Mayor Sexton details new community center in 'State of the Village' address

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins


Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton had encouraging news for residents and cited new businesses, solid financial standing and potential new restaurants when he delivered his 17th "State of the Village" address.

But he saved the best news until last.

“Let’s look at the future,” said Sexton, speaking at the Evergreen Park Seniors Luncheon at the Senior Center last Thursday. “I am very excited about what is coming. We are going to build a new community center, approximately 10,000 square feet larger than the current facility,” he said, excitedly. “It will be twice the size of what we have now.”

The current center is located at 3450 W. 97th St. The new building will be set back further from the street at 3443 W. Clark St. Sexton said it will provide additional daycare space for various age groups in the youth wing and plenty of room for other youth activities.

Construction is expected to start in January or February with an anticipated completion date in November 2018. Sexton said the current building will continue to be used until the new center is completed and occupied.

“There may be some bumps in the road along the way, but I think you all deserve this; our seniors and our young people,” he said. “It is a win-win for all of us.”

He stated that the funding for the new center is coming from state money and sales tax revenue.

“It will not be coming out of taxpayer’s money.”

Architect for the project is Craig A. Podlak, who also designed the senior center, the village’s fire station and the village hall. Sexton said the senior center will remain open.

As he mentioned the new businesses opening up at the new Plaza, Sexton gave a huge shout-out to TJ Maxx for its donation of $10,000 to the village food pantry.

“That is being a good neighbor,” said Sexton.

On a more somber note, Sexton said there has been a rash of car-jackings recently.

“Do not leave your car running to warm it up,” he told the seniors. “It is better to have a cold car, than no car.”

He also praised the village’s police department for its national record on its three-minute response time.

“Don’t be afraid to call 911. If you have a problem, or you see something going on that doesn’t look right, call the police. Our police are there to help you. They can do vacation watches and funeral and wake watches. Just call them,” Sexton said.

Durkin getting hit from multiple sides

  • Written by Rich Miller


Operating Engineers Union Local 150 is making good on its threat to back a Republican primary opponent against House Republican Leader Jim Durkin.

The union local’s president, Jim Sweeney, told me he had about a dozen members in Durkin’s district passing nominating petitions for Burr Ridge Mayor Mickey Straub a couple of weekends ago. Straub is running against Durkin as a Republican. Sweeney said he expected to double that number the following weekend.

Challenging a legislative leader in a primary is just not done. But these are not normal times.

Local 150 led the fight against Bruce Rauner in the 2014 Republican primary and then backed a Libertarian Party candidate against him that fall.

The union’s leadership has fumed as Rauner has pushed his anti-union agenda, and now wants some payback on Durkin for helping to kill their bill to ban the creation of “right to work” zones by local governments. The governor vetoed the bill and the union tried twice to override Rauner without success, mainly because Durkin was able to keep his caucus together.

Since the union blames Durkin, they’ll ally themselves with anybody, including Republican activist Dan Proft, if they have to. Proft is backing Straub against Durkin, who he claims isn’t fit to be Leader. But Proft is not exactly known for being a big union supporter.

In fact, according to the Daily Law Bulletin, Proft co-founded the Liberty Justice Center, which, irony of ironies, is representing Lincolnshire against a lawsuit backed by Local 150 over the village’s creation of a local right to work zone – the very event that Local 150’s vetoed bill tried to outlaw. Don’t even try to wrap your mind around all that. You'll go nuts. This fight is beyond ideology. Sweeney and Proft have a common cause -- messing with Durkin - and they’re sticking with that.

Leader Durkin, for his part, took the diplomatic high road, releasing a statement saying, “Our caucus has worked with Local 150 in the past and will continue to work with them, where we can, in the future.”

And, indeed, Local 150 recently sent a mailer praising Rep. Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro) for her vote to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of the union’s right to work zone ban.

But you gotta figure Leader Durkin had to be gritting his teeth when he approved that statement. A primary race is a lot like a family fight. And even though Local 150 has a ton of Republican members and has supported Republican candidates in the past, its involvement is undoubtedly seen as outside meddling. The fact that Sweeney lives in Speaker Madigan’s district probably doesn’t help matters much.

