Gehrett Sargis, who grew up in Worth, Gehrett Sargis, a Worth native who attended Brother Rice, will play for the U.S. Hockey team at the World University Games in Italy. Submitted photo.is making a name for himself in college hockey circles. Not only is the senior a top scorer for the Robert Morris University hockey team, the rest of the nation has taken notice of him, too. Sargis was named to the United States National University team at the 2013 Winter World University Games Dec. 10-21 in Trentino, Italy. The U.S. team is comprised of players from collegiate ice hockey teams affiliated with the American Collegiate Hockey Association. “The core group of players has a lot of hockey experience and we’re expecting to have highly skilled players throughout the lineup.” U.S. team leader Ashley Bevan said. Ryan Bachman of Orland Park and Adrian College and John Olen from Hawthorn Woods and the University of Illinois, are other players from the state on the squad. Cover boy — Gehrett Sargis was on the cover of Robert Morris’s media guide last year. Photo by Jeff Vorva. The USA squad takes on Sweden, Latvia and Italy in pool play. Sargis attended Worth Grammar School and Brother Rice High School. He’s played in Canada as well as with the NAHL Janesville Jets and Helena Big Horns. Sargis said he started playing street hockey when he lived in Florida and changed to the ice when he moved to Worth when he was 6. “I’ve been doing it my whole life,” he said. “It’s always nice to compete every day. There are a lot of factors to the sport. Guys on a team — it’s like a family. You are always trying to give it everything you have and trying to improve. It’s a fun sport. Every day is different. You go through your ups and downs. It’s like life — things are always changing.’’ His college coach, Tom “Chico” Adrahtas, said Sargis deserves the national accolades. “He’s a prototypical power forward,” the coach said. “He can beat you a lot of different ways and I think that’s what the powers-that-be who picked the team recognized. He’s been scoring on a national level since his first year with us. He’s the type of kid who is very strong on his skates. He has a very hard shot but it’s also deceptive. He passes the puck extremely well. In four years, he’s worked hard to become an all-around player. “He’s not one dimensional. He can play in all three zones.’’ Robert Morris had a 15-2-1 mark in its first 18 games and Sargis was a big part of it. His coach thinks Sargis can play after college. “The NHL is somewhere he is not going to get to,” Adrahtas said. “But there are a lot of lower-level professional leagues and I believe he can play in a lot of them. He could be capable of playing in Europe. If he continues to train as he has, I think he can play at the next level. “There are some people who want to get on with their professional lives after college. There are some who believe that if you are a viable athlete you should continue to play. Whatever Gehrett decides, we will support him and try to help him get to that next level if that’s something that he wants.’’
A tearful Julie Miller stood outside the Oak Lawn Village Board chambers Tuesday night and talked about the critical role the village’s emergency telecommunicators play in the safety of her husband, an Oak Lawn police officer. “They’re part of our family,” said Miller, whose husband, Dan, is a 17-year veteran of the police department. “The 911 dispatchers…are his lifeline. I mean, when he leaves my house, his life is in their hands, literally, and they make sure he comes home to me at night safely.” The village board voted 4-2 to privatize 911 call center dispatch services, a move that could save the village $1 million over two years, Village Manager Larry Deetjen said. Norcomm Public Safety Communications will assume dispatching services for the village and the other communities it serves. Oak Lawn dispatchers will have the opportunity to apply for their old jobs. Ron Cicinelli, an attorney for the Metropolitan Alliance of Police, the union the represents the dispatchers, said the union would sue the village if it replaces dispatchers with an outsourced firm. Miller said a private company will be unable to match the overall “professionalism and loyalty” exhibited over the years by the village’s dispatchers. She said Norcomm dispatchers will not be as familiar with the village or its police officers and firefighters. “When he gets a call from them, they get as much description as possible before he goes anywhere and for that I am forever grateful. They are wonderful at their jobs. It’s a shame. It is a shame,” Miller said. Trustees Bob Streit and Carol Quinlan voted against the proposal. “Oak Lawn has always been a place where residents could count on their public servants,” Streit said. “The system has been working for years. We don’t need to make a change.” Streit added that the initial savings the village will realize as a result of outsourcing will “evaporate over time.” Trustee Terry Vorderer, a former Oak Lawn police officer, said approving the outsourcing was “the toughest vote in his political career.” “I agonized over this vote,” said Vorderer, who added that he holds out hope for an agreement between the village and the dispatchers. Cicinelli asked Mayor Sandra Bury to delay the vote and form a board committee to meet with union in an attempt to avoid outsourcing. “I want all of you to understand that privatizing your public-sector services is not the answer,” Cicinelli said. “Once you vote to privatize, it’s very difficult to come back.” He said that as emergency communications technology advances, it would difficult for the village to resume emergency dispatch services at a later time. “Once you rely on the private corporation, you will become their hostage,” he said. Several dispatchers and their supporters packed the board room and asked the board to reconsider the move, saying that an outsourced company will not provide the same level service as the village dispatchers. The Metropolitan Alliance of Police approved a contract with the village in late 2012 after a lengthy negotiation, Cicinelli said. The contract is set to expire in December 2014. The union was hopeful it could extend the contract through at least 2016, he said. One month after the current contract was ratified, the village asked the union to consider cost-saving measures, including deferring the 2.5 percent wage increase included in the contract, regular pay for overtime hours, hiring part-time dispatchers and changing the wage scale for new employees, Cicinelli said. The union overwhelmingly opposed the cost-saving measures and filed an unfair labor practice grievance with the Illinois Labor Relations Board, which was rejected. The union appealed the decision, and the village has responded, Cicinelli said. Oak Lawn dispatchers handles fire, police and ambulance calls for Oak Lawn, Evergreen Park, Burbank and Bridgeview. They also handle fire department calls for Bedford Park and a portion of the Central Stickney Fire Protection District. Deetjen has said the dispatch center was facing mounting expenses, which could increase if some of its customers left. He added that if any of the towns the village serves choose another dispatch service, Oak Lawn would be forced to lay off dispatchers.
