Evergreen Park Board gets fiscal house in order

  • Written by Janelle Frost

The Evergreen Park Village Board approved setting aside about $36 million for sewer and water, tax increment financing (TIF) and general fund expenses for the fiscal year ending Oct. 31.

Mayor James Sexton and the board of trustees unanimously approved an ordinance appropriating $35,573,836 for the fiscal year beginning Nov.1, 2015 and ending Oct.31, 2016 during the board’s regular meeting on Jan. 19

The total budgeted expense for the fiscal year is $34,876,310.

Village officials said they expect to finish 2015 with surpluses.

In other business, the board approved services of Active Home Health Care Services at 2829 W. 87th St., and of medical use for Maya Medical, Southwest Urgent Careand Midwest Primary Care at 2955 W. 95th St.

“They did a very nice job on (that building),” Sexton said of 2955 W. 95th Street.

As for Active Home Health Care Services, he said the facility service people in their homes as well as within the facility will have a doctor on staff, and street parking on 87th Street.

The board also approved a change of Famous Dave’s liquor license from a Class E – beer and wine only table service to a Class B – sit down, small bar with liquor license. The restaurant at 2855 W. 95th St., which changed ownership, does have a sit down bar, which qualifies it for a Class B liquor license, Sexton said.

Upcoming events in the village include Family Flake Fest from 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb.6 at Yukich Field. And the Senior Citizen Council received approval from the board to host a village wide garage sale from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 7 at Yukich Field.

Also at Yukich Field, the ice rink is open for the season. Hours are posted weekly on the village’s website and on its e-blast. Individuals, however, should check with the Recreation Department at (708) 229-3373 as the times posted are tentative due to weather conditions and events, according to officials.

'Football addicts' help women understand the game's basics in a snap

  • Written by Kelly White

Blitz, touchdown, snap, holding and overtime.

If these words don’t mean anything to you, it may be time to visit self-professed football addicts Donna Terrell and Robin Beavers for a lesson on the game of football.

The two women presented at the Oak Lawn Public Library, 9427 Raymond Ave., on Jan. 20 to prove football is far from being just a man’s sport.

“I have been a football fan since I was about 10 years old,” said Robin Beavers, a librarian at Grande Prairie Public Library in Hazel Crest.

Beavers met Terrell, a patron at Grande Prairie Public Library, and the two quickly learned they both shared a passion for football. After a few discussions, they decided to venture out and inform other women about the sport. In the past four years, they have visited numerous local area libraries teaching their one-day class, “Football in a Snap!”

“It’s called Football in a Snap because snap is a football term and it also means quick,” Terrell said. “We can teach all the key points of football in just one evening, and it’s the perfect time because it’s right before the Super Bowl.”

Casual local area football fans and beginners, made up of all women, listened as the two taught the concepts of the game, terminology, rules, player positions and more.

Oak Lawn Public Library Director of Adult Services, Mary Williams, introduced Terrell and Beavers and admitted her own football faults.

“If I was not working tonight, I would be sitting right in the audience to learn more about the game,” she said.

Terrell and Beavers taught their basics pro football class reminding women whether it’s the beginning of the season or the championship game, the object of football remains the same. There are 11 men on offense trying to throw, run and kick their way into their opponent’s end zone as often as possible, while 11 men on defense are trying to stop them.

The two also gave a football history lesson to the group. The first Super Bowl ever was played between the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs in 1967. The Super Bowl winning team earns the Lombardi Trophy, named for the famed Green Bay Packer’s coach, Vince Lombardi. And, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys have been to the Super Bowl more than any other teams.

Team loyalties vary between the two, as Terrell remains a Chicago Bears fan. Beavers has a different background story.

“I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, making me a Cleveland Browns fan, when I came to Chicago 27 years ago. I do watch the Chicago Bears. However, I am a Green Bay Packers fan, which I know is frowned upon here,” Beavers said.

Beavers’ interest in football stemmed from watching it with her father as a child and continued to grow over the years.

Like Beavers, Terrell’s interest also sparked watching football games at a young age with her father.

“I would ask him questions while watching Sunday games together, and then in high school, I used what I knew about football as a way to talk to boys,” Terrell said. “It is a great conversation starter.”

Terrell read books and continued to learn more about the game, permitting her to have more complicated conversations about the game with her father as she grew up.

“It wasn’t just about this team or that team anymore,” she said. “I was asking questions about pass interferences, false starts and incomplete passes. The more I learned, the more my love for football grew and it still continues to grow.”

Super Bowl 50, which will feature the AFC’s Denver Broncos against the NFC’s Carolina Panthers, is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 7 at Levi’ Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.

