Oak Lawn's 4th District race is heating up

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

Oak Lawn Trustee Terry Vorderer (4th) is being challenged by John Koss in his bid for a second term in the April 4 election.

Vorderer is allied with Mayor Sandra Bury and Koss is allied with her opponent, Trustee Bob Streit (3rd), and they share some election material. But both lifelong Oak Lawn residents said they are running independent of the mayoral candidates.

Vorderer, 70, a lifelong village resident who retired as chief of patrol from the Oak Lawn Police Department, is a Vietnam War veteran.

“The only time I spent away from Oak Lawn was my time spent in tents in the jungles of Vietnam with the 1st Infantry Division,” he said.

Vorderer counts among his accomplishments as trustee the restarting the tradition of having community meetings.

“I’ve held more than a dozen of them. (Former trustee) Steven Rosenbaum used to do it, and I think they are very important to meet with residents and bring them information. We have had speakers from the business community, village officials, and the police department.”

“When I ran last time, I promised not to raise property taxes, and we haven’t. We have even lowered them a small amount. But a lot of people don’t realize that the village only gets a small amount of their property tax bills, so even if our part wasn’t raised, other taxing bodies may cause their bills to go up.”

“As a retired police officer, security is very important to me,” said Vorderer. He said that the police force has increased from 105, when he retired, to 109.

“We did that without raising property taxes. We were able to do it from the increased revenue generated by the new businesses that have come into town,” he said.

“I’ve increased and participated with other board members in the efforts that have seen a lot of economic development,” he said. “In the past four years, 175 new businesses have opened, bringing 1,500 new jobs, and $2.5 million additional tax dollars.”

Vorderer said he is also proud of his successfully solving the issues with Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant on 95th Street, which had been plagued by violent disturbances in recent years. After being threatened with losing its business license, the company has agreed to close the restaurant before the end of the year.

“I’ve been working on that since I was elected. And we did it without incurring large court costs,” he said. “It is a good company but it didn’t work here,” said the trustee.

He also said ending the policy of giving pensions to part-time employees was good for the village. If re-elected, he said he looks forward to working on seeing the $25 million Advocate medical center planned for the Beatty Lumber site coming to fruition, and working on getting the Metra train schedule expanded in Oak Lawn. Vorderer also said he is looking forward to the long-planned light at 95th and Kilbourn.

Koss, 49, who owns a window and door company, and works for BSNF Railroad, is a graduate of Brother Rice High School and Southern Illinois University. He and his wife, Laura, have six children. Koss said he is very involved with scouting and coaching, in addition to belonging to groups such as the Knights of Columbus.

“I’ll have to give up some of the outside activities if I’m elected, but I want to have a voice in village government,” he said.

Pointing to a number of armed robberies and incidents of gunfire that have occurred in recent weeks and months, Koss said Oak Lawn does not feel as safe as when he was growing up.

“We want to raise our children here. But I would never allow them to go to a park alone, like I did.”

Koss said that while the police force has increased in numbers, he would like to see more officers patrolling the streets.

“There are only 10 officers on the street per shift,” he said. “We might not have to hire more, but just look at how they are deployed.”

“I also think it took too long to solve the problem with Chuck E. Cheese’s,” he said

Koss said he was also unhappy with the decisions made by the current village board to privatize the 911 center. He said hiring an outside company to run the center, which handles calls for surrounding communities as well as Oak Lawn, was not a good idea.

“I am sure they did it as a money-saving measure but it costs lives,” Koss said.

That assertion, that lives have been lost due to mishandled 911 ambulance calls, has been disputed by village officials.

The candidate said that if elected, he would also work on finding ways to hire more fire department personnel. He maintains that the fire department is undermanned and expressed concern that the current numbers are inadequate.

Our Lady of the Ridge Parish gives thanks

  • Written by Joe Boyle

music ministers photo 3-2

Photo by Joe Boyle

Music ministers who performed during the Prayer Service of Thanksgiving at Our Lady of Ridge Church Sunday night were (from left) sisters Stephanie and Jillian Seweryn, along with their mother, Laura.


The faculty, students, parents and community of Our Lady of the Ridge Elementary School in Chicago Ridge received the news they had been waiting for on Friday.

The school, 10859 S. Ridgeland Ave., will remain open in the fall.

The administration, staff and students celebrated when they were informed by the Chicago Archdiocese that they had met the criteria had been met to keep the school operating. The administration had been informed on Jan. 11 that the school could close unless they reached an enrollment of at least 114 and could raise over $250,000.

The school exceeded those expectations through a phone-a-thon, two open houses and parishioners spreading the word about the school. Fundraisers were held and local businesses provided support by donating portions of their profits to go to the school.

