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Sid’s going to the dogs?

  • Written by Tim Hadac

page-1-4-col-sidsThe old Sid’s site in Palos Hills (above) could be the new home of PAWWS, an organization that pairs service dogs with veterans. Photo by Jeff Vorva.

PAWWS hoping to make a 3.3-acre property in Palos Hills its new home

The former Sid’s Greenhouse site in Palos Hills could become a 3.3-acre dog house.
Pam Barnett, the founder and president of the Palos Heights-based Paws Assisted Wounded WarriorS is looking for some new and bigger digs and she is eyeing the Sid’s site at 10926 S. Southwest Highway.
“Our goals are to buy Sid’s eventually,’’ she said. “It is 3.3 acres, and it will serve as our PAWWS house, our base camp—like a military base camp. It has five buildings over there—it will include a kennel, a training facility, house where a caretaker can live, a place where the veterans can sleep when they come in from all over the country to train their [service] dogs for the three to four weeks it takes for us to give them a dog.”
That’s a long-term goal. In the next couple of weeks, Barnett and her crew will be preparing for its first fundraiser to help the organization which uses service dogs to help heal the psychological wounds of military veterans invites the Palos-Orland community.

PAWWS for Love coming upChrisBusterA veteran named Chris (PAWWS does not release last names) poses with his black lab, Buster in a show of bond between veteran and dog. Submitted photo.
PAWWS for Love is set for 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15, at the Lexington House, 7717 W. 95th St., Hickory Hills. Tickets are $50 at the door, $40 in advance and may be obtained at Pack Leader Academy or online at pawws.org. The event, expected to run to midnight, will include a buffet dinner, cash bar, entertainment, and prize drawings.
“I’m excited about it. It’s our first official non-profit organization fundraiser,” said Barnett, whose current location is headquartered at 12332 S. Harlem Ave. in the Pack Leader Academy dog care facility and behavior center.
Launched several years ago and formally incorporated as a not-for-profit last year, PAWWS aims to acquire dogs and train them as service dogs to be paired with veterans in need, particularly men and women with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or traumatic brain injuries, at no cost to veterans, including the cost of food and veterinary care.
To date, PAWWS has trained two service dogs, but has ambitious plans.

Dog duties
Like most service animals, PAWWS dogs are trained to handle an array of duties.
“Our dogs are obedience-trained and house-trained, as well as trained to do house tasks,” Barnett said. “The majority of the tasks are the same from dog to dog, such as picking up stuff, reminding them to take their medication, waking them up when they have a nightmare, leading them outside of a building when they have a panic attack, alerting them when someone is approaching from behind, clearing a home when a veteran comes home [to re-assure the veteran that no intruders are in the home] and the most important thing is, we teach the dogs to block, to keep people away from the veteran by getting in between or even nudging people away from the veteran.”
That’s important for veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“What most people don’t realize is that [many veterans with PTSD] don’t want to celebrate,” she explained. “They don’t want you to throw a party for them. They don’t want to come to your party. We can barely get them to come to our events.”
Many of those tasks are performed because many veterans with PTSD “don’t feel safe anymore,” Barnett explained.
“[In combat situations], they always had a battle buddy to watch out for them, but now they don’t. Now, they’re on their own,” she added.
Most of the veterans she serves are homeless, as well as suicidal. “Twenty-four [veterans] a day kill themselves,” she said. “It was one a day when I started this.”

Dogs are never a trigger
Part of the canine training, Barnett added, is to ensure that the service dog never becomes a trigger for a veteran’s stressors.
“Just about anything can be a trigger [for a veteran with PTSD]. It’s anything that reminds them of war, and it can be something you’d never expect,” she noted. “For example, the wife made chicken again, and now he got mad at her and beat her up or whatever because he can’t stand to eat any meat with bones in it, because that reminds him of bodies.
“And that’s just one thing. It can be a Coke can on the ground. It can be a little kid running up to them. It can be a word, a TV newscast, seeing a person on the street [in Middle Eastern attire]. Anything can remind them of war, because everything reminds them of war.”
The service dogs are not a trigger, Barnett said, because they “never hurt [a veteran’s] feelings. They give love unconditionally and never do anything wrong.”
The dogs bond with their new owners and often make a remarkable improvement in a veteran’s life. Barnett tells the tale of a Palos Heights veteran who came to PAWWS to return his dog, because he was about to become homeless and he did not want the dog to be homeless, too. “I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’” Barnett said as she recalled that she then found lodging for the man—the same man who later credited the service dog with preventing his suicide.

Barnett reports a bit of frustration in getting pet-related corporate donors to assist PAWWS, so she is turning to local groups, individuals and units of government to see the value in what she is doing.

“Aside from the good we’re doing for veterans, wherever we locate when we expand—whether that’s Sid’s in Palos Hills or somewhere in Palos Heights or wherever—we will make a solid contribution to the local economy,” she said. “I already have people coming from all over [to Pack Leader Academy, one of the region’s premier facilities]. The revenue we could bring in [from a PAWWS development] would be substantial, when you think of the effect we’d have on local hotels, restaurants and more. We’d make Palos—whether it’s Palos Hills or Palos Heights or Palos Park—the nation’s top destination for veterans and their families to be helped like this. We just need a little help to move it forward and make it a reality.”

