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Board: No more gaming cafés

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

Video gaming cafés are no longer welcome in Oak Lawn, following passage of a new ordinance by the Oak Lawn Village Board on Tuesday night.

Mayor Sandra Bury, who introduced the ordinance, said it would have no effect on the two video gaming cafés already in the village. A total of 34 bars, restaurants and other businesses with liquor licenses currently offer video gaming in Oak Lawn.

‘Video gaming is big money,” she said, pointing to Illinois Gaming Board statistics showing that more than $333 million has been wagered at the machines in Oak Lawn since video gaming was introduced in 2012. The two gaming cafés account for 15 percent of that amount. In August alone, $11.5 million was wagered.

“When video gaming was approved by the previous administration, it was because the existing businesses came out in force and asked for help in a difficult economy. I have no doubt that if it had not been approved, some businesses that we know and love would not be open,” she said.

Bury said the unanimously approved ordinance would “raise the bar” for businesses seeking gaming licenses to ensure that gaming wasn’t their primary purpose. About 71 businesses in the village have liquor licenses, which entitles them to apply for gaming licenses, according to state law. But the mayor said the goal is to help “brick-and-mortar businesses” that offer more than video gaming.

The other issue discussed was vehicle stickers, following recent efforts by the village to catch up to vehicle owners who don’t buy them as required.

Several trustees reported hearing from residents who received letters in September from Finance Director Brian Hanigan, saying they had not bought stickers of vehicles registered to their address. Some either had bought the stickers or no longer owned the vehicles in question.

Those who had not bought stickers were told they owed the $25 sticker fee, plus a $100 penalty, which would be reduced to $50 if the stickers were bought by Oct. 31. He said the effort resulted in the village collecting $40,000. Hanigan pointed out that the sticker fees are lower in Oak Lawn than most neighboring communities.

Trustee Tim Desmond (1st) said he received one of the letters, and was thankful he had the receipt to prove he had purchased the sticker by the June 30 deadline. But he said many residents complained about having to come to Village Hall to sort out the matter

Hanigan explained that the letters were sent in order to track down “scofflaws” who neglected to buy the village stickers to do so. He said some letters were sent in error, because the village was using the Secretary of State’s database of vehicle registration, which did not always match with the information on file in the village.

“People don’t always inform the state or us when they changes vehicle,” said Hanigan.

“This is the first time we did this, and the database will be cleaned up next time,” he said.

He also pointed out that most trips to Village Hall were unnecessary because the letters stated that those who no longer owned the vehicle in question could state that and return the letter by mail.

“The trustees and I have talked about this for a while. Vehicle stickers are a revenue source, but they are considered a nuisance by a lot of residents,” said Bury. She asked Village Manager Larry Deetjen to look into the possibility of eliminating stickers, and making up the revenue elsewhere.

But that didn’t go over too well with Hanigan.

“They account for 900,000 in revenue to the village this year. I’m all ears as to how we are going to make up that amount of money in the budget, when we owe pensions,” said Hanigan, noting that he has followed orders from the board not to raise property taxes in recent years.

“If we want to get rid of the village stickers, it is incumbent on all of us on this board to come up with ways to make up the lost revenue,” said Trustee Mike Carberry (6th).

Jeff Vorva's Extra Point -- Compared to 2015, this isn't brain surgery

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

PAGE 1 AD SWIM 10 13

 

Photo by Jeff Vorva

Shepard Athletic Director Curry Gallagher gets in some swimming practice in September with the Astros girls team.

 

 

One thing about Shepard athletic directors, they do some interesting things.

Gwaine Perkins jumped out of an airplane in 2011 as a part of a retirement gift.

Five years later, Curry Gallagher is trying something that might not be as dangerous but hasn’t been always easy so far.

He plans on participating in one practice for every athletic team that Shepard has to offer. In September, he started things off with a girls swimming practice that left him feeling quite a bit tired after it was over. He practiced with the girls tennis team, but because he was the newbie on the team, he had to go fetch the cart with the tennis balls and wheel it to the courts.

On one recent Friday, he ran cross country and then worked in a soccer practice that featured a drill called “Gilligan’s Island.’’ There is no word if Ginger or Mr. Howell were participating, too.

Outsiders may scoff that this is a stunt, but Gallagher said he is doing it to get closer to the student-athletes at the school.

And after the way he spent 2015, let the man play. Let him run, jump, grunt and do grunt work with the athletes. He’s entitled.

Last year he opened the 2015-16 school year on the disabled list.

He was recovering from having a brain tumor removed.

Just the words “brain tumor’’ are scary, but Gallagher said he lucked out, as he has an Acoustic Neuroma tumor which had to be taken out. He lost his hearing in his left ear, but he only had to spend 48 hours at Northwestern Memorial hospital in early August and was back on the job in late September.

