Toys for kids fighting cancer

Worthwoods Elementary School students Isabella Ramirez, (from left), Natalia Harb, Katie Beltz and Raghad Abu-Shalbak hold bags full of toys and gifts that will go to help children fighting cancer.

Students and teachers at Worthwoods Elementary School, 11100 S. Oketo Ave. in Worth collected toys and gift certificates and donated them to the Treasure Chest Foundation. The foundation gives the toys and gift cards to children that are undergoing treatment for cancer in 34 children's cancer treatment centers nationwide, including Advocate Hope Children's Hospital in Oak Lawn.

Hickory woman suggests expanding senior center

By Jessie Molloy

A Hickory Hills resident told the City Council last week she is concerned about the limited capacity of the city's senior center.

The Hickory Hills Senior Center allows a limited number of people to attend weekly meetings and programs because of the building's low capacity, Constance Nestor said at the City Council's meeting on Dec. 13. All seniors are welcome to attend trips and outings with the group, but the waiting list for a full membership to the center is about 40 people deep, Nestor claimed. People on the waiting list may feel excluded or miss out on the camaraderie involved in being a regularly attending member, she added.

Nestor suggested the center offer full membership for everyone and create a rotating schedule of members who would take turns skipping meetings so others can attend, and bandied about the or the possibility of expanding the center or double-scheduling events so more people can take part.

Hickory Hills Mayor Howley said he sympathizes with Nestor's complaint, but told her expanding the building is not possible for financial reasons. The city will consider the possibility of a rotating schedule, he added.

Howley and city Building Commissioner John Moirano said it would be possible to expanding the building's main meeting room by knocking down an interior wall, so long as the wall is not load-bearing and it the project would not be overly costly. Aldermen expressed interest in exploring the possibility, which would increase the room's capacity by about 30 people.

Students' winning video earns makeover for school auto shop

Oak Lawn High is beneficiary of $25K in cash & prizes

(From Feb. 2, 2012)

Oak Lawn High School's auto shop will get more than $10,000 in tools and another 10 grand in cash after students took first place in a national contest.

The students in instructor Tim Krough's advanced automotive classes won the $25,000 grand prize for presenting the best argument in Universal Technical Institute Foundation's "Why My High School Auto Shop Needs a Make Over" video contest. In addition to $10,000 the auto shop will receive a Clip Car and $12,500 in Snap-On tools.

The awards are courtesy of Universal Technical Institute, Snap-On, and Bridgestone/Firestone.

"We have officially been given first place, however, we are still waiting to figure out some logistics on when we can receive the prizes," Krough said. "We're still uncertain how exactly the money will be spent; it will go to updating some equipment."

Krough worked with his automotive students to create a video depicting the reasons Oak Lawn High's auto shop needed a makeover. After receiving an email from the school's career facilitator the students had just two days to complete the requirements for the contest, Krough said.

"I was sitting in front of my computer, reading this email thinking this was impossible," he said. "Then decided, okay, let's do it and see what happens."

The students and Krough decided they had to create a funny video to make people want to watch it.

"You see these rims, you see these, they even got no car for it!" student Eric Furlong states in the video.

Krough worked on the video in class with his students, edited it from home, and sent it via Facebook by the deadline. After not hearing anything for about a month, he received a phone call the Friday before the start of the second semester indicating Oak Lawn High was one of eight finalists, and the only one from the Midwest.

"Then it became work," Krough said.

The videos were posted on Facebook and the winner was chosen through a popular vote. With the support of Oak Lawn High Assistant Principal Joe McCurdy and division chairman Dave Johnson, Krough and the students worked on getting the word out to the community. The village of Oak Lawn also ran the video on public access Channel 4 and spread word of the effort on Facebook and with fliers.

Once the information was out, Oak Lawn High School District 229 Superintendent/Principal Michael Riordan agreed to shut down the school's block of Facebook for one day so students could vote.

"That day they turned it off, I think we had 2,200 votes," Krough said. "There was tremendous support from the entire school, from the entire community."

The video earned a total of 3,320 votes on Facebook to win the contest, according to Universal Technical Institute Foundation Vice President/Executive Director Veronica Meury.