The race is already starting to heat up. One of Proft’s newspapers, the West Cook News, published a story a few days ago about Durkin’s law practice, connecting the Leader’s bond work for the City of Berwyn to legislation allowing local governments to tie bond payments directly to revenue they receive from the state. Durkin voted for the securitization legislation, which just recently helped the City of Chicago obtain a “AAA” credit rating on a bond sale. Critics contend the law will allow municipal governments to more easily go into ever-deeper debt and the paper ran a quote from someone calling Durkin’s vote a “horrible conflict of interest.”

The same publication ran another story about a Republican congressional candidate making fun of Durkin’s bill to set up a statewide sexual harassment hotline. “What does it say about Rep. Durkin and his colleagues whom he supposedly leads when he all but admits that an anonymous hotline is required?” said Jeffrey Leef, a River Forest radiologist who is running against U.S. Rep. Danny Davis and has supported a universal annual base salary of $30-40,000 (yes, you read that right). “The only submission that Jim Durkin should be making is my order of french fries when he takes his more-appropriate job of cashier at McDonald's.” Classy.

I’m thinking we’ll see more stuff like that, and not just in obscure publications, but in mailers and other advertising. A fundraising e-mail from September claims the Illinois Policy Institute’s John Tillman, along with the Illinois Opportunity Project’s Proft, Pat Hughes and Matt Besler had already raised $25 million toward a $30 million goal to elect “a ‘Reform Slate’ of candidates to run in House elections across the state to pick up the nine seats Republicans need to gain control of the House and depose Madigan once and for all.” They haven’t yet reported receiving that cash, however.

 Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and

Local Knights of Columbus provide meal for blind veterans

  • Written by Joe Boyle

knights of columbus 1-23 photo

Photo by Joe Boyle

The Knights of Columbus members (from left) Bob Speck, Ralph Villalovos and Mike Kenny enjoy the music before preparing food for blind veterans who arrived from Hines VA Hospital Sunday afternoon at the Jonathan Collins Activity Center at St. Gerald Parish in Oak Lawn.

John Goetz recalls going bowling with a friend on Chicago's South Side when it was suggested to him that he join the Knights of Columbus.

"I thought about it and said OK," Goetz said. "I thought I could help people out. That’s how I got started.”

That was back in 1961 and Goetz, 89, has held a variety of officer positions for the Knights of Columbus since, including a grand knight. He is currently the director for the Knights of Columbus Our Lady of Fatima Council 534 that meets at St. Gerald Parish in Oak Lawn.

Goetz is an Oak Lawn resident who has been a member of St. Gerald Parish since 1970. The organization has been involved in a variety of activities, but Goetz is most proud of the fact that they provide a Thanksgiving meal for blind veterans.

The Knights hosted the veterans on Sunday afternoon at the Jonathan Collins Activity Center at the parish. The veterans arrive at the parish by bus and are helped off and into the center by members of the Knights.

The veterans were given a chance to speak and many of them were from all over the Midwest. One veteran came from Red Wing, Minn., while another said that Minneapolis was home. Other veterans talked about their hometowns in Iowa, Green Bay and the South Side of Chicago. A World War II veteran from Watervliet, Iowa thanked the organization for having him over for a Thanksgiving meal.

Singer Roxanne Anzelone, who has appeared for several years at the annual event, entertained the veterans and members of the Knights of Columbus.

“I think it is nice because it is interesting to talk to these veterans,” said Bob Speck, a Burbank resident who has been a member of the Knights for three years. “It’s a great day and I think they really enjoy themselves.”

Ralph Villalovos, a Worth resident who has been a member for 17 years, is in complete agreement.

“We are like family here,” Villalovos said. “These are great guys here and I think the veterans who come here have a good time.”

Mike Kenny, also a Burbank resident, has been a member of this chapter for a year and said it is a great outfit.

“We have fun and the Knights of Columbus do a lot,” Kenny said.

The Knights of Columbus is the world's largest Catholic fraternal service organization. Founded by the Rev. Michael J. McGivney in New Haven, Conn. in 1882, it was named in honor of the explorer Christopher Columbus.

Goetz said the Knights have been providing Thanksgiving meals for blind veterans for 40 years. This is the third year the veterans have been served meals at St. Gerald. The local Knights also once had halls in Burbank and on 95th Street in Oak Lawn.

The veterans who arrive for Thanksgiving dinner are not all completely blind. Some veterans are missing some limbs from combat. The majority of the veteran that were on hand were enjoying themselves and preferred not to discuss their military service in depth. It was a day for them to relax and have a large dinner with desserts and refreshments. When they left for the day, they were presented with a bag of gifts.