Grilling in Chicago Ridge

  • Written by Kevin M. Coyne

A former inspector grills board and a current inspector grills Flaming Grill Buffet

Chicago Ridge bosses cut the full-time code inspector job recently, leaving former code inspector Bob Gushes out of a job and opening two part-time positions. Gushes made his grievances known and took aim at village officials on the same night new inspector Gerard Senese was sworn in.
Gushes aired his grievances to the board Tuesday. He said he served as the code inspector for the village of Chicago Ridge for the past seven years and is now out of a job due to political reasons. After the 2014 budget cuts Gushes claimed to have reached out to the village board but to no avail.
Gushes provided letters to each board member praising his work as code inspector and said he had an “exemplary record.”
“My record and personnel file speaks for itself and is filled with complementary letters from citizens and business owners for the job I do,” Gushes said.
He also said none of the trustees would meet with him and his position was cut because he failed to show political support for two sitting trustees. One of the two trustees replied to Gushes’ concerns during the meeting.
“[Gushes] never reached out to me about his job,” trustee Daniel Badon said. “I won’t go into details but [Gushes’] record is far from exemplary. If people knew what [Gushes] did on taxpayer dollars they would want [Gushes] fired.”
Gushes also publicly warned that Chicago Ridge is facing a bed bug infestation and his full-time job is necessary to help mitigate the ongoing bug problem.

Low rating for Flaming Grill
The Flaming Grill Buffett, 101 Commons Drive, has made news again, this time for reaching the lowest possible ratings from Chicago Ridge health inspector Rich Ruge. Ruge explained how the inspection system is based out of a possible 100 points. Hibachi Grill earned an 83 and 79 during the last two inspections.
“When it hit that 83 [point-mark] I asked ‘should that place be closed?,’” Mayor Chuck Tokar said.
Despite the point system, a business is closed only if the temperatures are unsuitable, hot water is unavailable and overall sanitation is egregious.
“When you get below 95 [points] you have a problem,” Ruge said. “When you are in the 80s there are a whole bunch of things going on.”
Ruge cited the Asian food restaurant in January for minor sanitation issues and said that due to a language barrier, the employees failed to comprehend the work required to earn an acceptable health inspection.
“I try to work as best as I can to not keep businesses closed and I don’t want people to lose money, but they have to do the right thing,” Ruge said. “I think the language barrier is an issue. I usually get a lot of smiles and head nodding but when I go back nothing was done.”
The Grill will also be the main event in a hearing Monday with Tokar over non-payment of food and beverage taxes. A hearing originally was held Jan. 28 but officials from the restaurant were a no-show, causing Tokar to warn that if they don’t show up to Monday’s hearing, the restaurant’s license could be suspended.

Bob Rakow's B-Side: Yes there may be some flaws, but Filan shouldn’t be judged

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  The motto at Brother Rice High School is “Act Manfully in Christ Jesus.”
  I suppose you could argue veteran teacher Al Filan did not live up to that motto. If you doubt me, I’d be happy to share with you some of the Facebook posts I’ve read regarding his unfortunate death.
  Sadly, some couldn’t wait to cast judgment on the man, while others (former students) were quick to recall what a bad guy he was, supporting their claims by recalling some incident or another that happened at the school 30 years ago.
  Filan’s demise has been covered by every media outlet imaginable, including one of the New York dailies, which feasts on sensationalistic headlines. Filan, 61, was allegedly murdered Jan. 18 by a 20-year-old woman he contacted via an escort service, police said.
  The family of the woman, Alisha Walker, of Akron, Ohio, maintains that she acted in self-defense when she allegedly stabbed Filan following an argument over services rendered. Walker was arrested a few days later and is in Cook County Jail where she’ll await trial. We’ll know more details soon enough.
  Police say Filan contacted the woman on a Backpage.com, a website that includes an adult section featuring escort services, massage parlors, phone sex and a variety of other salacious items not often mentioned in polite company. He had seen the woman on previous occasions, they say.
  Soon after Filan’s death was reported, Facebook blew up.
  One post said, in part, “…this reeks of hypocrisy to the point of being offensive. Come on. Catholic teachings/prostitution. Those things don’t really mesh.”
  I understand that people are shocked, disappointed, saddened. We don’t expect dedicated educators who’ve given four decades of their lives to teaching and coaching to have a sordid past. After all, teachers are supposed to serve as role models and offer guidance to our children. That’s the hope. It’s not always reality.
  I’m shocked that anyone—especially those who knew him—would criticize Filan. He died a horrible death, the result of some poor decisions. It’s sad, but we do not know all the circumstances, the entire story. Maybe the better course would be to back off and simply mourn the death of man who made a difference. Remember that he has a family who is struggling over the death of a loved one.
  Others Facebook posters have not focused on Filan’s actions or character, but how his misdeeds may affect the reputation and future of Brother Rice High School. The school is the victim, one Facebook poster argued.
  But another Facebook poster retorted: “I guess my main point is that an individual’s indiscretions don’t automatically prove the values they promote as unworthy (and by extension the organizations they represent), but there seems little disagreement there.”
  That’s spot on. Al Filan went into the classroom every day for 40 years and spent after-school hours on the soccer field or basketball court. He, like many other long-tenured teachers at Brother Rice, was dedicated and committed—but not perfect. Was he alone? I doubt it. Schools are full of fine educators who have a failing, a weakness, an episode in their private lives they’d prefer not to reveal. Unlike Filan, however, they weren’t killed as a consequence.
  Another Facebook post I came across summarizes my feelings on this whole tragic incident. “If we got a hidden camera view into your lives, any time you might have mistreated someone, any time you were not consistent with values you promoted, every deep dark secret, would it paint a picture of a morally flawless person, one who can cast judgment yet cannot be judged, or would it be a picture of another flawed human being?”
  Say a prayer for Al Filan and his family.

