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Jeff Vorva's Editor's Notebook: Although I wish we didn’t need it, Crisis Center turns 35

jeff column

There’s something about Mary’s story that brought
out some emotions on Friday night – including those of Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar.
The Crisis Center of South Suburbia celebrated its 35th anniversary with a bash at Parmesans Station in Tinley Park and among those on the guest list were Tokar and worth Mayor Mary Werner.
During a presentation, a video was shown about a woman they called Mary (last names are not used at the CC) who was abused and how her life was turned around for the good thanks to the Crisis Center.
“Something like that can reduce you to tears,” Tokar said. PAGE-3-3-col-with-jvcolThere was a lot of yelling going on at the last Worth board meeting regarding the police and village’s handling of Brittany Wawrzyniak’s death. Whether people supporting Brittany’s family will show up to Tuesday’s meeting is unknown. Photo by Jeff Vorva.
The video was only about five minutes long but it was powerful and inspiring. When it was over, Mary was presented with flowers and more eyeballs moistened. Tokar was moved to walk over and meet Mary and tell her of his admiration for her bravery.
The Crisis Center’s beginnings came about in this area. It started in Palos Park by Dianne Masters and spent some time being housed at a farm at Moraine Valley in Palos Hills before moving to its current digs in 1991.
Officials say they have helped more than 55,000 people over the years and currently have a staff of 40 people and 250 volunteers. One of those volunteers is Palos Park’s Barbara Najib, who has been with the organization 34 out of the 35 years.
“I saw a little squib in the paper about volunteering and I thought it was be a good way to give back to the community,” said Najib, a former court reporter in Chicago. “They started in the Community Center in Palos Park for a few years and then moved to Moraine.

“I’m not amazed it has lasted this long but I am amazed how much it has grown and evolved over the years and all of the programs that they have added. The new facility, well, it’s not new anymore, but it is very good. It’s wonderful.’’
Newspaper columnist Phil Kadner was the guest speaker and he shed some historical light for someone like me who didn’t know the Center’s whole background. The center met with some resistance. Apparently back in the day, some people thought it was OK to beat the old lady around and abuse the kids.
“What these people were saying was ‘we don’t want to stop men from battering women,’ ’’ he said. “It’s hard to believe anyone would say that. Fortunately a lot of angels – people who didn’t have anything to do with the Crisis Center – responded by the hundreds and became champions of the cause.”
The Crisis Center is needed but it’s a shame it’s needed. Another longtime volunteer, Marlene Long, said it best.
“Everybody wishes we could be pushed out of business,” she said. “But I don’t think that’s ever going to happen.’’
For photos of the event, please see Page 4.

Let’s end the name calling
Friends and family of the late Brittany Wawrzyniak spit some of their bile out during an April 1 Worth village board meeting.
That included some outbursts with some swearing and name calling directed at Werner and the police force about the handling of the teen’s death and the lack of respect that they say has been shown to the family.
After about an hour listening to the loud complaints, Werner called for a recess and during that time Brittany’s father, Patrick, urged supporters to show up to the next board meeting on Tuesday and one supporter shouted “Let’s block 111th Street!” shouted one supporter from the crowd. “Let’s shut it down!”
Since then, Worth police made another arrest in the case and close family members think it was a ploy just to appease them.
They aren’t really appeased.
They still plan to stop by on Tuesday and have a chat with Werner and the board.
The first meeting was moved from Village Hall to the gymnasium of the Christensen Terrace Centre, 115th Street and Beloit Avenue, to accommodate the 200 or so people who attended the last meeting.
Close family members said they wanted to present their case in a firm but classy manner and didn’t like hearing some of the outbursts and name calling. I didn’t like it either but I can understand the rage and frustration and raw emotions and I’m glad the board and police decided not to react.
This Tuesday, the family is hoping to present some new complaints and not to repeat the same arguments from last time. It’s probably not going to be a happy-happy-joy-joy give-and-take session by any means but the plan is for less of a crowd and more civil conversation.
If anyone from Team Brittany decides to come to the next meeting or subsequent meetings after that, let’s hope that cooler heads will prevail and that decorum is preserved.