Gospel singer entertains at Advocate's King Day celebration

  • Written by Claudia Parker







The staff at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn honored the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as Rev. Smokie Norful, the Grammy Award winning Gospel singer, performed Monday during the 24th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Multicultural Taste Celebration.

     “Over the last 24 years, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Multicultural Taste Celebration Committee has planned and executed a multicultural/spiritual celebration held in honor of the life and work of Dr. King,” said the Rev. Richard James, the ACMC staff chaplain.

   The committee consists of 10 members, eight Advocate employees and two honorary members whom are retired.

The annual celebration is held in honor of King, who was the driving force behind the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. He gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech before a massive group of civil rights marchers who gathered around the Lincoln memorial in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 28, 1963. He was shot and killed by an assassin on the ledge of a Memphis hotel on April 4, 1968. He was 39 years old.

James said the first celebration back in 1995 had a modest 19 participants, but it’s progressively grown. The Robert N. Stein, M.D. Auditorium could have been mistaken for a sanctuary from all the handclaps and halleluiahs heard throughout Norful’s heartfelt and sometime humorous message. The 300- seat auditorium could not accommodate the crowd. People lined the walls and stood in doorframes poking their heads through.

   Ken Lukhard, president of Advocate Christ Medical Center, was moved by Norful. He clapped his hands to the tune of his music and nodded his head through his message.

   “Where I’m from, this is what they call church. I’m going to take a drive out to Bolingbrook to visit your church within a few weeks,” Lukhard told Norful after shaking his hand afterward. “That was excellent.”  

Norful garnered international success after three of his albums, “I Need You Now,” “Nothing Without You” and “Smokie Norful Live, “obtained number one status on the Billboard charts. His trophy case includes awards named, Steller, Dove, Soul Train, NAACP and a Grammy.

He has sold over two million albums worldwide and was Billboard’s Gospel Artist of the Year twice, in 2003 and 2004. Norful composes for himself and numerous other Gospel artists. He also a Senior Pastor of Victory Cathedral Worship Center in Bolingbrook.

     Lukhard’s sentiment was echoed from various others who patronized the event. John Poindexter, of Chicago and self-proclaimed musician, said he used to work with Norful years ago. “It was good seeing him, he did great. You know, I know Smokie personally. We used to serve together in music ministry at Greater Institutional, off of 78th and Indiana. He played piano and I played drums,” said Poindexter.

According to Poindexter, Norful has remained grounded. “I haven’t seen Smokie in over 15 years, but I spoke to him today and he remembered me. He was just as gracious and humble as he’s always been.”

   Each participant received a complimentary copy of Norful’s latest CD entitled, “Smokie Norful Forever Yours.” He said he wanted everyone to know he’d personally autographed each one. “It took hours,” he told James. “I signed over 300.”

   Maryann Valdez, of Tinley Park, said this was her first time she heard Smokie Norful. “My sister Vicky invited me. She’s on the committee. I had no idea what to expect. I was mesmerized. He’s a dynamic speaker, I thoroughly enjoyed him,” said Valdez.

     Vicky Tanulanond-James is the sister Valdez is referring to. She is also the spouse of Rev. Richard James. They act as co-chairs. He secures the speaker and she heads the Taste.

     “The Taste includes homemade ethnic dishes donated by hospital associates, including 16 local restaurants and vendors whom also make donations,” said James.

In total, James said more than 500 people circulate through the multicultural Taste. “We do this with the help of our committee and several volunteers within and beyond the hospital, with support from Media Services, Public Relations, Food and Nutrition, Public Safety, Environmental Services, Building Operations, and Communications.” Careful not to exclude anyone, James said, “We also get help from the Culture of Inclusion Committee, we focus on uniting our associates, physicians, volunteers, patients, and families in rejoicing in their own ethnicity and commonality.”

“This Dr. King celebration acts as a reminder of how far we’ve come and also, the work that still lay ahead,” added James.

Lukhard was forthcoming about what this event means to him.

