A Site is Born

It’s only Thursday, but this week I’ve already spewed obscenities at my 17-year-old daughter with such force, while careening my SUV through heavy downtown traffic, that my throat still hurts several days later.

I also failed to serve anyone in need through my church Care Guild assignment, forgot to help my eighth-grade son study for his Latin test, despite the low-scholarship notice his teacher just sent, and battled depression because I’ve not been as effective as I’d like in growing the partnership between school and community as a member of the Board of Education. I can’t see where I’ve made anything better for anyone. In fact, I probably scarred my daughter for life, irreparably damaged our planetary home by driving that polluting gas-guzzler, and upset the equanimity and success of an outstanding school district.

So just what qualifies me to write this column and launch its sibling, MakeItBetter.net (“For family, community and you”) on May 1? Good question. Right now, I need someone else to Make It Better for me, not vice versa.

However, the youngest of my six children is 11, and I need a new challenge. And I don’t mean that I’m looking to do greater damage in the world.

Because I love to write, organize, network and nurture, developing an online companion (MakeItBetter.net) to this column seems an intriguing next step — a 21st-century, new-media, Internet 2.0 tool for the community I love: Chicago’s North Shore. We’ve been working on it since Make It Better debuted in North Shore magazine last May, and I feel like I’m in the final throes of a very long pregnancy.

We’ve scheduled delivery for May 1, almost exactly one year after the column first appeared. I’m nervous and eager that you will like my new baby and want to help her grow into the useful, beautiful online adult that she has the potential to be. If that happens, I’ll eventually find many resources posted there by others that will help me. That’s my long-term goal, as is my hope that my feisty 17-year-old will someday get what she deserves from her own daughter.

Many wise, accomplished friends are helping. They are the Kitchen Cabinet, a North Shore network of trusted, talented people whose opinions are often sought over cups of steaming coffee. They reflect our community culture — raise great kids, excel at work or play, give when they see need. They do well and do good, despite the limitations of a 24-hour day. I’m a better person for knowing and working with them. I hope that you will feel the same way about our Kitchen Cabinet, too.

We went to the Leo Burnett advertising agency to design our logo; we walked away with their chairman emeritus, Cheryl Berman, joining the Kitchen Cabinet as a volunteer.

“It’s so interactive,” Berman says. “Everyone who lives in this area has a lot going on in their lives. They want to find the best resources fast. But always, in the back of their minds, they are looking at the big picture, too. People want to network, and they want to feel connected to something that can make a difference.”

So what can you do when you log on to www.MakeItBetter.net? Well, you can read this column, for one. We’re also hoping it’s a place where you can get help, get a laugh or find ways to give back — post or find resources to help with family, education or sports and recreation needs; tell us about or learn how to live greener; and perhaps find, celebrate and nurture the people and places that are our local treasures. We’ve also added components so you can post or find help for body, mind or spirit — you can even rate our local dining, fashion or entertainment venues. Give extra kudos, and the coveted Make It Better Giving Back Watering Can Award, to those businesses that prioritize giving back.

You will also find links to particularly effective charitable and service organizations and a Giving Back Events calendar, as well as a way to bid on premier charity auction items without leaving your home. In other words, there is an entire online community of Make It Better activities. If we help just one person or family, then this past year’s labor will have been worth the effort, and Make It Better will be a success. That’s our short-term goal.

Talented, amazing people live and work on the North Shore. They search out or provide the most current skills, knowledge and other resources. They give passionately when they see need. We’ve written about a few of them in past Make It Better columns, and every one of those stories has inspired similar activities by others. For example, after we reported on Sharon Morton and the grandparent/grandchild philanthropy clubs that she pioneered, more clubs developed locally, a foundation asked her to apply for funds to grow her concept nationally, and she was flown to Atlanta to speak at a conference.

North Shore’s Make It Better column is about networking for improvement. The simple, elegant beauty of MakeItBetter.net is that with only one click, the rest of the world can learn from, be inspired by and hopefully help with our North Shore efforts.

Starting May 1, please log on and join us. We hope it will be a 21st-century, new- media help, both comforting and fun. We look forward to hearing from you.