Evergreen Park teacher saves life of student who was choking

  • Written by Claudia Parker


By Claudia Parker

Kristin Bilas is being called a hero for saving the life of a third-grade student at Northeast Elementary School in Evergreen Park who was choking during lunch.

“I was talking to my friends, one of them said something funny right when I ate a potato chip. I laughed and that’s when it got stuck,” said Anthony Gonzalez, 9.

Bilas is a fourth-year Speech and Language pathologist at Northeast School. She also serves as the school’s student council director and lunch room supervisor.

“On a typical day in the cafeteria, I’m chatting with students while helping them peel lids off their yogurt or opening up a juice box,” said Bilas. “On Thursday, Jan. 14, a typical day wasn’t so typical. I saw Anthony stand abruptly. The international sign for choking is this.” She put her hands to her throat.

“I’m not even sure if he realized that’s what he was doing because at that point he was losing color and his eyes were watery,” recalls Bilas. Reflecting back, she began to tear up. “I ran towards him. It felt like in slow motion, ‘Are you joking,’ I asked? I performed the Heimlich maneuver.”

The Heimlich maneuver is administered when a person cannot breathe, speak or cough. Gripping above the waist but below the ribs, with one thumb held inward, the other hand gives quick in and upward thrusts until the item is dislodged.

Bilas said it took four thrusts before Anthony was breathing again. “It felt like a long time without air,” said Anthony. “It was really scary.”

“Scared” was the look on some of the student’s faces as they observed. “Several of the girls nearby cheered once he started breathing but some of the guys stared in shock,” said Bilas. “When he breathed, we collapsed into a hug of relief.” Tears slipped off her cheeks. “I’m the mother of a third-grader myself.”

Two weekends each month, Bilas also works at Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey where she helps recovering stroke patients relearn to swallow. The hospital mandates that all employees are certified in the Heimlich and CPR. “I’ve practiced on hundreds of manikins but never in a real life situation.” Bilas said, “The same muscle that helps you speak, helps you swallow. Sometime we take for granted how complicated that process can be.”

Anthony said he realized he was in trouble and tried to help himself by taking a drink of milk. “I kept trying to drink the milk but it wasn’t working. It wouldn’t go down.” Anthony said, “I looked around to see who could help me. I was trying to tap my friend next to me, he raised his hand to try to find someone. When I saw Mrs. Bilas, I knew she’d be able to help me.”

Anthony serves as the third grade student council representative.

Fabian and Ashley Gonzalez are Anthony’s parents. He’s the middle of their three children: Christian’s a seventh grader at Central Middle School and Mia’s in first grade at NE with Anthony. “I feel like I get calls from the nurse daily,” said Ashley Gonzalez. “Mia’s always bumping into something. She and the nurse are like BFF’s. When I heard the voicemail I thought it’d be about her.”

Ashley Gonzalez went on to say this isn’t the first time Anthony has choked; it’s happened once before at home. “We were having dinner one evening. I thought he was goofing around. I hit him on the back saying, ‘stop joking like that,’ but it wasn’t a joke. Once I hit him, food popped out and tears fell from his eyes,” said Ashley Gonzalez. “I was like, oh my God, I was terrified. You know, sometimes life moves fast and our mornings can be a little hectic. I don’t even remember what I said to him that Thursday. Things like this make me want to just slow down…hold my kids a little longer and a little tighter.”

To show their appreciation, Mr. and Mrs. Gonzalez showered Bilas with gifts: Fannie Mae chocolate, gift cards for dinner and a movie, and flowers. “I hand-picked the candy in that box,” Anthony said. “Me and Mrs. Bilas are going to be really good friends.”  

Northeast Principal Jackie Janicke was in an administrative meeting outside the building when the incident occurred. Anthony explained his account of her reaction. “I was in music class and Ms. Janicke ripped the door opened and grabbed me, giving me a big hug,” he said.

“Oh, I did,” asked a smiling Janicke? “I remember the hug. I guess I don’t realize how fast our doors swing open,” she said modestly. “I was just relieved he was OK. I got Mrs. Bilas flowers and

Park Lawn expands mission to provide 'Choice'

  • Written by Joe Boyle

The staff at Park Lawn wants to offer adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities a choice for more opportunities.

The grand opening and open house of Park Lawn’s “Discovering Choice” that took place Friday afternoon at the new facility at 4715 W. 135th St., Crestwood, drew a large crowd of guests and public officials. Discovering Choice has been created to allow the disabled to receive on-site job training that might result in working part-time or even full-time.

“Discovering Choice is appropriately named,” said Steve Manning, the new executive director at Park Lawn. “This will allow us to go in a different direction. It provides a choice for individuals to go out in the community. It is different than our day program in Oak Lawn.”