 “If you’re going to get a brain tumor, this is the one to get,” he bragged. “I got the best brain tumor available.’’

It also gave him a new outlook on life, hence his new project of practicing with the Astro athletes.

“I feel blessed to be upright, I feel blessed to be on the good side of the green, I feel blessed to have a wonderful family and a great job,” the 40-year-old Gallagher said. “The district and the supervisors and coaches were all fantastic when I was sick.

“I do look at life differently and that’s why I want to do this.’’

Aside from a few aches and pains, it’s been rewarding.

“It’s getting back to having fun with kids,” he said. “Last year, I was sick and you kind of reevaluate your job. You’re sitting behind a desk and being an administrator is time-demanding and you are further away from kids.

“I want the kids to know me a little bit. And I want the kids at each practice to teach me something. Teach me about the team. Teach me about the sport. They can also ask me questions about Shepard athletics and being an administrator. Teach me something and I’ll teach you something.’’

Gallagher said he played football, baseball, tennis and bowling in high school in Philadelphia and ultimate Frisbee on the club level in college. He tried his hand at triathlons before his family (wife Carrie, daughters Deidre and Brigid and son Liam) started to grow.

He has worked at Marist, St. Ignatius and Richards before landing the AD job at Shepard.

He said he wants Shepard athletes to know his door is always open to them.

“I don’t want kids to look at me as the administrator who doesn’t talk to them,’’ he said. “Or the administrator who is distant from them.’’

He also said the brain surgery was just a blip in his life, similar to when he had knee surgery.

“If it grew more, it could have been life threatening,” Gallagher said. “I lost my hearing in one ear – some hard wiring was destroyed.  But all they did was take a little grey matter out of my head. I was in and out of the hospital in two days. I am still so amazed by that.’’

 

‘Midnight Terror’ continues to provide chills at new Oak Lawn location

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

 

The Midnight Terror haunted house, a popular Halloween attraction in Oak Lawn for the past two years, has moved to a new and bigger location in the village, with more ghouls and goblins than ever before.

Oak Lawn resident Justin Cerniuk, with his uncle Robert Page and friend Maciek Kulawiak, is still operating the haunted house in its new, permanent location at 5520 W. 111th St., just east of Central Avenue and opposite Holy Sepulchre Cemetery. Some parking is available in nearby lots, and free shuttle buses will also be run from the Metra parking lot at 95th Street and Tulley Avenue.

The original location in the 4,000-square-foot Beatty Lumber property at 9531 S. 52nd Ave., was demolished earlier this year, but “we outgrew it anyway,” said Cerniuk. He pointed out that the new site, a former fabrics factory, is 26,000 square feet.

“This is now my full-time job. We’ve been spending 24 hours a day for the past two months working on this,” he said, as he gave a tour of the new site just before it opened on Sept. 29. “But I really enjoy doing it.”

Cerniuk credits his uncle with getting him interested in creating Halloween displays, which he used to arrange on his driveway on Massasoit Avenue in the village until he outgrew that.

The new location now has two haunted houses inside the building.

“We hit the mother lode when we found this warehouse, which offers so much more room than our previous site,” said Cerniuk, a Marine veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan.

This year, Midnight Terror includes The Factory of Malum, populated by shrieking and wailing employees driven insane by an unseen force. But first, visitors must pass through the equally haunted village of Black Oak Grove.

“We called it Black Oak Grove because that is the original name of Oak Lawn,” Cerniuk explained.

According to the storyline, which visitors can read on monitors as they make what could be a 30-minute trek through Midnight Terror, Black Oak Grove has turned into a hellish landscape populated by monstrosities lurking around every corner. To get through, visitors must follow the mark of Willow, a wraithlike female searching for her father, a factory owner named Sledge. The Factory of Malum is named after the demonic overlord who has enslaved Sledge and his employees within an industrial labyrinth with equally gruesome creatures.

Visitors of all ages are welcome, but the operators said they would rate the haunted house PG-13.

It will be open Thursdays through Sundays, with its last day of operation on Saturday, Nov. 5. It will also be open from 7 to 10 p.m. on Halloween, Oct. 31.

It will be open from 7 to 10 p.m. on Thursdays and Sundays, and 7 to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

It will also be open on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 4 and 5.

General admission tickets are $23 online at www.midnightterrorhauntedhouse.com and $25 at the door. VIP admission (to bypass lines) is $31 online and $35 at the door. A “fear package,” which comes with a T-shirt, is $33 online and $35 at the door.

