All of us who live near the Fox River know what a jewel it is for our communities. Our latest Go West Mom You Should Know is part of a group trying — as she puts it — to create a “family-friendly, environmentally-friendly and fiscally responsible riverfront for North Aurora.”
Julie Simpson is chairman of the North Aurora River District Alliance, a non-profit organization. Simpson, 39, has lived in North Aurora for 11 years and is a former president of the North Aurora Mothers Club. She also works part-time at her children’s school; her son is 7 and her daughter is 5. She and her husband Doug have been a couple since right after high school; he is a firefighter and paramedic.
Read on to find out more about Simpson, as well as a totally cool water feature that’s being added to North Aurora’s riverfront; your kids are going to love it!
Q. How did you first get involved with the North Aurora River District Alliance? Can you tell me a bit about the organization and what you like most about it?
A. I became involved with NOARDA when it was called the Riverfront Committee in 2008. At that time a small group was reviewing a viability study and master design plan that had recently been completed through a Kane County Forest Preserve grant the village had received. I was asked to join the committee based on my interest in the riverfront and role as president of the North Aurora Mothers Club. After a few months we determined that a non-profit organization would be able to raise funds, seek private grants and advocate for projects as an ongoing entity. When the 501c3 was created in 2009, I was appointed by Mayor Dale Berman to serve as Chairman of the organization.
What I like most about serving on NOARDA’s board is the breadth of experiences we’ve had while striving to create a family-friendly, environmentally-friendly and fiscally responsible riverfront for North Aurora. From event planning to grant writing and navigating local government we are learning something new every step of the way!
Q. What is your ultimate goal for NOARDA? Do you have a dream project in mind?
A. Our vision states, “The Fox River is a defining Village attribute that will be a dynamic, lively and attractive public gathering space connecting its history, environment, culture and economy in a unique and exciting way for the enjoyment of the entire community.” We want the riverfront to provide a recognized destination spot for North Aurora and we encourage everyone to “Get Back to the ‘front.”
Our dream projects are improved pedestrian access including an east-west bridge and a new community center. In addition we hope that as the economy improves local developers will be intrigued by our efforts and the uniqueness of this area as a viable economic opportunity.
We are excited that NOARDA’s first major project will be completed this spring. Water Wonders, a 125 foot, interactive, pondless stream, will be constructed by local business Aquascape Inc. next month! The project is funded through a Kane County Riverboat Grant, the Fox Valley Park District, a generous North Aurora Mothers Club donation and NOARDA’s fundraising efforts. It is going to be a unique attraction that marries the importance of conserving water and appreciating natural resources in a dynamic, recreational environment. In kid-speak: Splash, climb and explore!
Q. Do people need to live in North Aurora to work with the NOARDA?
A. No, you don’t have to live in North Aurora to join our efforts; we welcome anyone who is interested in bringing riverfront improvements to our area! We work with a variety of people and organizations on our large-scale events. For example, Batavia resident Michelle Boyd of Good Gracious Cakes is working with us to expand and improve our upcoming “That Takes the Cake” Show and Competition to be held at Water Street Studios on April 22, 2012. Local organizations such as The Conservation Foundation of Naperville have taken an interest in our efforts; we build partnerships to advocate and promote the good work our groups are doing.
Q. How can Go West readers support the work of NOARDA?
A. Go West Readers can support our efforts in a variety of ways. First, getting the word out to the community that we are an active, forward-moving organization will help us build recognition of our efforts. Attending, sponsoring and supporting any of our events will allow us to continue to fundraise for new projects. We will have a grand opening for Water Wonders in late spring.
Other upcoming events include the Cake Show and the family activities, including a duck race fundraiser, held after the North Aurora Mothers Club’s Community Parade. (To be held June 3, 2012) In the summer we are the main beneficiary of The Eagles Run, a beautiful 5K/10K race to be held at Mooseheart on August 4, 2012, during North Aurora Days. Kerri Branson, a North Aurora resident, serves as the race director and has invigorated a fabulous run. There are many ways people can get involved; we are always looking for individuals with talents in landscape architecture, accounting and other expertise to work with us. We want people to know we welcome your involvement for one hour, one day, one year or more!
Q. Can you tell me a bit about your children — their personalities and interests?
A. Our two children bring us great joy … They both have a positive outlook and are great students Our son is a kind and thoughtful boy with a great sense of humor. He enjoys reading, baseball and Cub Scouts. His current “claim to fame” is being able to name all the presidents in order and knowing lots of facts about them; he is confident when presenting in front of groups so we are encouraging him to share this gift when possible.
Our daughter has always known exactly who she is and what she wants; I believe this will serve her well as she grows up. She is clever and surprises you with her humor. She enjoys swimming, gymnastics and loves school. Since she was three years old she loves doing her ‘paperwork’. She also loves cooking and baking; being a bit of a picky eater she doesn’t always eat what she prepares. We’re working on that!
Q. How do you describe your parenting style?
A. I can’t say I have a specific style, but my sister tells me she thinks I have a strong instinct when it comes to relating with my children. I have tried to believe that and do my best every day; some days are better than others! I intentionally talk with them and explore their personalities, interests, strengths and challenges to give each of them opportunities to grow. We set boundaries and have tried to create a ‘safe house’ where we are respectful of each other and anyone who enters. For our children, Doug and I hope we are good role models for serving others and having a strong marriage. We are actively involved at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Aurora; I love seeing how comfortable our children are there.
We also set family and individual goals, like traveling to all 50 states through the years and going to the top of the Willis Tower in 2012. It’s not so much that it has to happen, but setting the goal gives us a bit more incentive to achieve it.
I also seek advice and read about parenting from others. I loved being a member of MOPS in Aurora and for the past few years I have attended the Hearts at Home Conference with friends to have some ‘me’ time, learn and reflect on my parenting. My sister in-law is a great source for advice and as an example. Knowing someone with slightly older children and a parenting style I admire has really helped me when I encounter a new situation or just need to confirm a stage isn’t unique to my child. Reading some of the other ‘Go West Moms’ has given me new ideas and activities to try!
Q. What do you like most about living in North Aurora?
A. I love living in North Aurora. It is a close-knit, active and engaged community with many residents working together to provide fun activities for families throughout the year. North Aurora and our riverfront are hidden gems in the Fox Valley. My family moved a lot when I grew up, but my husband and I are both from Naperville so some of our family members aren’t too far away. It has been wonderful to create roots and develop strong friendships in this area.
Q. Is there anything else you’d like to add that I didn’t ask here?
A. I couldn’t talk this much about NOARDA without mentioning my partner in crime, Jennifer Duncan, NOARDA’s vice chairman. She is an amazing and generous woman who works incredibly hard for our community and the environment; I am so grateful to know her! NOARDA is a small organization and our board puts a lot of our personal time into this effort. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and we’re motivated by many others in the village who do the same for other events and causes.
If you are interested in learning more about NOARDA please visit noarda.org; we also have a Facebook page. The North Aurora Mothers Club is a wonderful 501c3 organization that generously supports our community through philanthropic and fundraising activities. We also offer wonderful social opportunities for women and their families; website is northauroramothersclub.org.
Also, my newest adventure is expanding on my passion for family finance. I speak to moms’ groups about this topic and I am developing a new blog/financial counseling business to provide a resource for families who are trying to make sense of their money.
Editor’s Note: Do you know of a great candidate for the “Go West Mom You Should Know” feature? Tell us about her!