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Painting an inspiring picture

  • Written by Claudia Parker

Palos Hills woman thrilled to have her house painted during Palos Park church’s SON Weekend

  Inspiration lifted church members up from theDouble-run-FRONT-COLOR-2-col-CARLENEPalos Hills’ Carlene O’Connor had her house painted, received a bucket of paint, a basket with a pumpkin inside and a t-shirt courtesy of the SON weekend in September. pews and into their community to practice what was being preached.

  The Palos Park Presbyterian Community Church gathered more than 200 volunteers, and hit the households of 23 residents on to conduct home improvement projects. They likened the project to “Extreme Home Maker” with a splash of something off of Home and Garden TV.
  It’s called Serving Our Neighbors Weekend and it’s been happening annually, during the last weekend of September, for four years.
  They replaced everything from roofs to furnaces. They cleaned everything from gutters to carpets and trimmed everything outside from trees to grass.
  If that’s not enough, some of them painted, wall to wall, inside and out. This is the short list at zero cost to the homeowner. SON Weekend took place over three days. If the job couldn’t be finished within the weekend, a mop-up crew finished the work the following week.
  Carlene O’Connor, of Palos Hills is one person who is happy with having her place dressed up.
  “These are tremendous people,” she said. “They painted my entire condo in one day. It was amazing. They had a team of eight people. I’m a smoker, with thick nicotine on my walls. You can’t tell anymore. It’s beautiful in here.”
  She said she was given a quote by a professional painting company months prior and the asking price was $3,000. She spoke soft but rapid saying, “I could have never afforded that. The church didn’t ask me for anything. And, they gave me a gift basket, leftover paint, a t-shirt, and invited me to a free breakfast the next morning.”
  As a thank you to the group, she says she attended a worship service and gave a speech.
  O’Connor said she worked for the Palos Olympic Health Club for 16 years. She added she had zero reservations about accepting help. She said she “felt special.”
  SON Weekend was inspired by a disaster in New Orleans.
  The devastation of Hurricane Katrina caused an awakening for members of PPPCC. Bob Sneddon of Palos Heights has been with the church since 1972 and is the project coordinator for SON Weekend.
  “We all wanted to board a plane and go to New Orleans but it was too costly,” he said. “We shifted our focus to helping right here, in our own community.”
  James Tony, who has been the pastor of PPPCC since 1990 said knew this vision needed to be a collaborative effort and reached out to the Palos Township supervisor Colleen Schumann.
  “Pastor Tony needed us to locate residents willing to accept help. I told him he’d have our full support,” Schumann said.
  Schumann’s assistant, Bernadette Orr, of Palos Hills, became the liaison between the township and the church. Orr sent letters to current and past participants of their general assistance program, holiday basket drive and food pantry clients. Respondents’ specific needs were assessed and added to the site lists for service.
  Over the span of eight weeks, PPPCC recruited volunteers, matching skills with the site specifications. Entire families signed up. Anyone with a desire to help, was deemed fit. For example, the church grandmothers prepared and delivered lunch to each work site.
  Word began to spread throughout Palos Townships like a virus. Local businesses wanted in on the fun. John and Beata Vander Veen of Palos Hills-based Diamond Temperature heating and cooling business donated service to 19 of the 23 sites. They’re third year participants. They said it’s their way of giving back.
  Sneddon said, “The church funds the project but when businesses are willing to help, it allows us to do even more. [For example] Dan Harrison, Ace Hardware owner in Palos Heights, donated materials for cost, saving us thousands.”
  Orr has since retired from Palos Township but still volunteers for this project.
  “It was hard for people to let us help at first. When you haven’t served in an area you’re receiving, it makes some feel undeserving. Put pride aside. We’re just people, helping people. It’s the most rewarding and loving thing I’ve ever been a part of.”

