Last week, community members, law enforcement, friends and family honored neighborhood legend and longtime director of the Logan Square Boys & Girls Club, John Stephan, who passed away at age 69 last winter. Stephan, who had been with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago for over 50 years, dedicated his life to helping troubled teens in Logan Square and cross the city.
The June 14 event was held at the new club headquarters (2102 W. Monroe St.) and brought a large crowd to remember Stephan and honor his legacy with youth in the community. Officers from the 14th district raised a flag in his honor and the Boys & Girls Club of Chicago named a flag pole and monument in his name.
“For over five decades, John Stephan was a beloved member and leader of Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago,” Mimi LeClair, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago, told LoganSquarist. “A career Club professional, John dedicated his entire life to the service of the children of our city and the things they needed to be safe and happy.”
Stephan was a father figure to many youth at the Logan Square Club and helped the community by making it a safer place for the Club kids and teens to live their lives, she said. Stephan took the lead for the Boys & Girls Clubs to become involved in gang prevention and intervention programs. With decades of experience working with high risk youth, he has assisted hundreds of youth in changing their lives.
At the Logan Square Club, which is now closed, he worked with the staff to create the United Peace Zone Coalition, working with gang leadership—some of which were in the prison system—to develop a neutral zone one-quarter mile around the club. This allowed all youth, including those of high risk, to participate in programs and activities. He also partnered with the ALSO and Cease Fire in bringing additional gang intervention services to the greater Logan Square community.
Maria Vargas, a long-time parent from the Logan Square Club, spoke at the ceremony and said her son attended Logan Square for years, thriving under Stephan’s mentorship.
Photos: Tom Vlodek
“One of John’s talents was identifying each child’s inner potential. He saw what many others couldn’t and made sure he pushed each child to develop that potential,” Vargas told LoganSquarist. “He made sure he pushed the kids beyond their comfort zones and their own limits to achieve their potential. My three kids were no exception.”
She said he also pushed the parents to be the best version of themselves and was always there for them, even when times were tough. He pushed her to be a better parent, she said.
“He became the dad, the grandfather, and the mentor that I never had,” she said. “John put everyone before himself. After my own surgery this past January, he kept calling to tell me he would visit. And when he did, I noticed he wasn’t feeling well, and yet here he was, in pain, and asking me how I felt.”
In addition to his gang prevention work, Stephan was also instrumental in developing many new programs and initiatives for the Clubs like the National Keystone Club program, a leadership and community service teen group. He served on several national and regional steering committees, developing Keystone conferences and on the National Keystone Advisory Committee, where he assisted in guiding the program to one serving over 1,000 Keystone Clubs nationwide.
Even though the local community lost a dedicated mentor and a physical place to be safe, parents, mentees and friends will remember Stephan’s efforts and continue to practice what he preached for so long.
Featured photo: Maria Vargas with President and CEO Mimi LeClair. Photo: Tom Vlodek