BERWYN – Ann Mackin’s journey to establish the North Berwyn Park District began when her husband passed away and she decided she could not simply sit around and knit all day. So Mackin took to the streets and circulated a petition.
“I always tell people don’t give me a microphone because I don’t have much to say, I’m too busy doing things,” Mackin said. “I couldn’t be one of those women who sits around knitting all day – my knitting is not very good anyways – but I just always have to be doing things and starting the park district, serving on the board, all of those things give me something to do.”
Mackin, the longest-serving park district board member in Illinois, has been a Berwyn resident since 1951 and helped found the park district. She has served on the Board of Commissioners since 1976 and has been president for 12 years. She also has worked to establish additional resources for the Berwyn community.
Mackin said people on the board should not express political interests. Instead, they should express human interests. She said she always encourages others to get involved in the community and, if someone is interested in having something new come about, Mackin is always willing to listen.
“She is definitely a supporter of all of the ideas that we come up with, so in reality, if she said ‘no’ or ‘I think this could be better,’ we wouldn’t be doing them,” said Joe Vallez, director of the North Berwyn Park District. “So, from that perspective, she is involved in everything we do.”
Vallez has worked with Mackin for 18 years and said he believes her impact is deeper than even she knows. Vallez said Mackin has brought a stability to the community and that residents and board members have a trust and respect for her.
Recent honors given to Mackin include the 34th Annual Charles E. Piper Award and having Jan. 22 officially named Ann Mackin Day in Berwyn by Mayor Robert Lovero at a City Council meeting.
The Charles E. Piper Award is given by the Berwyn Development Corp., and the winner is selected from a number of nominees given by the community.
Erika Corona-Owens, division director of chamber services for the corporation, said the award is given to an outstanding businessperson in the community who contributes to the greater success of Berwyn.
“She was a trailblazer,” Corona-Owens said. “She identified a need and the North Berwyn Park District began, and she’s been doing that ever since. She’s pretty progressive and stood out among our nominees.”
Mackin said she likes to be known in the community as the “Lady in the Hat” because she is always seen wearing a hat and residents are eager to approach her with questions. She said one of the things she is most proud of, aside from beginning the park district, is the new pool the district has named in her honor.
Looking ahead, Mackin said she hopes to build an indoor playground for the children in the community to have a safe space to play in during the winter months.
“I just look to see what people are complaining about or wanting and if enough people want it, we can try to make it happen,” Mackin said. “My ambition is to give everyone what they want because, really, everyone deserves something more than what’s outside their front door.”
The park board on Feb. 19 will recognize Mackin with a brief ceremony and video in her honor at City Hall.