“We are ecstatic,” said Mary Grisolano, media relations volunteer and graduate of Our Lady of the Ridge.

Grisolano said that the school was able to raise $321,500 over the past month. Enrollment is now at 117 and Grisolano said that those numbers traditionally rise in the spring, especially now that the school will remain open.

The major catalyst event that provided the necessary support for Our Lady of the Ridge was the fundraiser held Feb.19 at 111 Bourbon Street in Merrionette Park. A huge crowd was present all day and over 850 tickets were sold for various raffles. Nearly 880 people attended the event.

To celebrate the news Our Lady of the Ridge School will continue, a Prayer Service of Thanksgiving was held on Sunday night at the church.

The Rev. Wayne Svida, pastor of Our Lady of the Ridge, began the service by telling parishioners that this is a great time for the teachers, the parents and students.

“These past few days, have you leaped for joy? We, too, have leaped for joy for fulfilling our obligation to the Archdiocese of Chicago,” Svida said.

Our Lady of the Ridge School opened in 1954. Svida said he is pleased that the school will “continue to educate young men and women.”

Svida thanked everyone responsible for keeping Our Lady of the Ridge open, including the teachers, the staff and the parents.

“This is about family,” Svida said. “They say it takes a village to raise a child. We are a village. We are the village of Our Lady of the Ridge.”

Svida reminded parents, students and volunteers that they need to continue to support Our Lady of the Ridge in the future.

“We cannot stop what we are doing,” Svida said. “We can’t stop educating our children. We will continue on with Our Lady of the Ridge School.”

Sr. Stephanie Kondik, OSF, principal at Our Lady of the Ridge School, praised Svida’s leadership, calling him an “inspiration” during the past month.

At the conclusion of the prayer service, a celebration was held where a variety of food and a cake were served to students, teachers, parents, volunteers and community leaders.

Marianne Gillfillan, school board president at Our Lady of the Ridge, said she is confident that the school has the support it needs to remain open for many years to come.

“The support has been tremendous from alumni, media, local businesses, elected officials, current and even former school families. Everyone has mobilized together to save our gem of a school. It speaks to the uniquely strong community we have and its impact on people’s lives that this town is so dedicated to keeping the school open.

“Our Lady of the Ridge is here to stay.”

Moraine Valley Community College celebrates 50 years

  • Written by Kelly White

(smoriane valley in 1967 photo 3-2moraine valley now photo 3-2

Submitted photos

Moraine Valley Community College, as it was at the beginning, and  now, is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Enrollment at the Palos Hills college has grown from 1,200 students in 1967, to 34,000 currently.



The Moraine Valley Board of Trustees recognized the 50th anniversary of the college during a board meeting on Feb. 21

The college, 9000 College Parkway, Palos Hills, was founded by the Oak Lawn Rotary and opened its doors on Feb. 18, 1967. Members of the Oak Lawn Rotary were responsible for initiating efforts to bring a ballot item asking residents if they would support the establishment of a community college district. The ballot received overwhelming support from the local community.

Dr. Sylvia Jenkins, president of Moraine Valley Community College, presented a letter of recognition Monday to the Oak Lawn Rotary for establishing the college.

"A total of 290 acres of land were originally purchased in 1967 by the Oak Lawn Rotary," said Joseph Murphy, the board chair. "We would like to thank them for their constant support of the college. Because of them, Moraine Valley went from a sod farm to having 14 state-of-the-art buildings and continues to be rock solid since 1967. Moraine Valley focuses on job building and career building and still continues to promote student success in the southwest suburbs."

Since 1967, Moraine Valley Community College has been one of the nation’s leading community colleges. Offering nearly 150 associate degree and certificate programs, Moraine Valley has built a reputation for preparing the finest graduates and employees, board members said.

"Out of the different schools I've attended throughout my life, Moraine Valley has been the one that stood out the most for me,” said student Reem Motan, 20. “I've always admired how the school has been a place where diversity is not only accepted, but where it is celebrated. It's an environment that has offered me endless opportunities to thrive as a student and as a leader.”

When Moraine Valley began, the enrollment was 1,200 students. Most of those students came from Oak Lawn due in large part because of the Oak Lawn Rotary Club. Today it is the second largest community college in Illinois and enrolls about 34,000 students annually, according to Moraine Valley officials.

“The biggest difference is size of our student body,” said Jessica Crotty, director of marketing and communications at Moraine. “Early estimates were that the college would never exceed 6,000 students.”

In the college’s early days, the school subscribed to an open-learning concept, where classrooms didn’t have permanent walls. Students could walk through the hallways and stop to listen to any instructor that sounded interesting to them.

“It was a trend in higher education at that time, but wasn’t the most practical,” Crotty said.