This is the third site for Park Lawn facilities in the southwest suburbs. The Park Lawn Administration Office is at 10833 S. Laporte Ave., and vocational services are offered at 5040 W. 111th St., in Oak Lawn.

But Manning mentioned that Discovering Choice is a pilot program that allows these individuals to receive training outside the Park Lawn facilities in Oak Lawn. These individuals will take part in the two-year pilot program at the Crestwood center. They will be given an opportunity to choose a job they would like to work at.

Becky Rush, program manager at the Park Lawn Discovering Choice, said that the individuals will receive a variety of training and will take part in other activities.

“On some days our participants will work and other days they may take part in some recreational activities,” said Rush, who has been affiliated with Park Lawn for about 10 years. “They may work two or three days during the week. This is a community-based effort and we get a lot of help from volunteers.”

Kelly Ewing, the other manager, said the program has been a plus. “This is a great place,” she said.

Rush and Ewing will have five other staff workers to assist them. The participants will be working with a smaller group than the usual larger staff in Oak Lawn. Rush and Ewing said the participants will learn to adapt to working with smaller staffs that will allow more time to teach and train.

Before the ribbon-cutting took place, Manning said that the new facility features modern amenities that include computer technology.

“The space here is absolutely beautiful,” said Manning. “But I would like nothing more than to see few people here. Because that means the participants are out learning and working.”

Discovering Choice has been in existence well over two months. Renovations at the Crestwood building began last spring. Manning said the pilot program is able to sustain itself through the assistance of local businesses who have worked as partners.

With the budget impasse continuing in Springfield, Park Lawn has received a large boost from the Coleman Foundation, which has provided the majority of the funding for the pilot program. The Coleman Foundation is an independent grant organization established in Illinois in 1951. Manning thanked Crestwood Mayor Lou Presta for his support in welcoming the new facility, and Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury.

“I think this is great day,” said Bury, who was looking over information about the new program. “This is an exemplary day for Park Lawn, which does so much for the community. What people have to realize is that what has been done 50 years ago is so much different than what is done 50 years later. This allows (Park Lawn) to do more in the community.”

The Park Lawn Discovering Choice managers said that the ultimate goal is not to find part-time or full-time employment, although that would be an achievement. The greatest gift the program could establish is teaching problem-solving skills and providing the participants a sense of self-worth.

Park Lawn was created in 1955 and has given the developmentally and physically disabled an opportunity to provide services for local companies. Park Lawn initially worked exclusively with children and has since grown to include adult development training programs.

“The business partners they are working with deserve so much credit,” said Bury. “Park Lawn has such a great history.”

Man charged in 7-Eleven store robberies

  • Written by Dermot Connolly


Oak Lawn police seeking a man wanted in the Jan. 18 robbery of a 7-Eleven store at 10441 S. Cicero Ave., apprehended him the following day in the J.C. Miami Motel, 9041 S. Cicero Ave.

Kenneth M. Kroenert, 56, whose last known address was in the 3400 block of West 23rd Place, Alsip, was also charged in connection with two similar 7-Eleven robberies that occurred in Evergreen Park and Oak Forest on Jan. 19.

He remained in Cook County Jail this week on $450,000 bond, facing three charges of felony aggravated robbery, in addition to a parole violation.

In bond court last Thursday, bond was set at $150,000 for each of the three robberies.

His next court date is set for Monday, Feb. 1.

Division Chief Randy Palmer said in a statement that at approximately 7:16 p.m. Jan. 18, Oak Lawn police responded to a report of an aggravated robbery at the 7-Eleven on Cicero.

The clerk said a man in his 50s or 60s, wearing dark clothing, walked around inside the store before going to the counter and demanding cash from the register. The suspect implied he had a gun in his jacket, and after the clerk complied and handed over the money, he fled on foot.

At 2:55 p.m. on Jan 19, someone fitting the same description robbed a 7-Eleven store at 9860 S. Kedzie Ave., in Evergreen Park, and another one the same day at 4901 W. 167th St., Oak Forest.

Working with the description of the offender, Oak Lawn police said they came up with Kroenert’s name as a suspect, and witnesses picked out Kroenert from a photo array. According to the Illinois Department of Corrections, he had been paroled in October 2015 from Centralia Correctional Center, where he had been serving three 15-year concurrent sentences for aggravated robbery.

According to the Oak Lawn police statement, “an alert officer” while checking local motels observed Kroenert’s car parked in the Miami Motel lot on Jan. 19, and learned he was staying there. Officers and detectives then went to Kroenert’s room, where he was taken into custody without incident about 9:35 p.m.