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Chicago Lions Club to provide services for families at RidgeFest

  • Written by Dermot Connolly


The new Chicago Ridge Lions Club will have a big presence on Sunday at RidgeFest, which begins today in Freedom Park at Birmingham Avenue and Oak Street.

Sunday is Family Day for the 27th Annual Ridgefest, when Chicago Ridge residents are admitted free. So Bill Lammel, founding president of the chapter, said it was decided that would be the best day to offer hearing and vision services.

“We’re working with the Lions Club of Illinois Foundation, and we’ll be offering hearing tests for adults and seniors on a bus parked outside the entrance to the fest on Birmingham Avenue from 3 to 5 p.m.,” he explained. “No appointment necessary. All they have to do is fill out a release and get a hearing screening.”

Also on Sunday, along with the carnival rides, petting zoo, musical entertainment, bingo and other attractions, the Lions Club will have a booth inside the fest offering free vouchers worth $250. “They are good for an eye exam and a pair of glasses,” said Lammel, adding that the vouchers are available through a partnership with VSP Global. “We were hoping to get the vision testing done at the fest too, but we couldn’t have both a vision and hearing bus at the same event.”

Lammel said that his chapter, which was only founded last October, is also planning to partner with the Orland Park Lions Club to host a local vision screening for children ages 6 months to 6 years, using a new tool the Orland Park chapter recently bought. He explained that the new vision screening tool is able to check children for astigmatism and other correctable vision conditions.

“They don’t make a diagnosis. But they will just advise parents to see an eye doctor,” he noted.

Lammel said that the testing and vouchers are available to everyone on a first-come, first served basis, not just Chicago Ridge residents.

The chapter president, a 30-year resident of Chicago Ridge, is a special education teacher in Orland School District 135. He said he decided to start the Lions Club chapter to help community residents after getting somewhat involved in the 2015 local elections.

“A lot of craziness in the last election,” said Lammel, referring to the campaign in which insurance benefits for past and present trustees became one of the most divisive local issues.

“I wanted to see if I could bring people together across town and make Chicago Ridge a place where people want to come to visit and live in peacefully,” he said.

“I’m not getting involved in politics again,” he said.

The new Lions Club was officially founded last October with 45 charter members,

“We’ve added one more member since then, so we are up to 46 now,” Lammel noted.

The new chapter’s first activity held last spring was handing out the same type of vouchers being made available at RidgeFest to qualified students at Ridge Central and Ridge Lawn elementary schools, and Finley Junior High School. They did the same at a senior club meeting.

More recently, as summer was starting last month, the Lions Club also brought residents together for a local beautification project in which they fill planters along Ridgeland Avenue with flowers and greenery.

“Our current members range in age from their 30s to their 60s. We are always looking for more,” said Lammel. The minimum age for Lions Club membership is 18.

He said anyone interested in joining the Chicago Ridge Lions Club may come to a meeting, which are held at 6:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of every month at Ridge Lawn School, 5757 W. 105th St. Those seeking more information may also call him at (708) 289-3438.

Worth’s history is on display behind park district doors

  • Written by Joe Boyle

Worth residents can view a sewing machine from a century ago, clothes from the early 1900s and old typewriters from 1910, and a replica of the village’s post office and general store.

All these relics can be found at the Worth Historical Museum, located at the Worth Park District Terrace Center, 11500 S. Beloit Ave.

The museum was first opened in 1995. Chuck Templin said initially the museum was a combination of items that developed over the years. Templin, whose grandfather, Perry Bishop, was the first owner of Bishop’s Store, said Colleen McElroy has updated the museum over the years.

“It was all Colleen’s idea,” said Templin. “It’s really nice. Our family donated a few items and they did a great job on the Worth Post Office and Bishop’s Store. Colleen knows the history and can tell you a lot about how the town developed.”

McElroy, who was not available for an interview, serves as the museum’s curator and can often be found at the museum in the middle of the week. Templin had lived in Worth for many years before leaving in the mid-1970s.

He was present at the re-dedication of the museum and was impressed with the replica of the Worth Post Office and Bishop’s Store.

“They got a pot belly stove where a lot of people would gather around and hold court, so to speak,” said Templin. “The store was kind of a center where people would talk about what was going on. It was the center of the town.”

Like many older stores dating back to the early 1900s, the post office could be found in Bishop’s Store, which opened for the first time in 1880, according to Templin. The store was located at 111th and Depot along a dirt street.

“My family lived up over the store,” said Templin. “A stable could be found next door along with a blacksmith.”