Oak Lawn trustee: "No significant rise in crime'

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

In response to two armed robberies that occurred in his district last month, Oak Lawn Trustee Terry Vorderer (4th) will be holding a community meeting to discuss public safety issues at 7 p.m. Oct. 13 at Salem United Church of Christ, 9717 S. Kostner Ave.

Vorderer said representatives of the Oak Lawn Police Department and the business community will be there to answer questions.

The incidents of most concern locally are two armed robberies, which police believe were committed by the same man, that occurred during the afternoon on Sept. 13. In both cases, the man robbed people at gunpoint in garages in the 4100 block of West 93rd Street and the 9600 block of South Kildare Avenue. Both locations are in Vorderer’s district.

When the trustee announced that he would be having the session at the Sept. 27 Village Board meeting, he cautioned residents that there is no reason to think that “crime is rampant” in the village.

A retired Oak Lawn police officer and chief of patrol, Vorderer claimed that Trustee Bob Streit (3rd) “takes liberties with the statistics,” on his online blog, in an effort to scare residents about crime levels.

In an overhead display of local crime statistics between 2010 and 2015 that he showed during the meeting, Vorderer pointed out that “there is no significant rise in crime over the last few years.”

He said that 2016 statistics are not available, and there was a spike in several areas in 2014. But crime has actually dropped this year in most areas, including burglaries, which are down from 121 to 110 this year, and robberies, down from 34 to 21.

“Variances can occur every year. One offender can cause a lot of trouble. But nothing indicates there is a large increase in crime.”

Vorderer and several other trustees argued that Streit is finding fault with the police department unnecessarily.

Streit did not challenge Vorderer during the meeting, except to ask, “Has anyone been caught for those burglaries?”

No one has been, but the same offender is now suspected of committing a similar robbery in north suburban Harwood Heights on Sept. 14. Jewelry was stolen in all three cases, and in Harwood Heights, he went into a home and took a ring from a man. A red Buick Enclave SUV was reportedly seen in Oak Lawn and in Harwood Heights.

The suspect in all three cases was described as a man in his 20s or 30s, black, and thin. He was described as wearing a black jacket and black floppy hat in Harwood Heights, and in Oak Lawn, witnesses said he wore a baseball cap and black writing.

Pilgrim Faith Church members greet friends at annual Fall Fest

  • Written by Kelly White

lucy whitney photo 10-6

Photo by Kelly White

Lucy Whitney, 5, of Oak Lawn, enjoys games at the second annual Pilgrim Faith United Church of Christ's Fall Fest on Saturday evening in Oak Lawn.

 

The leaves are beginning to fall, pumpkins are starting to make an appearance and Halloween is just around the corner.

To celebrate the autumn season, Pilgrim Faith United Church of Christ held its second annual Fall Fest on Saturday at the church, 9411 S 51st Ave, Oak Lawn.

The fest was planned to take place on the outdoor playground and fire pit area just behind the church building. However, due to the constant rain on Saturday, it was held inside the church basement instead. The event featured homemade chili, hot dogs, s’mores, hot chocolate, apple cider and plenty of interactive games for adults and children alike – all provided by Pilgrim Faith Church members.

“I absolutely love this church,” said Oak Lawn resident Erin Sheehan, who attended with her daughter, Maggie, 9. “The church does so much for the community and is constantly finding ways to get members involved.”

“It was an evening of fun for all ages,” Pilgrim Faith Church Rev. Peggy McClanahan said. “It was a shame the weather did not cooperate to hold the event outdoors. However, we still had a very nice turnout. We had some great comfort food, but mostly it was a relaxed environment that offered time to hang out with old and new friends. The goal of the event was for everyone to just come out and have a good time.”

McClanahan was responsible for organizing the event with the help of Pilgrim Faith Church members, Libby Whitney and Lori Harris.

The fest was free, only asking for a freewill donation. They gathered more than 50 local residents of all ages, including Luke Weierman, 9, of Hometown, and his mother, Mary.

“This is great because Luke gets the opportunity to get out of the house and play with other kids,” said Mary Weierman. “He is extremely social and loves events like this.”

Lucy Whitney, 5, of Oak Lawn, was also having fun with her family and other children at the fest.

“I love the games and being with my friends,” she aid.

The fest was not strictly limited to Pilgrim Faith members, as all community members were welcomed and encouraged to attend, according to McClanahan.

“We have always been a church that is very involved in the community,” McClanahan said. “We do this for the community, as well. We were asking for freewill donations – at no set amount - to cover the costs but everyone was welcome to attend regardless of the person’s ability to pay. No one was turned away.”

Attendees said the fest stood out from other neighborhood fall festivals because of its size, keeping it small.

