Garden Club flourishing as it celebrates 60 years

  • Written by Joe Boyle


Lorraine Bujan, the president of the Oak Lawn Garden Club, provided a positive spin about a dreary and rainy Monday.

“We could always use the rain,” she laughed. “It’s good for the plants.”

Bujan, who is in her third year as president of the organization, has always loved plants and caring for them. She said this has been a great year for the Oak Lawn Garden Club, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary.

To mark the occasion, the Oak Lawn Garden Club approached the staff at the Oak Lawn Library and asked that if a display could be arranged to be set up at the library. Kevin Korst, the local history coordinator for the Oak Lawn Library, gave them an enthusiastic yes.

“They do so much for us,” said Korst, who has written books on the snowstorm and the tornado that hit Oak Lawn in 1967. “We wanted to work in that they are celebrating their 60th year.”

The Oak Lawn Garden Club was founded as the Iris Club in 1954. The Garden Club was officially chartered in 1956. Korst and Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury said that the Oak Lawn Garden Club has been an asset to the community, taking part in numerous beautification projects for not only the library but Advocate Christ Medical Center and local parks.

Pat Bugos, who handles publicity for the Garden Club, said that the Oak Lawn Library staff liked the idea of having the display put up.

“Kevin put it all together and we supplied him with all the materials,” said Bugos. “Kevin really loved the idea.”

Bujon said the display will be up until mid-January. The display is located on the second floor of the library, 9427 S. Raymond Ave., near the elevator. It is not as large as some other displays but it includes photos dating back to the 1950s that captures the early years of the club. The display has been up for about two weeks.

The garden club president said the members helped to plant and maintain the flowers that can be found planted around the library during the spring and summer months. Bujan added that library workers maintain the upkeep of the flowers and makes sure they are watered. But she admits to keeping involved in the maintenance of the plants.

Bujan said the major fundraisers for the Oak Lawn Garden Club are the annual plant sales and the garden walk. The garden walk includes a tour of local home gardens of winners of the organization’s Beautiful Yards Contest.

“The money raised from the plant sales and garden walk to many charitable organizations and churches,” said Bujan. “Our funds go to PADS to aid the homeless and organizations like Jackie Connelly’s Veterans Care organization.”

The Oak Lawn Garden Club also cares for and maintains the Blue Star Memorial Highway marker that can be seen at 95th Street and Cook Avenue. It currently shares the space with the Nativity scene. The plaque honors the memory of all veterans and especially those who died in the line of duty. The marker was at previous site before moving to its permanent home near the library. The project was spearheaded by club member Julie Barker.

The first dedication at the new site took place in 2009. A special observance was held this past Memorial Day as local dignitaries attended.

“I’m really happy where the marker is now,” said Bujan, an Oak Lawn resident since 1974 who has been an Oak Lawn Garden Club member for six years. “We have people who stop to look at the spot now. They did not do that at the old location.”

The club also oversees flower planting by local girl scouts and make Mason bee houses to encourage bees to pollinate flowers. As part of the 60th anniversary celebration, the Oak Lawn Garden Club members organized a blaze maple tree planting in September with the assistance of the Oak Lawn Park District. The tree planting took place at the Little Wolfe Wildlife playground area at 107th Street and Laramie Avenue. The tree should reach 90 feet in height when full grown.

Bujan said that activities recognizing the 60th anniversary will actually continue until June. The club plans to raise funds for different organizations like the Ronald McDonald House in Oak Lawn.

While marking the 60th anniversary, Bujan said the future looks bright for the Oak Lawn Garden Club.

“When I first started we were in the 70s. Now we have over 90 members,” said Bujan, who added they added a male member this fall. “We also have a group that is taking care of the photos and we have formed a photography committee. We want to help the community and keep funding programs in the community.”


Chicago Ridge welcomes naval recruits for Thanksgiving meal

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

greet recruits photo 12-1

Photo by Dermot Connolly

Recruits from Great Lakes Naval Base are welcomed by an honor guard of flag-bearers outside Glenn Maker American Legion Post 1160, 10739 S. Ridgeland Ave., in Chicago Ridge, which hosted them on Thanksgiving Day.

On Thanksgiving morning, many Chicago Ridge residents took time away from their own turkey preparations to welcome about 20 recruits from Great Lakes Naval Base to Glenn Maker American Legion Post 1160, which hosted them for the day.

Several motorcycle clubs escorted their bus from the naval base near Waukegan, along with Chicago Ridge and Cook County police. And as the bus approached the Legion post at 10739 S. Ridgeland Ave., residents waving flags of all sizes lined Ridgeland Avenue in front of the Legion hall, 10739 S. Ridgeland Ave., and provided a guard of honor from the bus into the hall.

