Hinsdale friends gather for golf, football, and to do good work

A group of friends who see each other regularly at the Hinsdale Golf Club have come to know each better because of a faith-based social service organization on the West Side of Chicago.

Charlie Lewis is chairman of the Circle Urban Ministries Board in the Austin neighborhood. The organization, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary, has a college readiness program, a mentoring program, and a food pantry, and partners with a charter school, a family health care network, a law center a 96-bed shelter for women and children, and the Rock of Our Salvation Church, all on its campus at 118 N. Central Ave.

The ministries serve 800 to 1,000 families a month, Lewis said.

“We are in the opportunities business,” Lewis said. “We give these kids opportunities.”

“We see them going to college, avoiding gangs and demonstrating godly character through our programs. We are making a difference in that community,” said Lewis, whose wife soon will start training to be a Circle mentor.

Lewis was recruited by Bob Barr, a fellow Hinsdale resident. When Barr learned about Circle three and a half years ago, he was impressed.

“Circle resonated with my spirit,” Barr said.

A friend, Craig Lacy of Clarendon Hills, already was serving on Circle’s board.

From reading and watching television, Barr thought he knew about the problems the urban poor faced: crime, lack of education, single mothers.

“But I never had talked to anybody who had grown up in that (environment),” he said.

From his experience with Circle’s staff and clients, Barr said, “I was transformed spiritually, emotionally and relationship-wise.”

“I learned humility,” Barr said. “I realized we are all created equal, and we are all created in the image of God. And we are part of a greater story. It’s not about me, or my ego, or what I do for someone else.”

Barr has helped dig up and plant new landscaping outside Circle’s building. But he also focuses on fundraising and making connections, such as persuading Hinsdale Nurseries to donate the material.

Barr thought Circle needed a stronger governing board, so he talked to his friends about the organization and the opportunity for them to give their talents, resources and time.

“I wanted to build a bridge between 60521 and the urban area in the city.”

But Barr told his friends, don’t get involved because you are doing me a favor.

“Do it if it speaks to your heart,” he said.

Barr and Lacy talked to Barr’s golf partner, Bob Hettinger of Burr Ridge.

“They knew I had a bent for this,” said Hettinger, who is involved with Mercy Home for Boys & Girls in Chicago and Catholic charitable organizations. “I have run a couple of companies, and they thought I would bring knowledge and energy to the board.”

“I believe in the mission, to create godlike character in young people, who will come back and serve as role models in the community,” Hettinger said.

He also was familiar with the area. Until Hettinger was in the fourth grade, his family lived near 55th and West Quincy, a mile east of where Circle Urban’s campus is now.

Then his family moved to Oak Park and he continued to play sports in the North Austin Boys Club, and attended Fenwick High School, a little more than a mile west of the campus.

“I wanted to do more than sit on the board and donate money,” Hettinger said. “I wanted to be an active participant of those programs I was making decisions about.”

He volunteered to be a mentor a few years ago. Having raised three sons, he knew he could find common ground with the boys in the gym at Circle.

Hettinger was paired with Rufus Moore III, who is called Tre, and is now 12.

“Circle did such a wonderful job vetting us both and matching us,” he said. “Tre is a serious student, but he’s also a sports nut. When we get together, there is no race barrier.”

Hettinger and Tre have gone to the zoo, Notre Dame football games, Blackhawk hockey games, and played miniature golf. Hettinger has gotten to know Tre’s mother, sisters and grandparents.

“I have a vested interest in wanting to make a difference in this family’s life.”

Although he already was open-minded, Hettinger said his involvement with Circle confirmed, “People are people. And there is value in broadening our relationships and broadening our scope.”

Their involvement with Circle also has affected the friendships between the golfing buddies, who include Chris Behrens and Kevin Viravec.

“I’ve gotten to know them on a deeper level,” Barr said. “It has been a blessing.”

40th anniversary

What: The Circle of Hope Fore Kids Golf Classic

When: 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 15

Where: Hinsdale Golf Club, 140 Chicago Ave., Clarendon Hills

Website: www.circleurban.org

Phone: 773-921-1446

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