“Our fest is on a much smaller scale,” McClanahan said. “There aren’t booths or some of the big attractions like the Children’s Museum does. It was simply more a chance for people to hang out together for low-key fun and food. There was also opportunity for people to get to know other people within the community that they might not have previously known. It was also designed for all ages, not just for the parents of the community. We welcomed children and senior citizens as well to come out and mingle with each other.”

The event was part of a year-long celebration of the church’s 125th-year anniversary. The church was founded in Oak Lawn on Oct. 31, 1891 in Simpson’s farmhouse, at the corner of what is now Southwest Highway and Central Avenue. The original church building is now the Homestead Barr, 9306 Central Ave., Oak Lawn.

The church will conclude its 125th anniversary year with an Anniversary Celebration Worship at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 30, followed by a luncheon. Former members, pastors and staff and others who have been involved with Pilgrim Faith are invited to attend. Reservations for the lunch must be made by Oct. 24 to the church office at (708) 422-4200.

“It is a great time to remember all the ministry we have done in Oak Lawn around the world over those 125 years,” McClanahan said. “We have been lifting up many of the ministries and missions that have met the ever-changing needs of people in our community and surrounding area. It has been a time to celebrate how God has made all that possible and enabled us to bring hope to so many people.”

 

m Faith Unite members greet friends at ‘low-key’ Fall Fest

By Kelly White

The leaves are beginning to fall, pumpkins are starting to make an appearance and Halloween is just around the corner.

To celebrate the autumn season, Pilgrim Faith United Church of Christ held its second annual Fall Fest on Saturday at the church, 9411 S 51st Ave, Oak Lawn.

The fest was planned to take place on the outdoor playground and fire pit area just behind the church building. However, due to the constant rain on Saturday, it was held inside the church basement instead. The event featured homemade chili, hot dogs, s’mores, hot chocolate, apple cider and plenty of interactive games for adults and children alike – all provided by Pilgrim Faith Church members.

“I absolutely love this church,” said Oak Lawn resident Erin Sheehan, who attended with her daughter, Maggie, 9. “The church does so much for the community and is constantly finding ways to get members involved.”

“It was an evening of fun for all ages,” Pilgrim Faith Church Rev. Peggy McClanahan said. “It was a shame the weather did not cooperate to hold the event outdoors. However, we still had a very nice turnout. We had some great comfort food, but mostly it was a relaxed environment that offered time to hang out with old and new friends. The goal of the event was for everyone to just come out and have a good time.”

McClanahan was responsible for organizing the event with the help of Pilgrim Faith Church members, Libby Whitney and Lori Harris.

The fest was free, only asking for a freewill donation. They gathered more than 50 local residents of all ages, including Luke Weierman, 9, of Hometown, and his mother, Mary.

“This is great because Luke gets the opportunity to get out of the house and play with other kids,” said Mary Weierman. “He is extremely social and loves events like this.”

Lucy Whitney, 5, of Oak Lawn, was also having fun with her family and other children at the fest.

“I love the games and being with my friends,” she aid.

The fest was not strictly limited to Pilgrim Faith members, as all community members were welcomed and encouraged to attend, according to McClanahan.

“We have always been a church that is very involved in the community,” McClanahan said. “We do this for the community, as well. We were asking for freewill donations – at no set amount - to cover the costs but everyone was welcome to attend regardless of the person’s ability to pay. No one was turned away.”

Attendees said the fest stood out from other neighborhood fall festivals because of its size, keeping it small.

“Our fest is on a much smaller scale,” McClanahan said. “There aren’t booths or some of the big attractions like the Children’s Museum does. It was simply more a chance for people to hang out together for low-key fun and food. There was also opportunity for people to get to know other people within the community that they might not have previously known. It was also designed for all ages, not just for the parents of the community. We welcomed children and senior citizens as well to come out and mingle with each other.”

The event was part of a year-long celebration of the church’s 125th-year anniversary. The church was founded in Oak Lawn on Oct. 31, 1891 in Simpson’s farmhouse, at the corner of what is now Southwest Highway and Central Avenue. The original church building is now the Homestead Barr, 9306 Central Ave., Oak Lawn.

The church will conclude its 125th anniversary year with an Anniversary Celebration Worship at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 30, followed by a luncheon. Former members, pastors and staff and others who have been involved with Pilgrim Faith are invited to attend. Reservations for the lunch must be made by Oct. 24 to the church office at (708) 422-4200.

“It is a great time to remember all the ministry we have done in Oak Lawn around the world over those 125 years,” McClanahan said. “We have been lifting up many of the ministries and missions that have met the ever-changing needs of people in our community and surrounding area. It has been a time to celebrate how God has made all that possible and enabled us to bring hope to so many people.”