MVCC looks to go tobacco free

  • Written by Kevin M. Coyne

  Moraine Valley Community College trustees are considering banning all tobacco products and creating a policy that would divorce state law, which currently governs all tobacco-related citations.
  Moraine Valley currently has nine designated smoking areas on the main campus in Palos Hills. According to state law, anyone caught smoking outside the designated area or 15 feet from an entrance is subject to a $100 fine with $150 overdue fee.
  During an October board meeting last Wednesday, MVCC Wellness Coordinator Lisa Wright proposed banning tobacco outright and reducing the fine to $30 with a $5 overdue fee. Wright’s proposal was supported by 291 of 324 staff and faculty members who were surveyed.
  “When we surveyed the college we had a pretty good representation across all areas of the college,” Wright said.
  Moraine trustees questioned how students responded to the survey. Wright informed the trustees that the students were not included in the survey but were placed into small 10-person focus groups.
  “We sat down with the institutional research and planning group to create the focus group questions to limit it and make sure we are targeting the questions to get the feedback we needed to move forward.” she said.
  If approved, the ban would go into effect in the fall, 2014. Moraine Trustee Joseph Murphy questioned the motives behind banning tobacco on campus.
  “Is the motivation to get smokers to quit or to protect the non-smokers?” Murphy asked, after drawing a comparison between New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s failed attempt to ban soda, salt and other fatty foods. “We are talking about young adults that have the freedom of choice and I think it’s going to be impossible to enforce.”
  Trustees Murphy and Tom Cunningham questioned the healthcare cost of approving the proposed tobacco-free program, saying students who choose to smoke must deal with the risks and costs associated with smoking.
  “If you can’t enforce our current policy then why try to enforce it when it becomes more restricted?” Murphy asked. “I hate smoking, but I don’t want a kid to lose money for books because of a fine he got for smoking.”

Transparency not all that clear in OL

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  Transparency was a central theme in Oak Lawnfront-color-1-col-FOIA Mayor Sandra Bury’s campaign, and while her supporters insist she’s already taken steps to honor that pledge, opponents contend the mayor has been less than forthcoming on issues of importance to the village.

  The topic was broached at the Oct. 8 village board meeting when a proposal by Trustees Bob Streit and Carol Quinlan calling for trustees to have greater access to village records, including emails, was defeated.
  The proposal lost 4-3 with Bury casting the deciding vote, but not before extensive debate by trustees.
  Currently, only the mayor and Village Manager Larry Deetjan have access to the documents.
  “You guys are going to tell me you’re going to restrict what can and can’t see,” Quinlan said. “I would think transparency would include providing general records to anyone.”
  Village Attorney Paul O’Grady has ruled that the village is not required to share such emails with trustees.
  “There’s no law that says trustees have access to the emails of the manager and mayor,” Village Clerk Jane Quinlan said.
  Quinlan added that Deetjen and the mayor frequently are involved in negotiations and other sensitive matters and related emails cannot be made public.
  “Under Illinois law, a number of these emails deal with personnel matters, litigation, labor relations, real estate and highly sensitive matters that are permitted to be kept confidential,” Deetjen said. “Those who wish to obtain unlimited data for reasons that are not objective and in the village’s best interests certainly should understand this balancing act.”
  Trustees unanimously approved additions to the ethics ordinance at the Oct. 8 meeting. The ordinance prohibits village officials and employees from using their positions to influence board decisions that would result in financial gain.
  The measure also prohibits elected officials from participating in discussions or voting on issues in which they, their spouses or domestic partners have received or expect to receive income or compensation for a period of one year.
  Bury’s supporters believe the additions to the ethics ordinance are just one example of the mayor’s efforts to increase transparency.
  “I think [transparency] has improved, but it’s such a big topic to tackle,” Trustee Alex Olejniczak said.
  The veteran trustee pointed out that Bury has taken significant strides during her first six months in office to improve transparency, including establishing the legislative, license and ordinance committee during her first board meeting. Streit and Quinlan voted against the formation of the three-member committee.
  The committee currently is discussing term limits for elected officials, an issue that is expected to come before the full board before the end of the year. The board will determine whether to place the item as a referendum on the March ballot.
  The committee was formed in part to help Oak Lawn to reach a 100 percent transparency score on a checklist compiled by the Illinois Policy Institute. The checklist requires contact information for elected and administrative officials online, information about upcoming village meetings, copies of the minutes of meetings, information packets from previous meetings, publication of financial audits and budgets, salary and benefit information of public employees and access to public records through Illinois’ freedom of information law.

  Orland Park was the first village to score 100 percent on under the institute’s guidelines.
  Despite Bury’s early efforts to improve transparency, her political foes are quick to criticize her for failing to keep the board in the loop.

  Streit and Quinlan, for example, believe they have a legal right to examine all the documents that Bury and Deetjen can access.
  “It’s not up to the mayor, and it’s not up to the manager,” Quinlan said.
  The mayor’s opponents offered several other examples of a lack of transparency on Bury’s part.
  For example, they said, no resume or background information was provided when Pat O’Donnell was appointed village treasurer or when Bury made appointments to other committees.

