CSX Railroad will be required to file reports of any train delays in Evergreen Park

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

“Sometimes the little guys win,” said Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton at the Tuesday Village Board meeting as he discussed a report from the Service Transportation Board (STB) about its recent decision on the CSX Railroad and the Elston line.

According to the report, CSX will be required to present a monthly report to the STB on its number of stoppages resulting in the blocking of roadways on the Elston line, which runs through Evergreen Park and nearby communities.

The village has been involved for several months in hearings with STB, the CSX and both local and regional legislators to prevent the blocking of roadways by freight trains for long periods of time. Sexton said the report commended the Evergreen Park Police Department for its consistent, detailed reports of blocked streets, as well as its residents who also were diligent in writing letters of complaint about the long delays caused by trains blocking the streets.

“Not only was this a health and safety issue for our community which is served by two major hospitals, but it was also an economic issue,” said Sexton. “The long delays caused by the trains discouraged people from coming to our community to shop.”

The mayor promised to keep residents up to date on the progress of the project. “We hope to see some results and improvements soon,” he said.

In other matters, Sexton announced there will be a public hearing at 7 p.m. Monday, July 18 in the Council Chambers at the Village Hall, just prior to the regularly scheduled village board meeting, on a request for a parking variation and a rear yard setback variation for the property located at 2952 W. 95th St.

Sexton said the proposed development for the property is a Wu’s House Japanese Restaurant. He added that it will be an upscale, well designed facility. “There is a Wu’s House in Orland Park and it is an excellent establishment. This will be a very nice asset to our community,” he said.

A public hearing is also scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 12 regarding a request for variations to permit a subdivision of a 75-foot lot into two 37.5 lots on the property at 9315 S. Troy Ave.

Other business included approval of a request to hire two individuals from the May 2 2016 Probationary Patrol Officer Eligibility List to fill two vacancies in the police department due to the resignation and retirement of two patrol officers.

Also approved was a request to include Alexander Herrera, an Evergreen Park resident, in the Evergreen Park Police Department’s College Student Internship Program.

A business certificate was approved for Anthony Sisk, new owner of WOJO’s Vienna at 9851 S. Pulaski Road.

Other approvals included a $746 contribution to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, and awarding of a bid in the amount of $199,782 for sewer lining to Insituform Technologies, Inc.

In other business, Virginia Wrobel, representing the Senior Citizen Council, presented a check in the amount of $2,000 to Sexton to benefit the purchase of a new Senior mini-bus. The funds were raised through the recent “Memories to Go” community garage sale, sponsored by the Senior Citizen Council.

Best-selling author packs Evergreen Park library

  • Written by Claudia Parker

Best-selling author packs them in at the Evergreen Park Library

By Claudia Parker

The Evergreen Park Public Library has played host to several New York Times best-selling authors in the past. Accommodating large audiences isn’t new to the staff. Yet, on June 28 when Rockford native and New York Times bestselling author Kimberla Lawson Roby showed up, they were scrambling to unstack more chairs so they could move the overflow of people out of the hallway and doorframes.

“The response was a bit of a surprise to us,” said Evergreen Park Public Library Director Nicki Seidel. “We had 45 people register on our website but well over 100 patrons showed up.”

Lawson Roby is an American novelist that pens fiction around real-life social issues. “A Sinful Calling,” released on June 21, is her 13th title from The Reverend Curtis Black Series. However, she has 24 books to her credit; gracing the New York Times best-seller list with 16 of them.

The Evergreen Park Public Library was Lawson Roby’s seventh of eight consecutive meet and greets since A Sinful Calling’s book tour began at the end of June and her only Chicago area appearance.

“We’re not just traveling to a different city every day, we’ve been in a different state,” said Lawson Roby, referring to herself and husband of 25 years, Will Roby Jr. He inconspicuously sat among her readers at the EP library near the back of the room. He was a spouse undetected until she outed him with an introduction at the conclusion of her author chat. The crowded room cheered as he waved hello and quickly yielded the spotlight back in her direction.

Lawson Roby said Will’s faith in her helped manifest her professional writing career.

“I didn’t set out to be a writer,” she said. “I have two business degrees. I came from Corporate America and also worked for the city of Rockford and state government. I was successful in my career but I wasn’t fulfilled.”

