Thank you to everyone who braved the weather and came out for the North & West Suburbs Faith in Place Office Grand Opening on Saturday February 10th! Since it was a few days away from the 14th, it had a St Valentine’s Day theme with lots of decorations, pink soda-pop, my grandmother Huntsha’s red holiday punch which I renamed, “Love Potion #9,” and holiday-themed candies, cupcakes, cake, and cheesecake! I positioned the event close to St Valentine’s Day because, “I love serving the N&W Suburbs, I love Faith in Place, and I hope that you love Faith in Place too!”
After an hour of open house we had the ribbon cutting ceremony to officially open the office! The large yellow ribbon was made up of many smaller ribbons because many people have made this possible. My family members might notice that the ribbon is the yellow ribbon that my grandpa gave me several years ago when he gave everyone in the family a large spool of yellow ribbon.
I am proud today to say that I am here today because of my family and grandparents who all brought me out into nature when I was young. They started me on my path into environmentalism back then before I even knew it. By spending time in nature, I fell in love with it and was fascinated by the many creatures, especially everything aquatic, and particularly the fishes in the sea (or creek, stream, river, pond, lake, or puddle).
When I saw that they were threatened by pollution, I wanted to get involved to help heal them and protect them from future harm. I first became aware of Climate Change through how it affected animals. When I saw that myself, friends, family, and those I love and care for were also affected, I really wanted to get involved to help in any way that I could.
One of the most important things I learned from attending The Climate Reality Project training in Chicago 2013 was that one should try to give the climate message to the people in the communities of which they are a part of, and not communities that they did not have any tie to. For me, I instantly knew that my community was people of faith, and I felt called to work within this community from that point onwards. I learned about Faith in Place at a panel discussion at the training, and I knew that I needed to work with them.
The N&W office is not opened by one person and for only one person. I was inspired by others to get involved and that I could make a difference as an individual. Sometimes, they were visionary leaders like Rev. Brian Sauder from Faith in Place who had the vision to open more offices in Illinois and one in the N&W suburbs of Chicago.
Brian helped make this office opening possible so I invited him up and he cut the first of the many small ribbons that made up the larger ribbon.
Elected leaders have also inspired me and two of them were there in Commissioner Debra Shore and former State Representative Elaine Nekritz. Together they cut one of the ribbons.
My family loved and supported me throughout the years so I had my father Thomas M. Huntsha and step mother Aimee Huntsha cut a ribbon and also my mother Alice Pileski and step-father Gary Pileski cut a ribbon.
My wife, Angelina, was very supportive and helped me move from working in corporate America to environmentalism by having faith and letting me resign from my job and take a pay cut to start the process of trying to work in the environmental advocacy realm. Angelina also cut a ribbon.
My friends have been there to support me and two of them, Ryan Schafges and Jessica Gardner, were there so Ryan cut a ribbon as Jessica was filming the event.
Watch the ribbon cutting ceremony:
One of the biggest things that we do is help Houses of Worship start Green Teams. The office opened because of them and to serve them. Green Team leaders past and present from Countryside Church Unitarian Universalist were on hand so Leslie Peet, Gail Wisnewski, Judy Ball, Mark Krivchenia, and Don Bussey combined to cut two ribbons.
Green team leaders from Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church if Arlington Heights, St. Simon’s Episcopal of Arlington Hts, and First United Methodist Church of Arlington Hts – Kurtis Frank, Amy Senecki, and Christina Crusius – helped to cut a ribbon.
We do this work at Faith in Place with partners like NW Sierra Club, North West Organizing for Action (NWOFA), North West Citizens Climate Lobby (NW CCL), and others. Wharton Skinner, the leader of NW CCL and two of his colleagues from NW CCL helped cut a ribbon.
Countryside Church Unitarian Universalist friends Melanie Shikore and David Silverman were there too so they helped cut a ribbon.
The office was opened to help sharpen the work of those in the N&W Suburbs that were already doing environmental work and to empower others to join them. We work on the issues together to bring about healthy changes for our local communities and everyone across the state of Illinois.
This office is for everyone. With that I cut the remaining four ribbons and the office was officially open! (Loud cheers and clapping filled the air.) I had a large smile on my face and also shed a few tears of joy as a dream to work in the N&W Suburbs on climate issues with Faith in Place had become real.