"We're thrilled to be able to help Oak Lawn's auto shop provide a quality education for its students by giving tools and technology that makes that possible," Meury said in a statement.

Arizona-based Universal Technical Institute Foundation is a nonprofit organization with the stated mission to raise funds to support and encourage the technical education for the automotive, diesel, collision repair, motorcycle, marine, NASCAR, and other transportation industries through scholarship, grants, career development and other special programs.

The first-, second-, and third-place videos are posted on Facebook at https://apps. index2.php.

Fire destroys apt. of charity group founder

(From Feb. 2, 2012)

The founder of an area charity that sends footwear to people in impoverished parts of the world lost everything she owned after a fire Monday night destroyed her apartment in Worth.

The fire in the building in the 6900 block of 111th Place, just north of Worth Junior High School, started about 9 p.m. in one of the structure's four apartments, according to North Palos Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Chris Perry. It took firefighters about 20 minutes to extinguish the fire, Perry said. No one was injured, and the cause of the fire is believed to be a short in a lamp in the apartment of Share Your Soles founder Mona Purdy.

"My home burned to the ground this evening, and I am safe and alive," Purdy wrote on her Facebook page Monday night. "God must have a special place for me."

Purdy was watching television in her bedroom when she saw a bright light through the door and heard her fire alarm going off, she said Tuesday.

"It was the strangest thing," she said. "I came out of my room, and the wall was ablaze above my sofa. A cord on the wall was burnt.

"I was going to the neighbors and screaming, 'Fire, help!' and nobody could hear me. When I ran outside, the fire trucks came. It was unbelievable. They had to break down doors to get people out."

Purdy is staying with her children.

"Everything in my world was in this house

Mayor proposes expanding Green

(From March 1, 2012)

Oak Lawn may expand its Village Green by 40,000 square feet if trustees approve a proposal that would include relocating the Masonic Temple just east of the downtown park.

The Village Board on Tuesday discussed the temple's owner's plans to construct a new building that would replace the one at 9420 S. 52nd Ave. The owners agreed three years ago to build a new temple, and construction could begin this year just south of Village Hall on the site of the village's old family services building, according to Oak Lawn Mayor Dave Heilmann.

The village would acquire the old family services site and contribute $875,000 toward the construction of the new temple, Heilmann explained. The temple owners would in exchange cede their property to Oak Lawn. The mayor is hopeful the new temple can be completed by 2013.

The Village Green, a narrow strip of parkland east of Village Hall and north of the Oak Lawn Public Library between Raymond Avenue and the Masonic Temple parking lot, would be extended east to 52nd Avenue. The Green features a walking path, gazebo and playground, and is a venue for numerous events including Santa on the Green Fall on the Green, Pumpkin Fest, summer concerts, a farmers market and the village's annual Easter egg hunt.

"The Village Green is widely used, and this is one part of many discussions regarding potential improvements to the village green," Heilmann said. "We have a whole series of events there, especially in the warmer months. It has become very popular for residents and their families."

Trustee Alex Olejniczak made a motion to table the plan, which was scheduled to be voted on Tuesday, after residents had a chance to voice their concerns and ideas.

"I am concerned about how this will affect people in the neighborhood," Olejniczak said, noting residents in the area near the Green already have plenty of festivals and other events in the neighborhood, and may not want to deal with construction.

"The residents put up with fests and activities. This is not the right time to make a decision."

Heilmann called the plans to expand the Village Green a "great opportunity."

"In a 'land-locked' community like Oak Lawn, I think that when you have property contiguous to village property or green space, like the Masonic Temple is, and you have the ability to expand the green space use through an amicable agreement with people, you can enhance the property but also make the neighborhood nicer," Heilmann said. "Studies show investments in parks and making them destinations and popular centers for your community, you can really provide a terrific benefit to a neighborhood as well as the entire community."

Heilmann envisions the expanded park as even more of a gathering place for Oak Lawn residents and their families.

"There is an entire rendering that has been done with various possibilities," Heilmann said. "We could have a brand-new band shell, a new park facility or field house, even potentially an outdoor ice skating rink and a jet fountain area. We really want to make it a destination."