That discontentment lead her to start writing, which she said is something many people said she had a knack for. However, like many novice writers with no publishing credits to their name, she was unable to find literary representation.

Novice as a writer but savvy in business, Lawson Roby then founded Lenox Press and published her first book, “Behind Closed Doors” herself. A first time, self-published author is considered successful by some literary agent’s standards if they sell at least 5,000 copies within the first year. Behind Closed Doors landed in the hands of 10,000 readers within the first six months.

That success cracked the combination that had kept Lawson Roby locked out of publishing houses; 14 rejection letters had taken residence in her mailbox from editors and literary agents.

“And here I was worried I’d have difficulty choosing which publisher to go with.” She joked. “I thought I was going to get multiple offers.”

The audience erupted with laughter. Being able to sell books makes all the difference.

Within the first two months of official sales, Lawson Roby signed with a literary agent and sold her second book, “Here and Now,” to Kensington Publishing in New York. Behind Closed Doors was then picked up by Black Classic Press in Baltimore.

That was the prelude to her now 20-year writing career.    

“I’ll never forget the date, it was Oct. 28, 1996 that my husband suggested I give my employer my resignation,” recalled Lawson Roby. “He goes with me on every book tour. He’s retired from the Chrysler Corporation; worked there 30 years. Back in 1996 when I couldn’t get published, he took funds from his 401K and a small loan from our credit union to help fund the publishing company I started. I’m not a risk taker. I was uncomfortable with the idea at first but he had more faith in me than I had in myself. He recognized that I had a gift.”

Apparently, he isn’t the only one. The audience at the Evergreen Park Public Library was giddy at the sight of her. Many of them boasting, “I’ve read every one of your books.” She listened attentively and expressed great appreciation for their kindness. She treated each person as if they were the only one present -- despite the remaining line that wrapped around the corner and down the hall that patiently waited for her autograph.

If you haven’t experienced Lawson Roby’s work before, A Sinful Calling could be the place to start. It’s a turbulent tale of how the good Rev. Curtis Black’s secret son, Dillion, moved back home, got married and decided he wanted to follow his dad’s footsteps and become a pastor. He founded his own church smack center of his living room that surprisingly flourished to a congregation well over 1,000. Regrettably, the same demons that wrestled his father, Rev. Black, from righteousness 30 years prior, latch onto Dillion causing him to fall prey to the lust of his flesh for power, money and women.

Rev. Black’s daughter, Alicia, leaves his church to join her brother Dillion’s congregation. While she’s been forgiven, she’d once been the black sheep of the family for disgracing them with an affair with a former drug dealer whom she later married. Realizing her family will never truly accept him, she distances herself from them. Consequently, her newfound happiness becomes overshadowed by the condemnation that taunts her from within for having betrayed her ex-husband.

Learn more about Lawson Roby’s books at

Marist group to bring people together for 'Disability Day'

  • Written by Mary Alialoney

The Disability Defenders is a student-run organization at Marist High School that accepts those who differ developmentally and strive to spread awareness for the community to do the same. The group is hosting its first “Disability Day” from 3 to 7 p.m. Saturday, July 16 at the school, 4200 W. 115th St., Chicago.

The event is a day where people with disabilities and members of the local community can come together to enjoy food, music, and activities all while celebrating each other’s differences and focusing on each other’s’ similarities.

Alex Lyons, Marist Class of ’16, founded the Disability Defenders after being inspired by his own experiences working with people with disabilities. During his first years at Marist, Lyons was a member of the Peace Builders Initiative, a program of the Bernardin Center at the Catholic Theological Union that prepares youth from 33 Catholic high school communities in the Chicago area for active leadership roles in peacemaking and reconciliation.

Having enjoyed his time with the Peace Builders Initiative, Lyons decided to partake in the Marist Senior Service program. Senior Service provides senior students at Marist the opportunity to travel to a site within the local community to help and serve those in need.

Lyons completed his Senior Service at Park Lawn in Oak Lawn, where he worked closely with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“It was only an hour and 10 minutes out of my day, but it was the best hour and 10 minutes of my day,” Lyons said of his Senior Service experience. The time he spent with members of the Park Lawn community motivated him to create an event that would celebrate and assimilate people with disabilities into the broader local community.

