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River North, Gold Coast, Near North Side

River North Neighbors’ Group Raising Money After COVID-19 Set It Back Financially

The River North Residents Association is raising $100,000 to sustain its work after it pivoted to a new festival format that didn't attract as many attendees as organizers hoped.

The River North Residents Association is asking for donations to help sustain the group into 2023.
Brian Israel
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RIVER NORTH — The River North Residents Association is doing something it’s never done before: asking for financial contributions.

Representing nearly 23,000 people, the nonprofit has advocated on behalf of residents for 25 years. But as for many businesses and organizations, the pandemic has taken a toll on the association’s income, causing it to dip into depleting reserves.

The organization set up a GoFundMe with hopes of raising $100,000 to sustain operations until revenue starts coming in again in 2023. As of Monday morning, the fund has raised $18,730.

About 80 percent of the association’s revenue traditionally comes from Taste of River North, its large summer festival, but organizers were unable to stage the event in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic.

With restaurants still facing pandemic-related hardships this year, the association chose to stage a music-centered event, River North Live, instead, but it didn’t attract as many attendees as organizers hoped.

“We’re going to go back to the drawing board, try something different next year. But, for the moment, we just simply need to raise funds in order to continue operating,” said group President Brian Israel.

A smaller portion — about 11 percent — of the group’s revenue comes from membership dues, which is $3 per household annually. Israel said the association is against raising the membership dues because the low cost reduces barriers for residents who want to be engaged.

The association also doesn’t accept money from political groups or government agencies, Israel said.

The financial woes come at a critical time for the group, which is negotiating with Bally’s casino executives, vetting dispensary applicants in River North, facilitating community meetings and advocating for improved public safety amid a crime uptick in River North.

Residents “want safer streets. They want clean streets that are healthy and safe for their kids,” Israel said. “They want green space. They want to quality, reliable infrastructure … and the association works on that. … That would be hard to replace if we weren’t there.”

The association will reevaluate its options by Sept. 30 based on how much money the GoFundMe has raised. But Israel said he’s encouraged by how much had been donated so far.

“We will continue beating the drum and try to be successful into the fourth quarter,” Israel said.

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