“I remember how this all started,” said Goetz, who remains active and planned to attend another holiday meal event for veterans this week. “A guy by the name of Pat Sullivan, who was a member of the Oak Lawn Park District, asked if we could do anything for the blind vets. So, we began cooking turkeys and kept doing it every year.”

The Knights of Columbus Our Lady of Fatima Council dates back to 1952, Goetz said. He recalls visiting Hines to see the wing that has had been built for blind veterans. He was surprised at what he witnessed.

“I saw one of the blind veterans working on a carburetor,” Goetz said. “I said how could he do that? And then the staff told me that they do more than you think. It’s a good outfit over there. It’s a great thing they are doing for them over at Hines.”

The Knights meet at 8 p.m. the first Tuesday of the month at Ralph Arnold Hall at St. Gerald School, 9320 S. 55th Court. The Knights also meet at 7:15 p.m. the third Tuesday of the month at Arnold Hall. The council also includes members of St. Albert the Great Parish in Burbank, and the Oak Lawn parishes of St. Catherine of Alexandria and St. Linus.

Goetz said that chapter assists to help others. But the group also has social nights where they relax in a party setting. Goetz added that the organization is looking for new members since many in the group are getting older.

“A lot of the things we do have helped people,” Goetz said. “A lot of the money we get, we give to charity.”

Residents who are interested in joining the Knights or just want more information about the chapter can contact the Knights of Columbus Our Lady of Fatima, Post Office 534, Oak Lawn, IL 60454. Residents can also drop by the meetings that are held at Arnold Hall.

Pantry volunteers provide Thanksgiving meals for Evergreen Park residents in need

  • Written by Joe Boyle

While most families are preparing for their annual Thanksgiving Day meal, some local residents are finding it difficult to pay rent and mortgages let alone sit down for a holiday dinner.

But volunteers at the Evergreen Park Village Food Pantry do their best to lessen the load that these families carry. Mary Ann Diehl, who has served as the director of the village pantry for the past four years, said the need is greater at this time of the year.

“It’s mainly because of the holiday season it increases,” said Diehl, who was trained by Jolene Churak and became the director after she died. “We get a lot of help from schools, businesses, organizations and the Boy Scouts. The Evergreen Park Seniors always mention us at their meetings for people to donate. Local school districts are a great help along with the local parochial schools. It’s a real community effort.”

Residents and local organizations can drop off items from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays at the village pantry, which is located in the old Howatt Fire Station at 2700 W. 98th Place in Evergreen Park. Diehl said residents and community and business leaders can also drop off food from 2 to 4 p.m. on Fridays.

Diehl added that food items can be dropped off from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Evergreen Park Community Center, 3450 W 97th St.

But this past week, volunteers worked to collect canned goods and vegetables for Evergreen Park residents who are in need. Volunteers include Evergreen Park Trustee Carol Kyle, Gerald Lindquist and Rebecca Falzone, who on Friday afternoon were collecting turkeys, assorted canned goods, vegetables and cranberry sauce to provide Thanksgiving meals. Cathy Aparo serves at the vice president and Patrick Bagley is the treasurer.

“Many of these people come because they are suggested through some churches and some other organizations,” said Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton. “It has grown over the years and there is always a need out there. And it is probably more than ever because, well, that’s just the world we live in now.”

Despite a steady rain, vehicles lined up along Washtenaw Avenue that extended for two blocks waiting for turkeys and other food on Saturday morning. Volunteers would come to greet the motorists and reminded them to stay in their vehicles as they fulfill their requests. Volunteers then bring the food and open the back seat to place the items. One vehicle leaves and is replaced by another over a two-hour span despite the rain.

“I believe we gave out 130 turkeys and canned goods,” said Kyle, who has been a village trustee since February of 1988. “But this did not surprise me. It has been like this in previous years.”

It has been a good week for the village pantry. Diehl received a life-size $10,000 check in September from TJ Maxx during its grand opening festivities at the new Plaza. TJ Maxx rewarded the village pantry, which allowed them to use their facility in August to sign up residents for jobs at the store.

Kyle, who has been a volunteer at the village pantry for the past five years after retiring from teaching, said the money will go to good use. The village pantry officially received the real check this past week.

