Jeff Vorva's ImPRESSions: A Vorva you should know -- Madison Vorva, the 'Great Ape Advocate'

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Jeffs Col Impressions

Once upon a time in the old, old, days before the Internet, I used to play a game in a hotel room.

OK, get your minds out of the gutter – this is innocent.

Any time I would travel, I would find the phone book (remember them?) in the hotel room and see if there was anyone listed by the name of Vorva.

It never happened.

Vorva is not a common name. But I knew there had to be come out there.  It turned out to be impossible to find another one. Maybe they were there but unlisted.

And then came the big I.

The information superhighway.


And yes, there are Vorvas scattered in cyberspace.

At first there was a Michigan politician named Jerry Vorva who seemed to get a lot of love from the Internet. Then a lot of my stories began popping up in newspapers and when I started covering the Cubs, it appeared I was the most famous Vorva on the Internet. Or at least the one who got his name out there the most.

But for a little while, I was King Vorva.

Then this girl scout in Michigan named Madison Vorva burst on the scene a few years ago.

What does a Vorva, girl scout cookies and orangutans have in common?

If you guessed that me eating girl scout cookies gives me the shape of an orangutan, you are not far off the mark, but you are wrong.

Madison started this crusade in which she tried to get the Girl Scout organization to change the oils in their cookies.

See, she figured out in 2007 that the palm oil used can contribute to the “deforestation, destruction of orangutangs’ habitat, climate changes and human rights abuses.” According to a news release put out by Pomona College, which she is attending.  Vorva and fellow scout Rhiannon Tomtishen, won a Bronze Star for their efforts but they also started making news.

Heck, they made the Huffington Post. Even I haven’t gotten that far.

Earlier this year, Kellogg announced a global commitment to use “fully traceable palm oil, produced in a manner that's environmentally responsible, socially beneficial, and economically viable” when it manufactures its foods – including girl scout cookies.

 “The Girls Scout cookie campaign was really the bridge to Kellogg,” said Vorva in the Poloma  news release. “They’re one of two bakers of Girl Scout cookies. They are also a Michigan company, right in my backyard. Because big corporations like Kellogg use a lot more palm oil than the Girls Scouts, we wanted to influence them as well.

 “We had an in-person meeting [with Kellogg] in April. 2012 and promised to stay in touch. Last August, we delivered over 115,000 petitions to Kellogg's headquarters in partnership with an organization called SumofUs. The petitions asked Kellogg to use their influence to persuade Wilmar - a Singaporean company with whom they have major joint ventures - to adopt a deforestation-free palm oil policy.

 “Kellogg’s new policy is really the strongest commitment by an American company taking a stand to prevent deforestation for palm oil production because of its traceability guidelines and implementation timeline and it means the portion of Girl Scout Cookies the company bakes will also be deforestation-free. I've been working on this since I was 11 years old, and all of this hard work finally translated into a truly responsible policy. It’s very much a victory!”

In 2009, she was invited to Brookfield Zoo and they dubbed her the “Great Ape Advocate.’’

Vorva was invited to speak at the United Nations’ celebration of International Forests’ Day in March.

She has not even turned 20 and has already made a huge impact to help change the world. I never met her, but I feel like I know a lot about her.

I’m proud she’s a Vorva.

 More comedy from the cowards

We haven’t poked fun at the Cowardly Blog in Oak Lawn for a while because quite frankly their hysterical bleatings were getting boring.

I mean, how many times can you beat the same horses? Yes, we know the mayor is bad and crooked. The city manager is bad and crooked.  Some trustees are bad and crooked. The mayor is bad and crooked. The city manager is bad and crooked. Some trustees are bad and crooked. The mayor is bad and crooked…

And they refuse to put names to the blog, which is still a joke.

But now they hit home and home is going to hit back.

Two weeks ago, we ran public comments made by trustee Tim Desmond (one of those bad and crooked trustees) at the Oak Lawn UFC battle, er, board meeting, criticizing the blog over a brochure on Election Day.

In last week’s paper, we ran a story about an open letter written by trustees Terry Vorderer and Alex Olejniczak (two more of those bad and crooked trustees) took issue with the Cowardly Blog and Bob Rakow did a fine analysis about the situation.

The Cowardly Blog, however, did another anonymous bleating piece and decided to teach us all some journalism lessons.

OK, I’m not too old to learn some new lessons, so I read their suggestion.

The Cowardly Blog’s attorney, Dennis Brennan, was quoted as saying the Reporter and another news source never bothered to call the Cowardly Blog to verify the “outrageous falsehood.”