According to Lyons, the driving idea behind the Disability Day event is to bring people together.

“People with disabilities are pushed aside. They’re put into separate schools and living communities, which provide support, attention, and care, but the separation lingers beyond that. These people are people and they live their lives just like we do – they laugh, they cry, they love. We’re all just people. Disability Day is a way to bring “normal” people together with other “normal” people for a day of fun,” Lyons said.

Lyons, the director of the Disability Defenders, has put together a team of 18 students who have spent their summer working hard to put on a great event. Elizabeth Seip, Marist Class of ’16 and the organization’s marketing director, organized fundraising efforts for the event and managed the event cost, which included finding food vendors and other donors or organizations who wanted to lend services to the event.

Seip shares Lyons sentiments of inclusion and celebration surrounding Disability Day. “We want to spread awareness and show solidarity to people with disabilities. Our community is their community, and this day is a way to bring everyone together,” Seip said.

Ellie Marino, who will be a senior next year at Marist, will take on the role of director of the Disability Defenders and is learning the ropes by working closely with Lyons. Marino said he has gained invaluable experience in event planning and has seen the true range of duties that goes into developing a successful event.

“You do big things, like booking a band to play at the event, but then you stop and think about the little things, like ‘wait… who can we get to donate spoons,’” Marino said.

Marino has a family member with a disability, so being a Disability Defender holds a special place in her heart.

“We want to really connect with the community at the event. So many people know someone with a disability or know people who have friends, family members, or loved ones with disabilities, so the celebration of disabilities touches home with a lot of people.”

The Disability Defenders are working closely with Park Lawn, Elim Christian Services and Sertoma Centre to make Disability Day in July a fundraising success for participants of these organizations. The plan for the event, according to Lyons, is to raise enough money to donate all proceeds back to each organization.

Frank M. Portada, Employment and Day Services director at Park Lawn, is appreciative of the Disability Defenders’ efforts to celebrate disabilities.

“The students at Marist have been wonderful in their support of Park Lawn and we’re excited to have fun at the event. The students have made sure to ask what kinds of foods are easiest for our participants with disabilities to eat and have made sure the venue is comfortable and welcoming for all the different needs of our participants,” Portada said.

Disability Day will include two live bands, a magician, balloon animals, a stilt-walker, face painting, and more, with plenty of food.

“It’s going to be like a festival where the whole family can have fun,” Lyons said of the event.

There are over 200 volunteers who will be helping at Disability Day, including the Knights of Columbus and local Girl Scout troops. Orland Park District and St. Alexander in Palos Heights have provided funding, promotional services, and connections to vendors and entertainment for the event.

If interested, send checks and donations to Marist High School at 4200 W. 115th St., Chicago IL, 60655 with “Disability Day” in the memo.

Fourth of July celebration outs focus on families and kids

  • Written by Kelly White


The Oak Lawn Park District decided to take the Fourth of July to a different level and have celebrations aimed at local area children.

The festivities kicked off on Monday morning at Centennial Park, 94th and Nashville Avenue, Oak Lawn, with a wide array of children’s-themed activities that included a treasure hunt sponsored by the Oak Lawn Firefighters Union, Freshline Watermelon Eating Contests for both youth and adults, Oak Lawn’s Got Talent, a giant inflatable slide, obstacle courses, games and crafts, balloon animals, gymnastics, dodgeball and archery.

The fun didn’t stop there as children were also able to bring their tricycles and have them washed for free in a tricycle car wash by park district employees.

Entertainment was provided by Magician Gary Kantor, who teaches magic to children at 135 local park districts. Music was provided by DJ Greg Carter of GAC Entertainment, playing today’s hottest hits and children’s favorites.

“We have been coming to this event for many years now,” said Oak Lawn resident Brooke McCain. “My kids love the activities, especially the interactive treasure hunt.”

McCain’s viewpoint was also shared by the Giffey family of Oak Lawn.

“I love this fest,” T.J. Giffey, 7, said. “I like because there are a bunch of games and different things to do.”

Giffey insisted his father, Rick, enter in this year’s Watermelon Eating Contest. Rick took home the 2015 first place title for the event and was looking forward to the challenge again.

“Of course I had to come back to defend me title,” he joked.