“I’m a former military mom. We’ve been doing this since it started seven years ago. It has become our family tradition,” said Judi Mirochna, a former resident who now lives in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

The annual event was founded by her friends, Jen and Rob Pyznarski, the Chicago Ridge police chief, when their own son was in the Marines and away from home. “Some other mother took my own son in on Thanksgiving, and I wanted to do the same,” said Jen Pyznarski, who accompanied the group on the bus from Great Lakes.

“It’s a great community event,” said Trustee Amanda Cardin, noting that local Girl Scout Troop 55559 spent time the day before setting tables and decorating the Legion Hall for the recruits, writing thank you notes for them, and providing bowls full of candy. Other trustees participating included Sally Durkin, William McFarland and Bruce Quintos.

Quintos, a retired police officer, was among the motorcyclists who rode with the bus from Great Lakes with his motorcycle club, The Renegade Pigs. “What an honor it was to do that,” said Quintos. Village Clerk George Schleyer was also there to welcome the recruits on behalf of the village, while Mayor Chuck Tokar was out of town.

The bus arrived about 10:30 a.m., and the full Thanksgiving meal was not the only thing on the menu for the recruits, who were invited to make the Legion Hall their home all day. Sprint provided cellphones with unlimited minutes to call home, and well as computers provided by Prairie State University so they could Skype with their families across the country. XBox and Playstation gaming systems were also available for their use.

Before settling in for the day, the recruits introduced themselves. They came from the East Coast, the West Coast and seemingly everywhere in between, as well as Hawaii, in the case of Roxanne Moya. “It’s very cold here,” she said with a grin.

“I’m blown away by the welcome you have given us. It makes it all worth it,” said Colin Quill, of Phoenix, Ariz.

“We’re your family today,” said Chief Pyznarski. “This food is a little bit better than what you would get in a mess hall. And don’t worry about cleaning up either. We are here to serve you today.”

Girl Scout Hannah Bartlett, led the Pledge of Allegiance in sign language, while Sam West played music on her piccolo. After introducing themselves, the recruits sang their own rendition of “Anchors Aweigh,” accompanied by Sam.

The Rev. Ken Carlson, pastor of St. Benedict Church in Blue Island and an Army chaplain, praised the recruits for their service.

“You’ve told me you haven’t done anything yet. But you have. Only one percent of the U.S, population joins the military. I spent a lot of time away from home on holidays, so I know how hard it is,” said Carlson, who has served in Afghanistan and Korea. “We thank you for what you have done and what you are going to do. We thank all the unselfish people like you, who put everything on the line.

Moraine Valley faculty and staff give back to community

  • Written by Michelle Zalesny

Moraine Valley Community College faculty and staff volunteered their time and gave back to the community at the third annual Community Learning Day held on Oct. 4.

“For three years now, the college has done what we call Community Learning Day, and with the support of the college foundation, we go out into the community and give service back,” said Moraine Valley College President Dr. Sylvia Jenkins during the Nov. 15 board meeting.

Community Learning Day, an event partially sponsored by the Moraine Valley Community College Foundation, offers faculty and staff opportunities for civic engagement and the chance to build relationships with community organizations in an effort to learn more about those serving the community and students. This in turn can lead to service learning opportunities for students.

“The Foundation is so proud to provide the funding for Community Learning Day,” said Kristy McGreal, the Foundation’s executive director. “It’s so empowering to be a part of a day that impacts the lives of so many.”

More than 20-plus organizations partnered with the college and 256 faculty and staff volunteered for off-campus activities.

“There was a wide variety of organization. It was important for us to select and work with organizations that provide many different services either to the community or services for students,” said Dr. Cynthia Anderson, dean of Academic Development and Outreach, who presented the event’s outcome to the board.

Faculty and staff who volunteered spent the day either on campus or off campus at various locations, including: Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center, Elsie’s Food Pantry, Greater Chicago Food Depository, My Joyful Heart, Sertoma Centre, Cook County Forest Preserves, Catholic Charities, St. Coletta’s of Illinois, and the Animal Welfare League.

Volunteer services ranged from renovation to putting hygiene and food packages together and clearing the woodlands. Those who remained on campus took part in helping English as a Second Language (ESL) students practice English-speaking skills, put cards and care boxes together for cancer patients while 206 faculty and staff attended panel discussions, discussing services for food and shelter, the community and students.

Faculty and staff who volunteered gushed about the impact of Community Learning Day.

“The day in itself was a great day for everybody,” said Anderson. “You feel good about what you’re doing no matter what it is whether you’re at the forest preserve or on campus, and you learn a lot about the different resources that the community provides and it gives the college the opportunity to give back.”

“To lend a helping hand, even if it’s just a day here or there, can make a difference in everyone’s life,” said Mary Beth Walsh, professor of Travel Business Management, Meeting Planning and Special Events. “It increases your awareness of the level of need that’s out there.”

