Summer is the season for block parties, and Flossmoor Community Church is planning a big one — a “block party plus” — from 3 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, July 21. It will be a chance for everyone in the community to have fun and support the church’s social justice missions, according to organizers.
Community House Fest will take place in and on the streets surrounding the venerable community center at 847 Hutchison Road in Flossmoor.
It will be an event with something for everyone, according to co-organizer Brooke King. There will be varieties of everything for families, couples and singles to enjoy. Multiples of food and drink, live music and a DJ, games and competitions will be available.
“It will be intergenerational,” FCC pastor Fred Lyon said.
Tito’s Handmade Vodka and Rabid Brewing are among the sponsors, King said, and both businesses have agreed to donate their beverages so 100 percent of proceeds can go to the church.
No one will be left out, King said, because the event is a festival to celebrate community in all its diversity, which is a core mission of the church. The congregation has an official welcome statement that affirms its belief that God created everyone “with our differences in ability, age, race, culture, gender identity, marital status, sexual orientation, political conviction and religious background” and that all people are welcome.
“I think it’s fair to say that FCC wants to be known and pretty much is known for its social justice work,” King said.
The church’s general stance goes far back in the church’s history, King said. During last year’s 90th anniversary celebration, she explored the archives and found a copy of the church’s first newsletter, published in the 1940s. It included an article by the pastor speaking out against racism, including the internment of Japanese citizens during World War II, and argued for inclusion of African American community members.
“During that time, it was radical,” she said. “This is our history, going back to the very beginning. This place was about diversity and inclusion even when it was an unpopular time to come out and say so.”
The event is a sequel to a talent showcase King and musician Matt Bailey organized in November. That event raised $6,000 for PADS, the not-for-profit organization providing shelter services for the homeless.
The event also is intended to shine a light on and benefit the Community House itself.
“The event is celebrating the community, but it’s celebrating that venue so that more people know about it and become familiar with it,” said Lyon. The pastor noted the church wants to continue the tradition of hosting a wide range of events and hopes to see an increase in community forums that provide an opportunity for area residents to discuss issues.
The structure was built in the village’s early days as a theater and community center. It was intended to help draw home buyers to the Flossmoor Estates neighborhood, King said.
“It was basically to show them that there was something cool going on right here in this neighborhood,” she said.
It has been owned by the church since 1934 and served as the church’s primary home until 1948 when the sanctuary was built across Hutchison Road.
In recent decades it has been host to a wide range of events, many not directly affiliated with the church, and King said the church wants to promote that use because fostering community is a key part of the church’s mission.
Lyon noted that the house has been the site of important moments in community life. Examples include a vigil hosted there after the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting in Florida, a crime aimed at LGBTQ people. A fundraiser was held there in 2017 to support the South Suburban Family Shelter after state funding dried up for the agency that serves domestic violence victims.
Lyon said he recognizes not everyone in the community may be comfortable in churches. Bailey believes part of the community house’s effectiveness is its location across the street from the church building.
“It’s together but it’s separate,” he said. “All can come and play. That’s what I like about this church. The openness.”
The building has undergone major renovations twice in its history, and King said the church is renewing its focus on keeping it in good repair so it will continue to serve the mission for years to come.
King’s father, Doug King, was among a handful of congregation members in the mid-1980s determined to save the Community House from demolition.
“When we renovated the community house in 1987 it was a huge ordeal which took $100,000 of congregation money,” King said. “We did all the work ourselves.”
She recounted how the renovation group doubled as theater cast, staging productions of “The Sound of Music” in the Community House, which at the time wasn’t air conditioned, in order to raise money to help fix plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems in the old building.
King said the congregation’s kids were called upon to help with the renovations and the fundraising shows. They scraped paint and tile. King was one of the Von Trapp children. Her father played Capt. Von Trapp.
“There was scaffolding and flaking paint all around us when we put on the shows,” she recalled.
The church has done some “sprucing up” of the building in the past year, remodeling the kitchen and bathroom areas.
The plan is to have two annual events — the block party in summer and the talent showcase in fall. The next talent showcase, which will again benefit PADS, is set for Nov. 16.