Uh, Dennis. There is no one to call. Your boys and girls are anonymous. Ghosts.

Oh, and as of Friday afternoon, there was no phone number provided on the Cowardly Blog to call.

Otherwise, barrister, you make a fine argument.


 A belated toast

Belated birthday wishes go out to the guy I referred to as the ageless wonder in a column a few weeks ago.

Anthony Scaranio of Evergreen Park, whom most of his readers know as the Wine Guy, turned 94 on Tuesday. He doesn’t write new columns but his best-of column has aged like a fine wine.

We hope he had a blast celebrating No. 94. Six more years to triple digits!



The Evergreen Park Plaza saga continues

  • Written by Jeff Vorva



Photo by Jeff Vorva

Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton said at his State of the Village Address last Thursday that he is hoping in the coming weeks a developer will purchase the Plaza, demolish the building and rebuild a lifestyle center with high-end stores but the deal feel through earlier this week.


By Bob Rakow

and Jeff Vorva

Staff Reporters

Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton last Thursday hinted that plans for a lifestyle center at the site of the shuttered Plaza are “inching closer” to reality. He brought it up at a State of the Village Address at the village’s Community Center.

But reality hit the mayor and the village hard as Crains Chicago business reported Tuesday that a potential deal with the Tampa-based DeBartelo group collapsed and the foreclosure process has restarted.

It looks like it’s back to square one for the village.

“It's a wide open playing field” right now,” Ben Wineman, principal at Mid-America Real Estate, the Oak Brook-based brokerage selling the Plaza, told Crains.

S.L. Van der Zanden, CEO of Resolutions, a Chicago-based company that's serving as a court-appointed receiver for the mall during the foreclosure process, told Crains the deal fell through.

It appears to be a huge blow for EP.  Last Thursday, Sexton said he was hopeful a deal will be closed before the end of the year.

Of course, the village has been close to sealing the deal on the Plaza before, only to see various obstacles get in the way. Sexton was hopeful this time was for real.

It’s been a long process already and it could get longer to sell and demolish the 730,000-plus square-foot mall.

“It’s like having four molars removed,” Sexton said.

The Plaza closed the doors on the interior mall in May, 2013 after 60 of years of business in the community. It fell into foreclosure in 2011.

A development firm led by former San Francisco 49ers' owner Eddie DeBartolo has plans to demolish the mall and replace it with a more contemporary, $112 million shopping center.

DeBartolo Development LLC planned to build a “lifestyle center” at the 30.2-acre site at 9500 S. Western Ave. But there’s been no update on the proposal for several months.

The Plaza and other recent retail developments were the focal points of Sexton’s annual address, sponsored by the Senior Citizen Council of Evergreen Park. Sexton delivered his remarks before approximately 85 people at the center.

“This is one of my favorite days of the year,” said Sexton, who thanked members of the crowd for their continued thoughts and prayers during his ongoing rehabilitation from the effects of West Nile Virus, which he contracted more than two year ago. “I am blessed to be here today.”

Sexton also discussed property taxes and took questions from the audience at the end of the village address, his 13th as mayor.

But there was no was question that the changing face of Evergreen Park was the key to the mayor’s remarks, which lasted about 20 minutes.

“The future of Evergreen Park has never been brighter,” Sexton said, referring to ongoing development on the east side of town, including Menards, Meijer and the soon-to-open Mariano’s.

Mariano’s is scheduled to open the first week of February, and a job fair for Evergreen Park residents on Dec. 4 at Village Hall.

“We’ve got a lot of our local people to put work,” he said.

The mayor added that the new Walgreen’s at the 95th Street and Pulaski Road, serves as much-improved gateway to the western entrance to the village. He added

that the village is working to place a tenant in the former Walgreens site on 95th Street.

“We are a little ways away from that,” Sexton said.

Sexton also referenced Binny’s Beverage Depot, PetSmart, the recently completed addition to Little Company of Mary Hospital as successful additions to the village’s business community. On the food front, Sexton said a Noodles & Company is making its way to town and a Vietnamese-French fusion restaurant will eventually take over the property that housed Snackville Junction.

Sexton said the village has no choice but to welcome large retailers in order to keep property taxes down. But, he said, small, established businesses are “what kept us going.”

Speaking of property taxes, Sexton said the village’s portion of resident’s tax bill is 13 percent, 3 percent less than when he took office.

“We continue to try to lower (the village’s) portion of the tax bill,” he said.