  Additionally, they said they did not receive an advanced copy of the pre-budget village finance presentation presented by O’Donnell, nor were they notified in advance of a proposals to outsource 911 dispatch services, transition senior services to the park district or reorganize the department of business operations.

  “In my 22 years of service, I can’t remember another presentation, other than litigation matters, that did not include documentation prior to the board meeting,” Streit said of the pre-budget presentation.

  Streit said Bury and her supporters did not want trustees to have time “to dispute the figures, ask questions or suggest proposals.” He said the board majority is more interested in getting a “quick vote” on Bury’s proposals.
  Streit also criticized the administration for reaching an agreement with Advocate Christ Medical Center for permit fees and a voluntary payment without notifying trustees, which stifled debate over other alternatives, he said.
  Olejniczak, a Bury supporter, said Streit has never before made such complaints or demanded greater access to village records.
  “Did this go on before? The answer is ‘no,’” Olejniczak said. “It’s [done] to create issues.”

  “You are now the conspiracy trustee,” Olejniczak told Streit at the Oct. 8 board meeting. “You have your own version on the truth.”

  Trustee Terry Vorderer said opening up village records to trustees creates a security concern. He also questioned Quinlan and Streit’s motives.
  “Is it a fishing expedition? It could be used for political purposes. Who knows,” Vorderer said.
  Village Clerk Jane Quinlan, one of the village’s eight FOIA officers, said nothing is being hidden from trustees.

  She added that trustees can submit FOIA requests. Requests that are denied can be appealed to the Attorney General’s office, she said. The village must offer a reason for the FOIA requests it denies, such as personal information related to employees or village officials.

Worth rallies to Kick it With Karen Saturday night

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  Karen Schnelle-Marrello remembers the look on her physician’s face as he reviewed her CAT scan results.
  “You know you’re in deep water when the doctor’s face falls when he’s looking at the CAT scan,” Schnelle-Marrello said.
  The lifelong Worth resident had the test after antibiotics and a steroids did nothing to relieve what she believed was a sinus infection.
  The CAT scan, however, revealed that Schnelle-Marrello was dealing with a condition far more serious that a sinus infection. Instead, the mother of six had a cancerous tumor behind her right eye.
  Her doctor told initially told her the growth might not be cancerous, but Schnelle-Marrello believed otherwise.
  “I knew in my gut we were dealing with thePage-7-1-col-kickinKaren Schnelle-Marrello, shown with her husband, Rory, will have a benefit in her honor in Worth Saturday night. Submitted photo. bad one,” she said.
  A biopsy revealed that Schnelle-Marrello had esthesioneuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer involving the nasal cavity, which can lead to loss of vision and taste.
  Schnelle-Marrello underwent a 14-hour surgery just days after the diagnosis. The surgery was a success, but the pain during recovery was intense, she recalled. Nine days later, she lapsed into a coma after he brain shifted to the rear of her skull.
  She awoke from the coma, but then faced four months of rigorous radiation and chemotherapy designed to destroy the small portion of the tumor not removed during surgery, she said.
  Four months later, Schnelle-Marrello is doing well and is anxious to complete her recovery.
  To help offset expenses, Schnelle-Marrello’s friends and family will hold a benefit, Kicking It With Karen, from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday at the Chieftain Irish Bar, 6906 W. 111th St., Worth.
  Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children under 12. The event will feature two bands, food, games and raffles.
  Monetary donations can be sent to Private Bank, 6825 W. 111th St., Worth, Ill., 60482.
  “The bills are astronomical,” said Colleen McElroy, a friend of Schnelle-Marrello and a Worth trustee.
  Schnelle-Marrello struggles with side effects, such as nausea and fatigue, and “my eyes no longer function together,” she said.
  “I’m holding out for a full recovery,” she said.
  Surgery, treatment and recovery have been costly. Insurance did not cover all of Schnelle-Marrello’s medical costs and she is unable to work during recovery.
  But the Worth community rallied behind her since her diagnosis by watching her children, preparing meals and running errands.
  “People missed her. The whole community banded together,” said McElroy, a member of the committee that planned the benefit.
  McElroy said is impressed with the way her friend handled the diagnosis and ensuing treatment.
  “She handled it like a champ,” she said. “Karen is a fighter. She handled it with such grace.”
  Schnelle-Marrello said she refused to let the condition defeat her.
  “My sense of humor is what got me through this,” she said. “Faith and humor—that’s what did it for me.”
  She added that she was not surprised but the support she received from her friends and neighbors.
  “It was more humbling than anything else,” she said.