Templin’s father, Vernon W. Templin, served as a village president for Worth in the 1960s. He said that his father helped prevent state transportation officials from having the interstate go through 111th Street. He and other local officials were able to persuade state officials to have the interstate entrance and exits go through 95th Street.

“My father and others knew that having the interstate go through 111th Street would have ripped Worth apart,” said Templin.

Visitors to the museum will also see a treadle sewing machine from about 1910. The sewing machine belonged to a Mrs. Anthony Zygmunt. Information provided at the museum stated that she used the device to mend torn sequins and raised or lowered skirts, depending on the fashions of the time.

Palmer’s Ice Cream stood at 111th and Deport dating back to 1904. First Methodist Church opened in 1880, about the same time Bishop’s Store came into existence. Information on the church at 7111 W. 111th St. can be found at the museum.

Photos of the first village board from August 1914 are also present at the museum. A photo of George Plahm, from one of the pioneer families of Worth, appears in the museum. He was born in 1902 in Worth and served as a clerk for 27 years. He was instrumental in the Worth Lions Club, the fire department and other civic organizations.

A rundown of the history of the Worth Race Track is also available at the museum. The race track was built along Ridgeland and Central avenues, 111th to 115th streets. The state gaming board closed the track in 1905. It was converted into a stockade for sheep and dogs for a time. The ground was consecrated by the Chicago Archdiocese on July 4, 1923 and later became Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.

John and Jane Crandall became the first permanent settlers in Worth, dating back to land purchased in 1858. The Crandalls promoted expansion of the village into subdivisions and encouraged settlement. They donated land for the Worth School at 111th and Oak Park Avenue and provided land for the Wabash Railroad in 1880, according to information provided at the museum.

Tenplin said the moniker for the town, “The Friendly Village,” was a fitting label.

“Kids went out and had their own fun,” he recalls. “They didn’t need TV.”

Lipinski addresses concerns at town hall

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

Local issues such as gun violence, airport noise and insurance costs, rather than political conventions, were on the minds of Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) and his audience at a recent town hall meeting in Oak Lawn.

Lipinski told about 60 people at Oak Lawn Community High School on July 19 that this was the lowest turnout at a town hall since he took office in 2005. But those who were there came from around the district, including Orland Park, Homer Glen, Oak Lawn, Burbank, Countryside and Chicago.

“Low attendance is why a lot of my colleagues don’t hold these any more, but I think it is important to hear from residents in person,” said Lipinski.

Hot weather and the Republican convention on TV may have kept some at home, but Lipinski said fewer people approach him anywhere to ask questions or share concerns.

“I get the sense that people have given up on seeing any change (in Washington gridlock). There is no trust in either party getting anything done.”

“I share that frustration. I’m a Democrat. But I think my first responsibility is to represent all my constituents and make the district and the country better,” said Lipinski.

He confirmed that he was a Bernie Sanders superdelegate in the presidential election, explaining that all Democratic congressmen are superdelegates, able to vote for whomever they want at the convention. But the congressman said he wasn’t going to the Democratic National Convention this week in Philadelphia.

“If it was a contested convention, I would vote for Sanders because he won the primary in the 3rd District. But there is no need now that Hillary Clinton has enough elected delegates, and Sanders endorsed her,” he said.

“Nothing happens at conventions now. It is all show for TV. If you are on the floor, it is very hard to even hear what is being shown on TV,” he added, speaking before the release of leaked emails allegedly showing the Democratic National Committee was supporting Clinton behind the scenes.

When the issue of gun control was raised, Lipinski said he supported increasing background checks for gun buyers following the mass shooting in Orlando.

“Forty percent of guns are sold at places like gun shows, where there are no background checks,” he said. “There are also no federal laws against straw purchases,” he noted, referring to the sale of legally purchased guns to unknown third parties. He said “truckloads” of legally purchased guns are brought across the country, to places like Chicago, for sale on the streets.

Lipinski said he was “very torn” about the sit-in involving House Democrats to bring gun-control legislation to the floor following the Orlando massacre, and didn’t participate.

“I agreed with the proposed ‘no fly-no buy’ legislation preventing people on no-fly lists from buying guns, but some of the congressmen were involved in things that I felt weren’t helpful. It brought attention to issues but there was no way it would have been brought to the floor for a vote,” he said. Opponents sought to prevent only those “known to be planning a terrorist act” from buying weapons. “If we knew that, they would be in jail,” he said.

