Ballantrae community’s holiday tradition solidifies neighborhood strength

This year, the annual Ballantrae Ball holiday party drew 148 people from across the South Suburbs, including local, state and federal legislators, to an elegant affair on Nov. 30 at Idlewild Country Club. 

Nearly 150 people attended this year's Ballantrae Ball. The annual event is held by members of Flossmoor's Ballantrae community.  Provided photo
  Nearly 150 attendees enjoyed dinner and dancing at
  this year's Ballantrae Ball, an annual event put on by
  members of Flossmoor's Ballantrae community.
  
(Provided photo)
 

 

Each year, guests enjoy a delicious meal and live entertainment against a festive backdrop. It’s the perfect introduction to the holiday season, but Ballantrae resident and Flossmoor Trustee Diane Williams says the annual ball is more than a neighborhood party.
 

The gala is part of a strategy to keep the community of Ballantrae strong. Ballantrae is located just east of Crawford Avenue in Flossmoor’s southwest corner. 
 

“When neighbors know each other — when they work together for the common good of the community —  that community is stronger,” Williams said. “When people live next door, say hello, but never know the name of the person next door, those neighborhoods aren’t strong because those neighbors don’t know the habits of the people next door, and therefore don’t respond when something is out of the ordinary.”
 

Williams speaks from experience.  

 

  Wearing a flowy blue dress, U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.),
  dances at the Ballantrae Ball on Nov. 30 at Idlewild
  Country Club. Kelly, who represents Flossmoor as part
  of the 2nd District, has attended every Ballantrae Ball
  since 2002. 
(Provided photo)
 

“Before my mom died, she lived with me. There were a number of times that my neighbors knocked on our door to check on her. One time when they got no response, they called me. In that instance, my mom had fallen, and we were able to get the Flossmoor Fire Department out to the house even though I wasn’t there,” she said.
 

“Knowing our neighbors and their habits, allows us to protect ourselves. The Ballantrae Ball is an extension of that in that it gives us the chance to remember we are a community of people who care about each other.”
 

Williams links these defining values back to a timeless African proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child.” 
 

“Yes, we live in the village of Flossmoor, but Ballantrae is our own village. We believe that we have a responsibility to each other. When one of us talks about what’s going on with our children, that is everyone’s child. I don’t think there are enough neighborhoods today that are that way,” she said.
 

One Ballantrae resident the entire community claims is Juanita Mitchell, who will turn 107 on Dec. 15.
 

“Mrs. Mitchell is just a phenomenal woman. She has helped, mothered and sort of coached so many people, and I think that deserves to be honored,” Williams said.
 

Ballantrae Homeowner’s Association Board President Arnold Crater led the committee that planned the annual gala, where Mitchell was serenaded on the dance floor.

 

“Miss Juanita reaching this milestone is a unique and historic blessing,” Crater said. “She deserves the respect of everyone who is lucky enough to know her.’’
 

  Longtime Ballantrae resident Juanita Mitchell (seated),
  who celebrates her 107 birthday on Dec. 15, was
  honored at the annual ball. Mitchell is joined in part by
  her daughter, Mary Muse, standing behind her, along
  with Ballantrae Homewood Association president Arnold
  Crater (at right) and Flossmoor Trustee Diane Williams
  (second from right). 
(Provided photo)
 

Among those celebrating Mitchell was U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, who represents Flossmoor and other suburban communities, as well as sections of Chicago, in the 2nd Congressional District. She has been attending the Ballantrae holiday party since 2002.
 

“It’s just a way to celebrate with my constituents, and it’s a good feeling when you see neighborhoods working together — that keeps your communities stable and it keeps your communities safe,” Kelly said. “The people in Flossmoor and in Ballantrae have been super supportive of me, and I want to show some love back.”
 

Investing in the neighborhood is at the heart of Ballantrae, Williams said. 
 

“We are a community of people who think broadly, care deeply and are not afraid to put work in to make things good,” she said. “The ball helps to remind us of how wonderful our community is.”
 

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