“Dr. King’s legacy is one that is iconic and timeless. Each year I think it can’t get any better and then it does. Even in this bitter cold, people still came out. Look at this crowd,” he said staring into a full auditorium. “We celebrate diversity here at ACMC. We take initiative to educate on all faiths. It is our objective to deliver world class care on a foundation of faith.”


Advocate Christ's East Tower provides state-of-the-art services

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

Less than 24 hours after the eight-story East Tower at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn officially opened on Sunday, the first baby was born in the new birthing center on the second floor, which is dedicated to women and children services.

Officials of the hospital at 4440 W. 95th St., said Chicago resident Crystal Baker gave birth to Leonardo, weighing in at 8 pounds, 10 ounces, at 12:38 a.m. Monday.

But before he got to take a look around, Oak Lawn officials, residents and others connected to the hospital in some way were given guided tours on Jan. 6, following a reception and ribbon-cutting ceremony of the facility.

The eight-story building has 357,000 square feet of space, and cost $222 million.

Outside the interfaith Molenhouse Chapel on the first floor is a prayer wall, where prayer requests can be slipped into pockets of light between translucent panels.

The first floor also includes a lactation center, with consultation rooms as well as a retail center where breast pumps and other equipment new mothers may need can be rented. Clothing for mothers and babies may also be purchased.

In addition to labor and delivery suites, including eight for high-risk patients, the second floor has four C-section surgical suites. Three of the surgical suites are equipped to deliver singlets and twins, and the fourth is big enough for triplets.

The second-floor birthing center also features family waiting rooms, and a play area for young children. A private lounge, called Jane’s Room, was donated by the Jane B. Wellstein Memorial Fund for use by families grieving the loss of an infant.

A pedestrian bridge across Kostner Avenue links the second floor with the newly built Garage A, which has 780 parking spaces. The floor is also connected to the existing neonatal intensive care unit.

The third through fifth floors are mechanical space, while the sixth floor is a continuation of women and children services, and houses 36 post-partum delivery rooms and the infant nursery.

“The 12 beds in the nursery are a relatively small number, because the goal is for healthy babies to stay with mothers in their rooms,” said tour guide DeAnna Malloy.

Family lounges on the sixth, seventh and eight floors, have vending machines, showers and lockers, allowing families to take breaks from the patient rooms but remain on the same floor.

The seventh and eighth floors house 42 private intensive care rooms, and 30 -private “step-down” rooms, for those transitioning from intensive care to a general unit. The seventh floor is the medical intensive care unit, while the eighth is for cardiovascular thoracic ICU, for heart- and lung-transplant patients.

What amazed most visitors taking tours was the Smart Technology available in every room. Among other things, electronics in every room can read the IDs worn by all the medical professionals, and each time they come in their visits are recorded. Their names are also displayed on large computer screens in the rooms, so patients can see them, and the visits are automatically recorded on the patients’ medical records. Patients can also use the computers to go online.

Lights outside the rooms alert nursing staff if they are being called, and change color also when nurses enter them, making it easier for a whole floor to be surveyed.

“The only thing that could make it better would be self-making beds, and self-cleaning bedpans,” joked retired Dr. Carolyn Smeltzer, 91, who toured the facility last Friday following the ribbon-cutting.

Back on the first floor, there is also an updated Café 95 restaurant that is open to the public. In addition to featuring a wide-range of healthy food choices, it has Starbucks coffee, available at a service window in the hallway.

Kenneth Lukhard, the president of the hospital, said the unveiling was the culmination of a 10-year project that will put an end to overcrowding. He pointed out that the expansion plans were initially unveiled in 2008, but were put on hold until 2010 due to the downturn in the economy.

He said expansion plans began with the groundbreaking on Aug. 19, 2013.

Lukhard said that the 10-year growth plan that began with the opening of the new outpatient pavilion in 2014, will conclude with the expansion of the emergency services area using space freed up due to the East Tower opening. But aside from a new emergency room entrance, the exterior work has been completed.