When asked about climate change, he said, “I believe climate change is important and something should be done about it. But we have to be careful not to affect manufacturing.” He said manufacturing jobs were key to improving the economy.

Lipinski stressed his opposition to the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, involving the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries. He said that like NAFTA and other trade agreements, it would hurt U.S. manufacturing jobs.

“Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have come out against TPP. My concern is after the election, they will ram it through. The administration will have to give a 30-day notice before bringing it up for a vote, and Congress will have 45 days to vote on it.”

He said one of his immediate goals is to pass “a big infrastructure bill,” to improve roads and bridges. He said infrastructure projects only accounted for six percent of the stimulus package approved to help the economy in 2008, and only “shovel-ready” projects were considered.

“The increases are ridiculous,” agreed Lipinski, when Manuel Papadopoulos of Oak Lawn asked for relief from health insurance premium costs. “If insurers come back with more than a 10 percent increase, regulators have to question it. But they can’t really stop them.”

He said that there is also nothing legally that, except for shaming them, can be done to stop insurance company officials from taking exorbitant bonuses while rates are raised.

“There are no pain-free solutions to the budget deficit. The answer isn’t just tax increases or spending cuts,” said Lipinski. He said the $11.9 trillion deficit did drop during the Obama administration due to economic improvements creating tax revenue.

“Economic growth in the 1990s got us to a balanced budget. But then there was 9/11, and the wars, and tax cuts were put in place,” he said.

On the refugee question, Lipinski said, “It’s a tough balance. I think we have an obligation to help people who are facing real danger. We’re not talking about economic refugees. But there are people who are really facing persecution.”

He said he did support legislation that would require the director of the FBI and two other top officials to sign off on any refugees allowed in, guaranteeing that they were properly “vetted.”

“But we haven’t had that many refugees come in, compared with Europe,” he noted.

Several people, from Chicago and Burbank, asked Lipinski for help with increased airport noise caused by new flight paths instituted by the FAA.

“They changed the flight patterns without looking at the impact on local communities,” he agreed. He noted that he co-sponsored HR 5075, the Airplane Impacts Mitigation Act of 2016, aimed at examining the health impacts of airplane overflights

Local mayors decry violence against police

  • Written by Joe Boyle

Two local mayors said they were distraught after a second series of shootings left three more police officers dead this past weekend.

Three police officers were shot and killed on Sunday in Baton Rouge, La., Sunday by a former Marine, Gavin Long, 29, of Kansas City, Mo. This comes after five police officers were shot and killed on July 7 in Dallas by U.S. Army Reserve veteran Micah Johnson, 25.

Both Long and Johnson were killed at the scene. Johnson reportedly said before his death that he wanted to kill white police officers. No explanations are available so far for Long’s actions. Johnson’s rampage was the result of the deaths of two black men after confrontations with police in suburban St. Paul, Min., and Baton Rouge. Both Johnson and Long were African American.

“Well, what happened is horrible,” said Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury. “In light of more of these shootings, we have to have more conversations. We just can’t keep going down this path.”

Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tovar was in complete agreement.

“There are no easy answers,” said Tovar. “Society has to take a long look at itself. This just can’t go on.”

Despite the second series of tragedies in less than two weeks, Bury received some positive feedback on Friday. The owner of Style 95 Barber Shop in Oak Lawn reached out to his friends in the Palestinian community on Facebook to raise funds for the families of the victims of the Dallas shootings.

Mahd "Mike" Jaser, owner of Style 95 Barber Shop, and members of the Palestinian community stopped by the Oak Lawn Village Hall on Friday to present Police Chief Mike Murray with $3,000 in donations and plaques for the families of the victims that were given to commemorate their "honor and bravery in the line of duty... Oak Lawn and the Palestinian American Community will always remember their dedicated service."

Murray said their comments were heartfelt and appreciated.

"We have to support those who protect us,” said Jaser. “We love this country and wanted to do something to help. We cannot bring these brave men back, but we hope this gesture of support will comfort their families and let our officers in Oak Lawn know that we stand with them."

“I was touched by that,” said Bury. “Our thanks go to the Palestinian community for their help.”

In nearby Chicago Ridge, police also have to patrol and respond to incidents at the Chicago Ridge Mall. With malls being targets for terrorism, the recent shootings of law enforcement officers make the job that more difficult for police.

“Obviously, they have to be more aware,” said Tokar. “The world is getting crazier and crazier. It’s gotten out of control. The police are more cognizant of all this. They are definitely more careful when they approach a suspect.”

Tokar did state that police officers in other communities should be equipped with tasers so they respond to some crime using these devices instead of guns.