Now the college has smart classrooms designed around the concepts being taught and hands-on learning approaches, including math labs, nursing simulation labs and a massage clinic.

The first college building in 1967 was a temporary office in Oak Lawn. Later, college officials leased two warehouses in Alsip, where the first classes were held. The college then acquired a sod farm in Palos Hills, which is where the main campus stands today. In its infancy, it had a number of temporary buildings that over time were replaced with the 14 buildings that exist at the college right now. The addition of the college’s off-campus sites in Blue Island and Tinley Park serve the students at the far ends of the district’s footprint.

With the size and student enrollment being the college’s main change since its beginning, college officials believe the thing that has remained a constant over the past 50 years is the school’s sense of community.

“The faculty and staff at Moraine Valley have always worked together for the benefit of the students. The people at Moraine Valley have created and sustained a family-feel on the campus for generations,” Crotty said. “Moraine Valley is one of the most well-respected community colleges in the nation because of its excellent programs, innovative spirit and engaged leadership. It’s a college that all our district residents can be proud of.”

Students feel the same way.

“I'm very blessed to attend a school that aims to make every student feel like they belong here and for accepting everyone for who they are,” Motan said.

Boy who helped save mom's life is honored

  • Written by Kelly White

  hollands and staff photo 2-23

                                                                           Photo by Kelly White

Romeo Holland, 7, and his mother Sherece Holland, 55 discuss Romeo’s quick actions by calling 911 after his mother suffered a stroke. Joining the Hollands at the press conference are Dr. Melvin Wichter chair of neurology and co-director of the Neurosciences Institute at Advocate Christ Medical Center, and Dr. Scott Geraghty, neurointerventional radiologist with the Neurosciences Institute at Advocate Christ Medical Center (at right)

The Neurocritical Care Unit at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn marked its one-year anniversary Monday by moving to a new location within the hospital and getting reacquainted with a woman whose life they helped save with the help of her son.

During the anniversary event, physicians, nurses and care team members were able to be reunited with some of the patients and families they’ve treated since moving to the new unit, including former patient and Chicago Police Officer Sherece Holland, who suffered a stroke in December. It was the quick thinking of her 7-year-old son, Romeo, which led her into the care of the Neurocritical Care Unit at the hospital.

Holland, 55, of Chicago, said she was in good health at the time of the stroke. She has been working for the Chicago Lawn (8th) District for over 21 years.

“I have no health issues,” she said. “I am a non-smoker who exercises regularly. I also have no history of strokes in my family.”

She was in the middle of brushing her teeth alongside her son when the incident occurred.

“I was just standing there holding his toothbrush that day instead of helping him brush his teeth as I normally do,” Holland said. “Romeo noticed something was very wrong because I almost fell, so he ran to get my mother, who lives with us.”

Holland said her mother, Barbara Hegwood, 77, began to panic after seeing her daughter displaying some signs of a stroke — having trouble speaking and moving her arms. That’s when Romeo stepped in, telling his grandmother to calm down and leading her to their emergency call button.

“She was wobbly, I just thought she was sleepy at first but she was actually having a stroke,” Romeo said. “My grandma was crying. I told her to stay calm and that everything will be fine.”

Romeo used her hand to call for help, but it was the boy who spoke with the dispatchers on the line.

“I had taught Romeo what to do in case of a health emergency with my mother,” Holland said. “He knew to call for help, but I never would have imagined he’d use those skills to take care of me. I am very proud of my son. He acted quickly and saved my life.”

EMS arrived to Holland’s home and transported Holland to Advocate Christ Medical Center, where it was discovered that she had suffered a blood clot that blocked the artery leading to the left side of the brain. Dr. Scott Geraghty, neurointerventional radiologist with the Neurosciences Institute at Christ Medical Center, performed a thrombectomy, removing the clot in her artery and allowing blood to flow to the brain.

Upon arriving at the hospital, Holland was unable to speak and the right side of her face was completely paralyzed, according to Geraghty.

“If Romeo had suggested his mother go lay down on the couch and rest when he noticed her feeling dizzy, instead of calling 911, there’s a good chance she would have never woken up,” Geraghty said. “In this case, his actions saved his mother’s life.”

Dr. Melvin Wichter, chair of neurology and co-director of the Neurosciences Institute agreed it was Romeo’s fast response that prevented Holland from suffering brain damage or death.

“We can do amazing things if people get to the hospital quick enough,” Wichter said. “In Romeo’s situation, this was the best Christmas gift he will ever receive, having his mother still here with him today thanks to his actions.”

Wichter said children should be educated both at home and in the classroom setting on recognizing signs of stroke in order to help family members in need.