The president said that due to overcrowding for virtually three months out of the year, the trauma center has been on bypass, unavailable to take in emergency patients. But that will no longer be necessary.

“We are thrilled that (the construction) is winding down. We are so appreciative of the good partner you have been to this village,” said Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury.

“The complexity of what you have done here is astounding to me,” said the mayor, who is an optometrist. “We are bursting with pride and joy in Oak Lawn,” she added.

2 charged in Dunkin' Donuts robbery

  • Written by Dermot Connolly


The next court date is set for Feb. 3 in Bridgeview for two Chicago men who were charged following the Jan. 5 armed robbery of a Dunkin’ Donuts restaurant at 6408 W. 95th St., in Chicago Ridge.

Chicago residents Alexander M. Harris, 18, and Darrius J. McLendon, 19, were being held in Cook County Jail. They are both charged with armed robbery, while Harris faces an additional count of discharging a weapon during a robbery.

Harris, of the 1100 block of East 47th Street, was also charged in a robbery that occurred Dec. 29 in the parking lot of a Party City store located beside the Dunkin’ Donuts, at 6440 W. 95th St.

In the Jan. 5 incident, according to witnesses, Harris came inside the restaurant about 3:06 p.m. wearing a dark hoodie and displaying a handgun. Police said he emptied two cash registers and fired one shot into the ceiling before fleeing outside, escaping in a black 2004 Pontiac driven by McLendon.

Oak Lawn police stopped the suspects in a black Pontiac G8 at 87th Street and Central Avenue, and witnesses identified them both. A black semi-automatic weapon and more than $500 in cash were found in the car.

McLendon, who had no criminal record, remained in Cook County Jail earlier this week on $250,000 bond .

Harris was being held there on $750,000 bond for the Dunkin’ Donuts robbery, and $250,000 bond for the Dec. 29 incident. In that case, he allegedly tapped on a woman’s car window with his handgun, and demanded her wallet and cellphone.

Harris also has a pending misdemeanor case for criminal damage to property in Chicago.

According to reports both McLendon and Harris are considered suspects in other area robberies, and police in Chicago Ridge, Oak Lawn are investigating.

Palos Hills seeks new building commissioner

  • Written by Joe Boyle

The search for a new building commissioner for Palos Hills was at the forefront of topics discussed at last Thursday’s city council meeting.

The city is looking for a permanent replacement for Gene Nelson, the longtime building commissioner who died last year. Nelson was looking to retire from the position and was in the process of training Gene Newman.

However, Newman has indicated that he will be unable to take on the position on a full-time basis.

Mayor Gerald Bennett and the council agreed recently to advertise for someone to take on the role as a full-time building commissioner.

“When I was at city hall at night I knew how hard Gene Nelson worked,” said Ald. Pauline Stratton (2nd). “Mr. Nelson was a good man who worked very hard. Gene Newman is also very conscientious and works hard.”

Stratton said the building commissioner position was originally full-time and was changed to part-time in an effort to save costs for the city. However, the board has reversed their position and made the building commissioner a full-time position again.

“We did change to part-time,” said Stratton. “But that position should not have been part-time in the first place. It’s not a part-time job. Gene Newman was working full-time hours. There is just a lot of work to do. A lot has to be done as a commissioner.”

Bennett said that it is early and will take some time before a full-time building commissioner can be found.

“Remember, we are looking for a new building commissioner,” Bennett reminded the board and audience.

A new head of the newly created animal control office and ordinance department is being sought. Bennett was asked if the salary was too high. The mayor responded that it is not.

“I have done a lot of research on this and the salary is competitive with other salaries of other municipalities,” said Bennett.

The city council honored two residents during the meeting. Vietnam veteran James Kruse and Chicago Blackhawks organist Frank Pellico were cited.

Kruse was named a “Senior of the Year” by Cong. Dan Lipinski’s (D-3rd) office. Kruse helped organize drop-off containers for residents to bring food items and letters to be sent to troops overseas. Kruse said he received support from many organizations including members of Sacred Heart Parish.