The event gathered together 500 patrons, surpassing last year’s attendance of 350.

Popularity for the annual event continues to grow larger every year, according to park district officials.

“This holiday-themed event is held annually in observance of celebrating the national holiday, Fourth of July,” said Mary Crout, safety coordinator and aquatic director for the Oak Lawn Park District. “The event provided our patrons with a safe and fun environment to enjoy and honor this holiday. There was something for everyone. Hopefully, this becomes a traditional event for families to participate in and to make life long memories.”

Bingo was available for adults while the children played, along with a military salute to the veterans in honor of the holiday.

The Fourth of July event has been taking place for more than 25 years, according to Crout, who has been heading the event’s planning since 1999, along with a team of park district employees.

“It is a great feeling of accomplishment, as a staff member and an event coordinator, to see patrons of all ages having a fun, safe and exciting Fourth of July at our event,” Crout said. “It also provided the park district an opportunity to showcase the different services we offer while providing fun and entertainment for our residents.”

In honor of the holiday, there was a special $2 admission for residents and non-residents to both of the Oak Lawn outdoor pools that are located at Centennial Aquatics Center, 94th Street and Nashville Ave., and Central Pool, 9400 S. Kenton Ave. The cost per pool is normally $7 per resident and $12 per non-resident.

A $5 wristband was available for children will allow them to participate in all daytime activities and gain admission to the pool. Last year, the wristband sales totaled $1,500.

“Any money revenue from the event goes back into the special event fund to be used towards next year's event,” said Denise Iwinski, marketing and public relations supervisor for the Oak Lawn Park District.

To end the day, the park district and the Village of Oak Lawn worked together to provide a firework show at Richards High School, 10601 Central Ave., Oak Lawn.

Stopgap budget brings local leaders some relief

  • Written by Joe Boyle

The Illinois legislature finally has a budget after a year. But since the agreement is only for six months, no celebrations were forthcoming.

Local legislators were relieved that a budget was approved at the last hour. They were in agreement that funding for the state education was the key. The budget was approved on June 30 after two days of marathon sessions between Democratic and Republican leaders.

“Illinois has very big problems, and we need bipartisan solutions. I am glad that we were able to come together and agree that investing in primary, secondary and higher education needs to be a top priority,” said state Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-18th). “This is a start to ensuring that we can get Illinois back on the correct fiscal path.”

Cunningham joined a bipartisan group of senators that were able to pass legislation that would raise the investment the state makes in elementary and secondary education by more than $6 million for the southwest suburbs school districts he represents. It would also send stopgap funding to institutions of higher education and human service providers throughout his district, which includes Worth Township.

Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett, who is also the president of the Southwest Conference of Mayors, felt that something was going to occur due to the unrelenting pressure on both parties to avoid another budget deadlock

“I think everybody agreed that a budget had to be reached,” said Bennett. “So, as far as funding for education, that was sort of a surprise. It was not only Chicago Public Schools that were in danger of not opening in the fall, it was schools downstate and everywhere else.”

The stopgap budget bill includes $720 million for state operational expenses and will go toward paying off bills at state facilities and agencies. The funding includes $1 billion for universities, community colleges and MAP grants. Nearly $655 million will go to nine universities including Chicago State, Eastern Illinois and Western Illinois. Chicago Public Schools will receive $100 million.

Rauner had set aside his “Turnaround Agenda,” which calls for measures to reduce collective bargaining and lessen the power of unions. The governor is hoping that more Republican victories in November will allow for some of his agenda items to become a reality in the future.

State Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-16th), whose district includes portions of Oak Lawn, was grateful that at least the compromise budget fully funds kindergarten through 12th grade education for the 2016-17 school year and restores state resources for afterschool and employment programs for at-risk youth:

“With bipartisan support, the General Assembly and the governor have finally reached a compromise that will allow our schools to open in the fall and will route desperately needed state funds to services for society’s most vulnerable – including afterschool and employment programs for youth at risk of falling victim to the cycle of violence in our inner cities,” said Collins.

Both Democrats and Republicans were feeling the heat as yet another budget deadline was about to occur. The agreement was reached on June 30 as Rauner signed budget deals to get state funding operations to move forward. This came after two days of marathon sessions between Democratic and Republican par