Holland’s recovery is going so well that she has been discharged from therapy and is back at home with Romeo. She is experiencing slight slurred speech and a minor stutter, but otherwise feels back to normal. She has not yet returned to work.

“When I found out my son saved my life, I didn’t know what to feel,” Holland said. “He is just such a smart boy.”

Romeo is happy to have his mother with him today.

“I’m happy she is here,” he said. “I love my mom.”

Neurocritical care or neurointensive care is a branch of medicine that emerged in the 1980s and deals with life-threatening diseases of the nervous system, which are those that involve the brain, spinal cord and nerves. Common diseases treated in neurointensive care units include strokes, ruptured aneurysms, brain and spinal cord injury from trauma and seizures.

The Neurocritical Care Unit at Advocate Christ Medical Center is staffed by a team of neurointensivists, consulting neurologists, neurosurgeons, neuro-endovascular radiologists, trauma surgeons, nurse practitioners, nurses and technologists specially trained in the care of the nervous system disorders and acute injury. At Advocate Christ Medical Neurosciences Institute, these specialists provide the highest level of neurological care in an environment where patients receive the individualized and appropriate care needed. The hospital integrates a full array of treatments and expertise to address the many dimensions of neurologic care for adults and children, according to Advocate Christ Medical Center officials.

Romeo is in the second grade at Stevenson Elementary School in Chicago’s Scottsdale neighborhood and plans to continue his love for knowledge as he grows older.

“When I grow up, I want to become a scientist because I’m smart,” he said.

“That he is,” his mother agreed.

District 218 cheers achievements of students

  • Written by Michelle Zalesny

shepard cheerleaders photo 2-23

Submitted photo

The Shepard High School varsity cheerleaders hold up their trophy after placing first in the Co-Ed Division at the Andrew High School Invitational.


On a night where local schools were honored for athletic and personal achievements, District 218 Board members were reminded that the state budget impasse continues.

With commendations aside, school board member Larry Harris spoke up about the state budget issue in Illinois — the fact that there is still no state budget or spending plans for 2017. The stopgap budget plan that was passed in June of last year expired on Dec. 31, leaving Illinois in a budgetary limbo.

Harris said that the board should draft a memo expressing their frustration with the lack of activity and motion of the state legislature about the ongoing state budget uncertainty.

Harris urged that the state legislature should hear from the school district from a local level.

“I think it’s ridiculous that we’ve gone this long without a budget, lack of support, and leadership,” Harris said.”

School board member Robert Stokas was absent from the meeting.

On a more positive note, it was a night of commendations as Eisenhower and Shepard high schools were honored for athletic and personal triumphs at the District 218 School Board meeting on Feb. 15.

First to be recognized was Taylor Burmeister, English teacher assistant and swim coach at Eisenhower High School, who was selected as the South Suburban Conference Boys Swimming Coach of the Year for the 2016 and 2017 seasons by his colleagues for reviving the Eisenhower Area Swim Club and leading the Cardinals to their most successful season.

“This is a big honor, but I couldn’t have done anything without Coach Campione and Coach Belskis, the world’s greatest assistant coaches, especially Coach Belskis who volunteers her time several times a week to help our divers,” said Burmeister. “There are remarkable things happening within the conference, especially in swimming. The teams we compete against are run by some amazing and thoughtful coaches, who are dedicated to their athletes and their programs. To be recognized by them is an honor.”

Head Cheer Coach Nicole Staehlin and the Shepard varsity cheerleaders were also recognized for their season full of success and achievement in competition this winter.

“The Astros won first place in the Co-Ed Division at the Andrew High School Invitational,” said Bob McParland, public Information specialist. “They won second place at the South Suburban Conference meet, qualified for the IHSA state finals, but took fourth in their section, and finally, among all the teams that qualified for state, the Astros took 12th place in the Co-Ed Division earlier this month at Illinois State University.”

Staehlin was not able to attend the meeting.

The board also honored Varsity Dance Coach Marion Castillo and JV Head Coach Crystal Castillo, choreographer Lindsey Lococo and the Eisenhower Cardinal Dance Team for taking the title of National Champions at Universal Studios Florida. It was a passionate dance routine to John Legend’s “Glory” that made the historic win — the first one in 30 years for Eisenhower at the major state and national team title level.

The Cardinal Dance Team traveled to Universal Studios on Florida for the Dance Team Union national finals on Feb. 5, where they won Best Choreography, Best Hip Hop Group among all divisions and Champions in the Small Varsity Hip Hop division.

Castillo was also congratulated for being selected as the 2016 Coach of the Year for the state of Illinois by the Illinois High School Association.

A video of the team’s dance routine at Universal Studios Florida that won them the national title was shown.