Adult toys no longer ‘in your face’

  • Written by Bob Rakow


Adult toys will no longer be on display at a Spencer’s in Chicago Ridge Mall.
Trustees on Tuesday night unanimously approved an amendment to the village’s ordinance regarding adult book and video stores that would prohibit the practice.
The change to the ordinance will requires stores such as Spencer’s to place adult toys and videos in a section of the store restricted by doors or walls.
“It certainly should address the issue that’s been put before us,” Mayor Chuck Tokar said.
That issue was raised two weeks ago when a small group of residents told trustees that Spencer’s had a large number of sex toys displayed on a wall in the rear of the store.
“I was appalled,” resident Elaine Pecenka told trustees. “I don’t think this is funny. It’s there. It’s in your face.”
Pecenka complained that the display was not separated from the rest of the store, making it visible to underage shoppers.
She added that a store employee told her that there are no age restrictions on who can purchase the items. The employee said that girls as young as 12 purchase the adult toys.
Spencer’s appears harmless from the outside, Pecenka said, attracting teenagers with displays of gag gifts, costumes and games. Once in the store, however, children are bound to discover the adult merchandise, she said.
In other business at Tuesday’s meeting, trustees agreed to delay for two weeks a vote on a special-use permit for property at 103rd Street and Ridgeland Avenue.
Alsip mechanic Walter Lindish has proposed moving his shop from to a shuttered garage located at 10303 S. Ridgeland Ave. adjacent to Penny Lane School.
But while at least two trustees were willing to approve the special-use permit on Tuesday, Tokar asked the board to take additional time to consider the request.
 “I’m still a little bit concerned,” Tokar said, adding that the garage will require a significant amount of upkeep. “I don’t want to see the board rush into this.”
Tokar added that he wanted to visit Lindish’s Alsip shop and encouraged him to put together a detailed improvement plan for the Chicago Ridge location.
Lindish, whose current shop is in an industrial park, said the Chicago Ridge shop is ideally located and offers everything his business needs, including a secure storage lot.
Tokar favored an industrial park location for Lindish’s shop and said he was concerned about cars being parked in front of the business, along Ridgeland Avenue.
“I’m just not sure (the proposed location) is a good idea,” the mayor said, adding that a body shop located 103rd Street and Oxford Avenue frequently has cars stored in front of the business.
Trustee Jack Lind said he favored approving the special-use permit, which was unanimously approved by the planning and zoning commission.
“I don’t have to wait,” Lind said. “I don’t think we should hold it up. What else is going to go in there?”
Trustee Dan Badon also favored the plan but agreed to table the matter for until the next board meeting.


Chicago’s new archbishop knocks three times and is ready to roll

  • Written by Bob Rakow

On a night when bone-chilling cold gripped Chicagoland, incoming Archbishop Blase J. Cupich predicted, “We will probably end up rattling some bones” during his first homily at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago.

Monday’s night’s Mass, which was followed by a reception, marked the start of a three-day celebration that saw Cupich installed as the ninth Archbishop of Chicago. He officially started his duties Tuesday.

“Notice that the spirit evoked brings about a rattling of the bones, not to assemble skeletons as individuals, but as a vast army,” Cupich said. “There is a dryness in many people’s lives because they have little experience of being connected in society. For them, the only economy that counts is one that depends on connections they never had and never will.

“So many are left unconnected because of poverty spread across generations, racism or not having mentors to guide and inspire them about the value of education, hard work, and the self-discipline needed for personal stability.”

Cupich succeeds Cardinal Francis George, who is retiring as he battles cancer. He served as the spiritual leader of more than 2 million Catholics since 1997.

Cupich, 65, was the bishop of the Diocese of Spokane, Wash., when he was selected by Pope Francis to succeed George.

Cupich went on to laud the charitable works he has witnessed since arriving in Chicago.

“Already, in the short time I have been here, I have been edified by the great work so many of you are doing through various charities, apostolates, labor unions, the business community, government programs, schools, volunteer and civic groups and you should be encouraged to know that helping people get connected, experience being a part of society, is where God is active, working and gracing you in your dedicated ministry and labors. You are using your connections to help those disconnected and that is the work of God,” he said.

Local pastors and religious leaders are impressed with Cupich.


“He seems to be open and outgoing,” said the Rev. Wayne Svida, the pastor of Our of the Ridge parish in Chicago Ridge. “I think he’s a little bit more to the people.”


For example, Svida said, an Our Lady of the Ridge parishioner sent Cupich a congratulatory note shortly after he was named the new archbishop. Cupich replied a few weeks later with a thank you card that included a handwritten note.


