The recently-elected Niles Sister Cities board is brimming with ideas and fired up about taking the organization in new directions, said George Alpogianis, who was elected as president recently.
The board also wants to make Sister Cities a non-profit organization separate from the village, and possibly add new Sister Cities in Germany and Korea.
"We want to get the community involved," Alpogianis said, before ticking off a list of ideas for exchanges with Niles' four existing Sister Cities: Leixlip, Ireland; Nafplion, Greece; Limanowa, Poland and Pisa, Italy.
Some of the ideas include:
- A German Christmas village (similar to Christkindlmarket in downtown Chicago) which includes representation from other nations.
- Skype nights for students or community members to talk to people from foreign Sister Cities.
- Creating Sister Cities sections at the Niles Library with books in that language, or by authors of that ethnicity.
- Getting each school district or school involved.
- Having student art or sculpture exchanges with foreign Sister Cities.
- Having community gatherings or tours at, for example, a Korean grocery mall such as Assi Plaza or Super H Mart or another ethnic destination.
- Cooking demonstrations.
- Conducting exchanges about the history of Niles and learning the history of each Sister City, and possibly involving the Niles Historical Society.
- Storytelling at the library, with stories from each Sister City culture, possibly with food of that nation served.
- An open-air market featuring goods of the Sister Cities' nations.
- Sending a container of items from Niles to each of the Sister Cities. Alpogianis said he thought that if a city in Korea got a container from Niles with Polish, Greek, Italian, Irish and German food and artifacts, that might be new and educational to them.
Earlier: Niles Sister Cities elects new board
He expressed dismay that the organization had been somewhat disorganized for a few years, even though a few people had worked very hard to benefit it.
Restructuring the Niles organization
Rewriting the bylaws to make it an independent non-profit organization, not a village commission, should help to resolve that, he said.
"The bylaws would have to be amended. They were conceived in 1991 and they haven't change much in 22 years," said Alpogianis, who said he has been with the organization seven years, as the head of the Greek delegation.
While Sister Cities will still have ties to the village, making it a separate 501(c)3 organization will actually benefit the village, Alpogianis said. For example, if a Niles resident in a foreign country on a Sister Cities trip broke an arm, the village would not have liability.
Bringing in new stakeholders
The Niles Sister Cities board now consists of Elizabeth "Cookie" Kraus, Julie Genualdi, Dave Laske and Yee Kim, as well as Alpogianis, and he said they would like to expand the board and/or create an advisory board.
An advisory board might include representation from the Niles Library, Niles Chamber of Commerce, Niles and Maine Township government, school boards and schools, and mayor or his/her appointee.
Residents invited to meetings
The new board invites residents to its meetings, held at 6 p.m. the fourth Monday of every month at the Niles Library. The next meeting is Feb. 25.