 

 

District 230 and Cook County at odds about pension and health insurance figures

  • Written by Kevin M. Coyne

DR-PAGE-1-color--Langert

Photo by Jeff Vorva. District 230 Assistant Superintendent Steve Langert said there were discrepancies in financial figures between District 230 and Cook County.

It’s been a confusing five-day period for District 230 and its financial status.

District officials are disputing figures reported in a daily newspaper and that their finances are a “mess” as alleged by an anonymous writer to the district whose letter was read aloud at last Thursday’s school board meeting.

The letter contained a copy of the individual’s tax bill, which highlighted the district’s pension and other post-employment benefits debt with a note stating, “your pensions are breaking the taxpayers in Illinois, keep up the great work!? What a mess!?” District 230 Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Steve Langert read at the meeting.

Jeff Vorva's Editor's Notebook: Emotions run high at at two all-girls schools

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

It was quite an emotional Monday night at two all-girls schools that are not physically in our area, but have students from the area attending them.

The emotions ranged from hope and despair at one school to unbelievable triumph at the other.

On the same night that the Mt. Assisi community held a vigil to try to keep its school alive, the girls basketball team at Queen of Peace won its first game of the season after a long losing skid.

A few weeks ago, news broke that Mt. Assisi in Lemont was closing after 63 years of service. Lack of money and a declining enrollment were the death knells for the school on the hill.

On a cold night, hundreds of students, parents and former students put on their warmest clothes and lit candles for the cause. Multi Chicago TV camera crews were also on hand for the event in which a few tears were shed.

But tears won’t prevent the school from closing – money will.

And effort is underway to save the school with a Facebook page called Save Mt. Assisi. So far, they raised $7,000, which is a nice start, but there is a long way to go.

“This is only the beginning!” posted and boasted Beverly resident Peggy Shukstor Healy, who is the president of the school’s parents association. “Like I said [at the vigil] we all need to work together – parents, students and most important, the faculty. The attendance at the vigil showed how important this cause is and we will not give up without a fight.

“The best lesson we can teach our children is that if you are passionate about something, do all you can to make it happen. Never say never!’’

Added Mandy Burke: “I was there with my 3 1-2 (year-old) daughter, who asked me when we were walking from the car to the front of the building, ‘when do I get to come here?’ I hope and pray she has the chance to.’’

 

 

Page-3-2-col-peace-for-JV-COL

 

Mt. Assisi students (left photo) pose during better times a few years ago but Monday night the community hosted a vigil to try to keep the school open. On the same night, Queen of Peace’s basketball team (right photo) won its first basketball game this season after 23 losses.

Photo by Jeff Vorva

 

 

On the same night as the vigil, the Queen of Peace girls basketball team made a trip to Chicago’s De La Salle High School and snapped a 23-game losing streak with a 48-30 victory over St. Benedict in the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference tournament.

For anyone who played on, or had kids on, a team that loses all their games, this is a big deal.

My son, T.J., played on a school team that was headed in that direction. The boys found every way to lose, including an overtime loss in which one of our guards put the ball in the wrong basket, which was two points for the other team. I was in Tempe, Ariz., when they finally won their first game late in the season and when I heard the news, I shouted so loudly, I think they heard me back home. And that was just a third-grade game.

Queen of Peace opened the season with 22 turnovers against Oak Lawn. All in the first quarter.

The team also lost a holiday tournament game 53-3 to Bolingbrook.

But Monday, they experienced the sweet taste of victory and did not commit a single turnover.  Everyone played at least three minutes and Jelyn Chua had 12 points and six assists, Maggie Bennett added 11 points and Allie Herman had 10 points.

At the end of Monday night’s game, there wasn’t a lot of emotion displayed because of a coach’s mandate.

“I know how excited they were,” Pride coach George Shimko said. “But I told the girls to act like we’ve been there before even though we hadn’t been there before. So there was no running around the court and going crazy.’’

But once the Pride got behind closed doors, things changed.

“When you beat a team, you don’t want to gloat,” Shimko said. “But in the locker room and on the bus ride home, it was a little crazy. We’ve been through more this season than anyone else, but we are still together and no one has quit. This win was a testament to their hard work.’’