“One a solider, always a soldier,” said Kruse “However, it is those Americans who serve overseas that need our help. I remember when I was in the service. Sometimes you think, ‘does anybody besides our family care where what we are doing out here?’ It’s important to show we care. It means so much.”

Bennett presented Kruse with a plaque for his efforts.

“He’s really been great with the vets and he spends so much time helping them,” said Bennett. “He speaks at different events and sends items overseas to the troops. It’s nice to have someone who cares for the community.”

The mayor then presented an honorary street sign he had made up for Pellico, who has three Stanley Cup rings that he showed the audience. Pellico was also honored for an act of kindness in which he bought a meal for a Hickory Hills police officer at a local McDonald’s. Someone had paid for Pellico’s meal and he was returning the favor. He was highlighted a couple of months ago in a column by Dee Woods, a Reporter columnist.

“He wanted to share the victories with us,” said Bennett, about Pellico stopping by with his Stanley Cup rings. “He is a nice man and I’ve known him for a long time.”

The next Palos Hills City Council meeting will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 21.

Chicago Ridge trustees vote against Odelson appointment

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

The Rev. Wayne Svida, pastor of Our Lady of the Ridge Church, opened the first Chicago Ridge Village Board meeting of 2016 with a prayer, and everything was going along swimmingly until it hit a rough patch, when trustees voted 4-2 against Mayor Chuck Tokar’s appointment of Burt Odelson as the village attorney.

Trustees Bill McFarland and Jack Lind were the only trustees to vote for the appointment, while trustees Bruce Quintos, Frances Coglianese, Sally Durkin and Amanda Cardin voted against it.

In a related move at the same meeting, trustees voted 5-1 to create the office of legislative consul, to be filled by another attorney chosen by the trustees. Lind was the only one to vote against that measure, which Odelson and Tokar see as a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Several of the trustees who voted for the legislative consul, including Quintos and Cardin, said the office will serve the village well, acting as a second opinion called upon by trustees when they have any question about advice given by the village attorney.

“The attorney won’t be on retainer. He or she will just be consulted occasionally,” said Cardin.

Tokar named Odelson last June as the interim village attorney, replacing George Witous, who retired without notice after 51 years in the post.

“It was a political statement by at least two of the trustees against the mayor,” said Odelson afterward, taking the vote against him in stride. He knew that while the vote allowed trustees to show their disapproval, it had no effect on the mayoral appointment, which is made by the mayor alone.

“I’ll be here as long as the mayor wants me,” he said.

However, he did admit to taking the vote personally to some degree, because he is friendly with some of the trustees who voted against him. “How can you not?” he said.

“I saved them $100,000 in a year,” he asserted, explaining that in the latter years of Witous’ tenure, some of the work had to be farmed out to downtown firms.

“We charge $175 an hour and we do everything,” he said of his firm, Odelson & Sterk.

Odelson noted that he serves as attorney for 14 municipalities, 12 school districts, and even the Chicago Ridge Park District.

Tokar also questioned the logic of the vote against Odelson, pointing out that the trustees who voted against him had asked him last June to help sort out the controversy over health insurance provided free of charge to retired village officials. And he did that.

Odelson is seen as an expert in election law, and Tokar said, “Not too many villages have an attorney who has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court,” said the mayor, pointing out that Odelson was involved in the case involving the 2000 election of George W. Bush over Al Gore.

Coglianese said the vote was not against Odelson personally. “I have nothing against him. It is just the procedure (of his appointment) I don’t like,” she said,

Quintos, who had pushed for the vote, said that as a home-rule community, Chicago Ridge should be governed by a mayor “with the advice and consent” of the trustees.

“We agreed to his interim appointment, with the understanding that we would be able to see who else was available, and vet all the candidates. But nothing was ever done and we were not consulted,” said Quintos.

“If the trustees could vote out a village attorney, I suppose they could also vote out a police chief, fire chief or any other appointed official. But they are all mayoral appointments. That is just how it is done,” said Tokar after the meeting.