journal, which went from everything from how they got to Evanston, what was their first job, who was their first boyfriend – people shared different things,” Holmes-Ross said. “But it was a really wonderful bonding event. They could order anything off the menu and didn’t have to worry about how much anything costs. They were treated so kindly.”

Many of the members had interesting stories to tell. Rodney Greene, the chaplain of the club, became the city’s first Black city clerk in 2008 after he worked for 22 years at the Northwestern University medical school. Now Greene is acting; he can be seen in television shows such as CHI and Chicago Fire.

“The thing is, when you’re gone, that book, that journal can tell what went on in your life,” Greene said. “The things you had conflicts with, how you overcame them and your big successes.”

The Martin Luther King Jr. Day screening in Evanston of The Big Payback, the documentary about the city’s reparations program, inspired Rue Simmons to put together a special dinner for the seniors, Holmes-Ross said.

Rue Simmons described the members of the Foster Senior Club in the AMC Evanston 12 auditorium that night as royalty, Holmes-Ross recalled.

The Foster Senior Club is rooted in the historically Black Fifth Ward. But the lives of its more than 100 members are scattered across the city. The club has been a part of the community for 65 years and counting.

A brief video of the Jan. 24 dinner at The Barn Steakhouse.

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Gina Castro

Gina Castro is a Racial Justice fellow for the RoundTable. She recently earned a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism where she studied investigative reporting....

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  1. The Foster Senior Club can’t be described in just a few words, but I’ll add a few to those already spoken before. They are loving, outspoken, creative, well read and so much more.