Interview with Sheila Killeen, Co-President, GHHNA

Last week, I spoke with Sheila Killeen, Co-President of GHHNA (Greater Hammond Heights Neighborhood Association), about her interactions with the ATO fraternity.

In the course of our twenty minute long conversation, one thought came into my mind over and over again: “I really wish I lived near this fraternity.”

In fact, when I asked her about the issues they’d previously had with the fraternity, she didn’t know what I was talking about.  There was one neighbor who’d made some complaints, but, as far as she knew, that person has never shown up at a neighborhood association meeting.  The fraternity, on the other hand, has been an active member of their neighborhood association for a while.  The fraternity assigns a member to be their neighborhood association representative for a year and a half.  In fact, the fraternity was going to host the neighborhood association meeting on the day after I spoke with Killeen, on December 2.

I asked her how much interaction they had with the school versus with the fraternity itself.  She said that there was minimal involvement with the school, although she did send the school a letter a year and a half ago to let them know how wonderful the fraternity members were.  Neighbors know if they need a hand moving furniture, that they should give the fraternity a call.  Every Halloween, the neighborhood association sponsors a haunted house at Bancroft Tower, complete with candy at the top of the tower.  The fraternity brothers bring a spoke machine and another neighbor brings a generator to run it.  The frat brothers dress up in costume, and Killeen was impressed at their sensitivity to little children; they will try to scare the older kids, but will not try to scare anyone too young. 

Two Sundays before Easter, the neighborhood association hosts an Easter Egg Hunt at the tower.  The fraternity brings a grill and make hot dogs and hamburgers for kids. They stuff plastic eggs with candy and hide them over the grounds, someone dresses up as the Easter Bunny, and they also sponsor face painting.

 Haunted houses and Easter egg hunts are all well and good, but what about the noise?  Killeen says that, “on weekends, one member of fraternity is assigned to monitor the noise level at various points at the night,” and that there are rarely problems with the fraternity. 

I asked her if she thought the students’ membership in a fraternity makes a difference in their community interactions.  “Yes,” she said, “because they feel a responsibility to the neighborhood.  They understand that it’s a nice neighborhood.  We invite them to our Christmas caroling party, but they’ve usually all gone back home.” 

Killeen understands “how fortunate we are” to have the students in the neighborhood.   It seems to me that everyone involved is fortunate: the fraternity, for having the ability to be a part of an active and healthy neighborhood group; the rest of the neighbors, for having fraternity members who have taken on an active and positive role in their neighborhood; and the city, for having such a great example of student-neighbor relations.