Video gambling remains hot-button issue for local towns

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

Video gambling, especially video gaming cafés, remains a contentious issue in many local communities, four years after becoming legal in Illinois.

State law allows any establishment with a license to serve liquor to apply to the Illinois Gaming Board for a license, which typically would permit a maximum of five gaming terminals. In Evergreen Park, only the Evergreen Park American Legion Post 854 at 9701 S. Kedzie Ave. has been issued a gaming license. But other communities have been more open to providing them, until now, when several appear to be putting the brakes on.

In Oak Lawn, 36 establishments offer video gaming. These are primarily restaurants and veterans organizations, but there are also two video gaming cafés. The village’s portion of the revenue generated monthly amounted to $49,638 in October, the same month the village board decided unanimously to limit the number of cafés to those two.

Mayor Sandra Bury said that while video gaming likely helped many struggling restaurants remain open during the recent recession, the board wanted to encourage businesses that offered more than gaming. Video gaming cafés typically serve hot food along with beer and wine, but the focus of their business is video gaming. Bury said the main purpose of allowing video gaming was to help existing businesses stay afloat, and concerns have been raised about too much video gaming bringing down the appearance of the village.

A majority of trustees on the Chicago Ridge Village Board have expressed similar concerns. Twenty establishments in that village currently have gaming licenses, including a handful of video gaming cafés. The village also raised the price of the annual licenses issued per gaming terminal from $100 to $500.

But it doesn’t look like there will be any more cafés in the near future. Over the last few months, three proposals for new businesses with gaming licenses have been rejected by five of the six trustees.

Of the 13 establishments in Worth with gaming licenses, Roma Café, 6606 W. 111th St., generated the most gambling revenue in October, with $879,000 wagered. The owner of the business had sought permission to open another café by the same name four blocks east in Chicago Ridge, but was turned down. “I’m not losing out. You are,” said owner Refaat Fanous, who had promised to offer a high-quality menu along with the gambling.

The Chicago Ridge Village Board agreed to discuss the pros and cons of officially limiting the number of video gaming cafés in the village at the next meeting on Dec. 6. Mayor Chuck Tokar has warned against doing so, asserting that turning away businesses affects the tax base, and results in more vacant commercial space. Trustee Jack Lind has argued that it doesn’t make sense to reject video gaming, because it is legal and hasn’t caused any problems for the village yet.

While Hickory Hills has 15 establishments with video gaming licenses, Palos Hills has only seven. The Palos Hills City Council had resisted allowing video gaming cafés until last December, when an ordinance was passed allowing them. It was initially rejected two months previously. There are now two gaming cafés in town.

Evergreen Park mayor: ComEd has hijacked businesses

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

plaza construction photo 11-24

Photo by Joe Boyle

Workers are putting up the interiors of buildings that will house retail businesses and restaurants by the new Carson’s for the new Plaza development near 97th and Western Avenue. Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton is angry with ComEd over what he said are safety issues they are not addressing.




Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton and the board of trustees are not happy with ComEd and its work in progress at the reconstruction of the new Evergreen Park Plaza at 95th and Western Avenue, claiming there are serious issues being ignored.

“We are very disappointed with ComEd’s actions,” said Sexton during the Evergreen Park Board meeting on Monday night. “ComEd has hijacked our businesses coming into the Plaza by overcharging them for work where electrical lines already exist and have not completed work on designated timelines. It’s very difficult to get work done when not everyone is paddling in the same direction.”

His comments were prompted by a report from Bill Lorenz, public works director, who stated that ComEd has created a dangerous, possibly life-threatening situation by burying primary power cables in three locations at the Plaza area without proper identification.

Lorenz said it poses a threat to any public workers who need to drill or excavate in the area.

“A JULIE locator (Joint Utility Locating Information for Excavators) could come out and identify the presence of an Edison duct, but not realize there is a large loop of primary electric cable buried in the vicinity. Someone could be killed,” he said.

Lorenz stated that he had contacted Earl Washington, ComEd engineer in charge of the Plaza redevelopment Edison power installations and suggested that a splice pit box be installed directly over the buried cable, which would indicate to a JULIE locator that the cable was present.

According to Lorenz, the response from ComEd was “We do this all the time and that is the way Edison does it.”

“That doesn’t make it safe. If that is the way Edison does it, it needs to be changed,” said Lorenz

“They are a lot bigger than we are and pretty much do what they want, but we are going to make them do this,” said Sexton. “ComEd has not been neighborly, but this is a situation where someone could be killed.”

In other matters, a business certificate was approved for Arias Chicago World Group Corp., Arias Millwork and Cabinets (Millwork of countertops and cabinets) at 9340 S. Kedzie Ave.

Also approved was a payment of 2017 membership dues to the Illinois Municipal League in the amount of $1,500.