“I thought that was very nice,” said Svida, who attended Monday’s night’s service.


Cupich led off his remarks on Monday praising Cardinal George for his service the archdiocese.


“On behalf of all of us, all those whose faith and lives have been enriched by your witness and your ministry, I want my first words on this occasion to be ‘thank you Cardinal Francis George.’

He also thanked those who attended the Monday’s service when Cupich knocked three times on the front door of the cathedral, in accordance with tradition, before being ushered in to receive the archdiocesan stole.

“For me it is quite humbling as I come to offer servant leadership to this local church to be associated with lay women and men, clergy, religious and bishops who continue to have an enormous impact in society,” Cupich said.

Cupich will celebrate six welcome Masses throughout the diocese starting   in January, beginning Jan. 8 at St. Rita High School, 7740 S. Western Ave., Chicago.

The Rev. Tom McCarthy, St. Rita’s chairman of the board, expects Cupich to do well in Chicago, but asked people not to compare him to his predecessor.

“I hope people don’t compare the two. It’s kind of unfair,” McCarthy said.

Ultimately, McCarthy said, Cupich’s task is “to bring people closer to Jesus.”

“Let him be our pastor, our leader,” McCarthy added.


Cupich said he does not have a detailed agenda because having one would be a disaster.

“No, the agenda has to be God’s, which is beyond our imagining and our abilities. And unlike our priorities, God’s agenda has staying power, it endures,” he said.

Cupich also reached out to young people throughout the diocese.

“There are others who feel little sense of belonging and stability. Many youth have no dreams, no real aspirations, no sustaining hope. And so they turn to a destructive world of drugs, gangs and lethal violence.

“There are no easy answers to this, but I am aware that good people within our parishes and in the city are working imaginatively to address this issue. I admire the creativity of bringing gang members together for sports and in other venues to ease growing tensions. I believe that shoring up and strengthening family life and education are also essential ingredients.”

A sticker situation Worth tag-teams with the DMV

  • Written by Kelly White

Every car must have a sticker; if not, they will find you. They are members the DMV, and they are working hand-in-hand with the Village of Worth.
The village is pairing with the State of Illinois Department of Motor Vehicles and Direct Response database for vehicle sticker sales. The board voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve a $1,200 expenditure for the merger with the DMV database. The cost is broken down two ways: a $500 fee to connect to the State of Illinois database and a $700 fee for a direct response to merge with Worth’s personal database that holds records of all vehicle stickers purchased within the village. Stickers are $41 for 18 months for passenger vehicles and $49-$200 for trucks. Motorcyles are $26.
“We tried using only the DMV database about five years ago when we did not have our own database,” City Clerk Bonnie Price said at Tuesday night’s meeting. “Now we do have our own database through our software system, MSI.”
The village will be using the connection with the DMV database to look for addresses for vehicle owners who have not purchased a vehicle sticker. The DMV will prompt a village sticker application to be sent out to those addresses.
The DMV will also allow the village to have access to the number of cars each household owns, even if they are claiming to own less.
“If (someone) claims they only have three cars but the DMV database shows four vehicles, it will add the fourth car onto our database and the owner of that vehicle will be issued a village sticker application,” Price said.
The crosschecking with the DMV database will allow the village to compare the number of vehicles at the number of households and per owner throughout Worth. Although it sounds like a simple process, there may still be a few errors in its system.
“Some people may have moved and still be listed in the DMV database with a Worth address,” Price said. “These people need to be removed from our database so they do not show up as not having a vehicle sticker.”
Trustee Rich Dziedzic questioned if the village has access to how many stickers were not purchased in 2014.
“There should be a way to tell how many people did not purchase stickers in 2014 versus the number of stickers available,” he said.
Mayor Mary Werner confirmed 2015 vehicle sticker sales in conjunction with the DMV database will have this information down.
The merger with their database will let village officials know immediately who has not purchased a vehicle sticker, she said.
The $1,200 expense will not be an annual fee. Price confirmed the incurred fees will only need to pay out every two to three years.
“This is not something that would be done every year,” she said, “I would, however, recommend it be done every couple of years to keep track of the number of vehicles in the village failing to obtain a vehicle sticker.”
Even with the $1,200 expenditure, vehicle sticker prices are not set to rise in 2015. Werner states to be very comfortable with the village’s fee.
“We have not raised fees for vehicle sticker sales for the past couple of years,” she said, “I do not see any need to increase them in 2015.”