“Yes, we have talked about it,” Kyle said. “We want to buy a new free freezer and a refrigerator with new shelving units.”

The village pantry was established by a coalition of churches, village administrators, community organizations and Evergreen Park resident to assist residents who may find themselves temporarily unemployed or in an emergency situation caused by unemployment. The village pantry opened in September 1981 and has served over 5,500 families, distributing food in excess of $620,000.

“I was on the board for the Evergreen Park Village Pantry years ago,” Sexton said. “And then that’s when we decided to move it to the old fire station. It gives them a little more privacy. There is always a need out there. People in between jobs and some people are out of work.”

The village pantry is intended to serve the residents of Evergreen Park. Those in need may visit the pantry during the hours of operation. If further or immediate assistance is needed, contact the local church, village official or Office of Citizens Services. Depending on family size and food available, a pantry volunteer will distribute enough food for at least one week.

“They do wonderful work and they are all volunteers,” Sexton said.

Diehl, a lifelong resident of Evergreen Park, said the program is beneficial to the community.

“We average 25 to 35 families per week,” Diehl said. There is a need out there. It’s very rewarding and the fact you are able to help somebody makes you feel good.”


Jeff Vorva's Extra Point -- Marist wins at least one national championship

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

PAGE 3 MARIST 1 11 23

Photo by Jeff Vorva

Marist’s Molly Murrihy, a Palos Heights resident, wears the numeral 1 for the RedHawks. The RedHawks were No. 1 in the state after winning the Class 4A title on Nov. 11 and were named No. 1 in the nation by FloVolleyball.


Marist’s girls volleyball team might want to send a nice Christmas card to the volleyball players at O’Connor High School out of Heliotes, Texas.

 O’Connor knocked off Reagan of San Antonio Texas in regional semifinal action.

At the time, Reagan was FloVolleyball’s No. 1-ranked team in the nation while Marist was No. 2. Good ol’ O’Connor’s upset win, combined with the RedHawks’ three-set state championship victory over 13th-ranked Minooka on Nov. 11, gives the local heroes the mythical Flo50 national championship.

The 41-1 RedHawks scored wins over nationally-ranked champion Assumption out of Kentucky, St. Joseph Academy from St. Louis and Kansas’s Class 5A champion St. James.

Also on Marist’s impressive resume in splitting two matches with neighbor Mother McAuley, which won the Flo50 national championship last year as well as national championships from, USA Today/AVCA and MaxPreps.

As of the Nov. 15 MaxPreps rankings, Marist was second to Walton (Georgia). In the MaxPreps computer rankings, Marist was eighth and oddly enough, St. Joseph of St. Louis was five slots higher and Assumption was No. 1. Geez, and I thought my computer was a piece of garbage.

USA Today/AVCA’s latest rankings has Assumption first, Walton second and Marist third. Again, that’s a bit of a joke considering Marist beat Assumption and never lost since that match. And Assumption has three losses. looks like it has crowed Walton as its national champion.

So it appears that Marist has one at least one national title among its accolades.

Unless these teams square off in a national tournament, I am not buying into the fact that any of these teams are proven to be the best in the nation just because some websites or computers say so.

But it’s been a huge honor that two years in a row, someone thinks that two great volleyball teams from this area are the best in the country.


Wait until he starts playing…

Former Sandburg boys volleyball star Jake Hanes could be in for a heck of a college career.

The Regional/Reporter’s first Boys Volleyball Player of the Year in 2016 is one of the few 6-foot-10 players you will see playing in the front and back rows. And he’s a pretty good server, too.

He signed up to play at powerhouse Ohio State University and sat out his first year as a redshirt. There are not very many teams with enough depth to aske a kid with Hanes’ skills to take a redshirt year, but OSU is loaded.

So he sat out a year and the Buckeyes won their second  straight national championship.

Before pounding down his first kill or racking up his first dig as a Buckeye, the Orland Park native won an impressive looking national championship ring. A couple of weeks ago, he was waving to a huge crowd at the Buckeyes’ football stadium as the team was honored on the field.

And Friday, he and his teammates again received the hero’s treatment as they visited the White House and posed with President Donald Trump.

Say what you want about Trump – and you will – it’s still pretty cool to be honored by a United States president, especially if you play a low-profile sport such as men’s volleyball.

For Hanes, it’s been a pretty special ride – and his career is just beginning.