“But of course in certain incidents when someone pulls out a rifle, what are the police to do? You don’t use tasers then,” responded Tokar.

The Chicago Ridge mayor said he went to a conference about eight weeks ago over mall security. He said that ideas were discussed and representatives from the Orland Park Mall were also in attendance.

“We have definitely stepped up and have added more security,” Tokar said about the Chicago Ridge Mall. “We have also been stepping up security for RidgeFest. I don’t want to say what that is, obviously. But the police presence will be felt.”

Bury said discussions take place frequently with members of the Oak Lawn Police Department to come up with better ideas of protecting citizen.

“It has to stop and we have to find a way,” said Bury. “We are all in this together. We really have to commit to this. Hate is not the answer.”

Oak Lawn panell gives its OK for medical facility

  • Written by Joe Boyle

The Oak Lawn Planning and Development Commission gave its approval Monday night for the Advocate Medical Group to build a medical facility at the vacant Beatty Lumber property site along 52nd Avenue in the village.

The commission approved the plan but only after residents and public officials raised some concerns about the proposed project during the three hour and 10 minute meeting. With the agreement, the plan will be on the agenda for a vote during the next Oak Lawn Village Board meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 9.

The medical facility would include offices for physicians, urgent care and a pharmacy. The facility would cover about three acres and will be located on the north and south side of 52nd Avenue and extend to Tulley Avenue. The medical building would extend north to 96th Street and south of the railroad tracks.

Devin McKeever, vice president for Shared and Support Operations for Advocate Medical Group, assured the large crowd that attended Monday’s meeting that the facility will provide the best of care and that specialists from Advocate Christ Medical will be on hand. AMG has viewed the location for some time after looking at the village’s 95th Street Corridor plans.

“Advocate has continued to grow and there is a need to expand,” said McKeever. “We can assure that people will have access to quality health care.”

The majority of residents and officials that attended the meeting Monday night and an informal neighborhood meeting hosted by Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury on Friday did not oppose plans for the medical facility. The major concern for residents was a possible increase in traffic. Another resident was concerned about privacy. He did not like the idea of windows facing his property that would allow people to look in.

“I have young children,” said David Gabriel.

AMG officials and Oak Lawn Village Manager Larry Deetjen said that it would not be a problem. If necessary, windows could be frosted. Lighting will also be lowered so it is not that bright for the residents who live in nearby homes, AMG representatives said.

“There is a lot of moving parts to this project,” said Deetjen, when questions about parking and traffic congestion were raised. “Advocate has been great and this would be a great addition to the area.”

During the neighborhood meeting on Friday, which also drew a large crowd, a variety of proposals for the project were brought up. An idea for townhomes was suggested and that brought mixed reviews. The idea of townhomes was initiated from local Realtors and members of the business community, according to Deetjen.

“As far as the townhomes go, my point is there will be a high concentration of people coming in,” said Kevin Ford, who lives near the proposed project. “I like the idea of the project without the townhomes.”

Jennifer Loughlin, who lives along Tulley Avenue, said on Friday that she prefers no townhomes.

“I think I need and deserve a buffer,” said Loughlin. “Right now it’s empty and it’s ugly. But at least I know my neighbors.”

Trustee Bob Streit (3rd) said on Monday that after considering the townhomes proposal, he would rather see more trees and landscaping.

“Is there a demand for these townhomes? I think it is a non-sell, in my opinion,” said Streit.

Bury said on Friday that the addition of Advocate would be a great for Oak Lawn.

"Anything would be an improvement," said Bury. "The traffic flow right now is terrible there. Right now these are preliminary plans.”

The facility would employ about 105 people and would be a boost for local businesses and restaurants, according to Deetjen. The two-story Advocate facility would be over 52,000-square feet and would be built on the east side of 52nd Street. Parking would be built on the east and west sides of the street, according to preliminary plans.

While a vote may be taken on the Advocate project at the Aug. 9 village board meeting, negotiations will have to take place with the Norfolk Southern Railroad, who opposes Advocate’s plans. Beatty Lumber has not been in operation since 2011. An attorney representing Norfolk said that the railroad needs access to the area and Narrow Street, which would be closed off if the project is approved.

Deetjen said that the remaining building along 52nd Avenue is dilapidated with weeds and homeless people occasionally taking up residence in the building. Deetjen added that the railroad has done nothing to improve the site.

Bury said that she knows residents have concerns and appreciates their input.

“Advocate will be good neighbors,” she said.