Twenty years have gone by, yet Berwyn resident Margo Ruark still recalls an incident involving burning crosses in Berwyn.
Viewed by many as a blazing sign of hostility, Ruark took it to mean a call for assistance to awaken the peace within the community of Berwyn. Her answer was opening The Peace Center, a facility that exudes harmony and acceptance for all in downtown Berwyn.
Peace is clearly a common denominator of the center, as the theme is echoed in its classes, workshops and items offered in its gift shop. Ruark, who serves as executive director, expressed her “radical idea” when it comes to peace.
“When more people experience peace from the inside, there’s more peace in the world and less war outside,” she says. Her 2-year-old not-for-profit center provides the tools one would need to experience peaceful living.
Ruark originally opened her facility as a gift shop, selling incense, jewelry, figurines and books and CDs relating to peaceful living, before her shop became more widely known, and she began to focus on offering regular classes and workshops.
“I’ve been a minister since 2002, and I didn’t want to do ‘church’ in a conventional sense,” she says of the center. Instead, she wanted to teach peace and build the community across all lines — cultural, denominational, etc.
“I think there should be a peace center in every community,” she says.
As part of Peace Centers International, Inc., a new social venture, Ruark says she currently has a network going for other peace centers around the world, which she calls a “social franchise.” She aids in providing other peace centers direction in how to operate.
Classes and workshops at the Peace Center in Berwyn have included dream interpreting; love, intimacy and relationship advice; mastermind groups; plus regular meet-ups for movie nights, meditation and a 12-step program for co-dependents.
“We’re still in the process of learning what Berwyn likes,” she says. “We have a broad appeal to bring what’s relevant to not only Berwyn residents, but also people from other (area) communities.”
Since opening, Ruark has created the Pace (meaning “peace” in Italian) People Dance Company and started a campaign last year to uplift the community called Embrace Berwyn. The campaign showcased local artists, speakers and T-shirts, all in an effort to raise awareness of the violence in Berwyn. “I think it’s always good to embrace the town you’re from,” she says.
Mike Grygleski of Naperville hasn’t visited the Peace Center too many times because of his distance from the facility. But he continues to return for the workshops. “They help with personal development,” he says. “It’s something to check out.”
Patty Anne of Hoffman Estates visits the Peace Center once a week to see what’s new at the shop. Owning the shop Exquisite Revisit, a block down the street, makes her travels a breeze.
“It’s convenient for me, and there’s a peaceful energy here,” Anne says of the center. “Margo is great and is such a draw. She’s the magnet.”
Ruark gets constant positive comments on the vibe of the center — in fact, that’s frequently the term used to describe the place.
“I think its that vibe of openness and community they feel,” Ruark says. “This is a space where the community can come together.”