Jeff Vorva's Editor's Notebook - A few changes are in order with this week’s Reporter

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

 

COLOR - Jeff  I hate change.
  My wife Maggie is more than happy to verify that statement as gospel.
  We all have our routines and the way we do things and even here at the good ol’ Reporter there is a phrase “But we’ve always done it like that…” that some people use and at least one employee is ready to shoot the next person who says that. I think she is kidding. But I won’t test it.
  Anyway, since I became editor in August, I knew some changes would probably have to be made, but none too drastic. We started at the front of the paper trying to tighten up the front page and make it more noticeable and fun than it used to be. Thanks to the great stories turned in by Reporter reporter Bob Rakow and our freelancers, we have been able to dress up some terrific stories with some interesting photos and headlines.
  Page 2, we left alone. It’s the cops and fire page. People expect it there and we’ll keep it there. In the future, I hope to have a little more artwork added to that page when we can, but for now we’re keeping that status quo and pulling out some of the more interesting crime items as separate stories.
  Page 3 is supposed to be the second front page and, as of late, we’ve had such a strong batch of stories coming in that some of those would have probably been front page stories in the past.
  Page 4 is the “Our Neighborhood” page and we’re trying to use that as a place for photo spreads of cool community events. We dressed up our archives with the “Retro Reporter” feature, which we hope is a neat improvement over just throwing a few items together.
  Page 5 is acting as another news and feature page. And Community Briefs just might find a home there.
  Page 6 is the Commentary page and the only change we made to that was to keep the “What do you say?” feature anchored on the bottom.
  Now it’s time to tackle the second half of the paper and that’s where we are going to make some more noticeable changes.
  Page 7 will now serve as the page with our death notices, church corner and a hodgepodge of other items such as the listings of benefits and fundraisers.
  Pages 8 and 9 will have a huge change starting this week. We are opening up the school pages. Page 8 will be grade school news with page 9 serving as a focus on high schools and colleges. The theory is that there are so many proud parents and grandparents out there who absolutely love to see their kids’ and grandkids’ names and pictures in the paper. We serve so many schools in this six-community region that it makes a lot of sense to run as much as we can.
  Page 10 used to be a big ol’ house ad for the Reporter that sometimes had a covered wagon on it. We used that because we didn’t seem to have enough news in the paper. I won’t say the house ad — or the covered wagon — will never return because it’s possible during the holidays and when people around here take much deserved vacations we will bring it back for a cameo appearance. But for the most part, it’s gone.
  Page 10 temporarily became Features, which featured some syndicated stuff, and page 11 used to be Community Calendar and those were by far our worst looking pages in the paper. Too much gray. Not enough photos.
  Page 10 will now be a combo of the features and community calendar with hopefully some artwork to break up the gray. Page 11 will now be our Consumer/business page.
  And we’ll leave the Back Page pretty much alone with Dee Woods, the Best of the Wineguy and WHATIZIT? as the three main features while we may toss in a syndicated feature or two on there as well.
  As we go along, we will tinker around to hopefully make the paper more compelling and attractive.

The groovie goolie
  Coming up in Worth is a presentation titled “Chicago TV Horror Movie Shows: From Shock Theatre to Svengoolie.”
  It’s being billed as the first comprehensive look at Chicago’s horror movie programs, from their inception in 1957 to the present. Authors Ted Okuda and Mark Yurkiw discuss their recent book and will show clips of various television and movies featured in their book.
  It takes placed 7 p.m. Oct. 16 at the Worth Park District Historical Museum, 11500 S Beloit. Admission is free.

  Hey, if these guys can make money writing books and giving lectures on nonsense such as Svengoolie, maybe I can get Oak Lawn legend and treasure Ed McElroy to co-write a book about the glory days of Bob Luce rasslin’ on Channel 26. Those were the days.

Manic Monday
  How was your Monday?
  Ours was kind of lousy.
  Thanks in part to a truck and a downed power line, we were without power and the — gasp — internet for most of Monday. So let me send out regrets if something fell through the cracks and we missed putting something in the paper that we should have while we were scrambling to put the darn thing together.