Oak Lawn residents will hear a new tornado siren on Tuesday when the system is tested.
The siren replaces the voice emergency alerts, which were disabled Nov. 18, one day after a severe storm led to numerous complaints about the volume and the various languages in which the warning was broadcast. The previous system featured an alarm followed by an emergency warning in English, Spanish, Polish and Arabic. Residents complained that the siren was either too loud or too soft while others said the warning should not be broadcast in languages other than English. A sample of the new siren can be heard on Mayor Sandra Bury’s blog, www.mayorbury.com. Bury said at Tuesday’s village board meeting that residents cannot rely solely on emergency sirens to warn them of tornados and other disasters. “It is important that everyone realize that sirens are not the answer. You need to be prepared. Be aware of your environment,” Bury said. She encouraged residents to obtain a coupon at village hall that allows them to purchase a Midland NOAA radio at Walgreens at 95th and Cicero for $20. The radio costs $40 without the coupon. Coupons will be available at village hall from Dec. 2-6 and will be accepted at Walgreens from Dec. 7 to Dec. 31. Bury also encouraged residents to register for the Everbridge system, which sends emergency alerts via phone, email or text message. The majority of residents are not signed up for the system, she said. Trustee Bob Streit said promoting the weather radio is an admission on the village’s part that the sirens aren’t sufficient. “Many people believe that the village’s solution is to get a weather radio. I think what’s happened is that [the village] realizes that the system isn’t working so now we’re going to supplement with a weather radios,” Streit said. Streit also criticized the village for sending mixed messages about the siren system. “This was serious,” he said. “Our public safety is at risk if [residents] don’t hear the tornado sirens. Many people claim they can’t hear them.” Streit said the village should have held a public hearing to allow residents to weigh in on the issue. “Ever since these sirens were installed, people have been complaining and the village didn’t do anything about it,” Streit said. “I don’t think we know if the siren is loud enough to be heard in the homes. I don’t think that question has been answered. I think we’ve gotten inconsistent messages.”
Ridge mayor opposes live meeting coverage citing Oak Lawn bickering and ‘campaign mode’ speeches
Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar opposes allowing live streaming of village board meetings citing neighboring Oak Lawn’s behavior on cable television broadcasts. The mayor pointed out Oak Lawn trustees’ constant politicking, speeches and being on campaign mode during each meeting. Chicago Ridge Trustee Sally Durkin asked her fellow trustees at a Nov. 19 board meeting to approve a motion to stream board meetings via Internet and local cable television. After a 4-2 vote in favor of streaming a live feed online or on cable television, the motion was amended due to variable expenses and unknown logistics associated with recording board meetings. Trustees agreed to investigate pricing and expected costs prior to voting on streaming meetings on television and online. A final decision will be made at the Dec. 17 board meeting. “In terms of transparency I don’t have a problem with the meetings being on the air,” Tokar said. “But I think that the [trustees] in Oak Lawn think that since they are on television that they have to make speeches or have to read speeches into the record, and those things are done for political reason. It’s almost as if they are on campaign mode at every board meeting.” Trustees Amanda Cardin and John Lind both rejected the proposal. Cardin requested more information regarding the cost of streaming video while Lind agreed with Tokar’s statement regarding Oak Lawn’s meetings turning into a “political football” with a lot of “unseemly accusations flying back and forth.” In Lisle, board meetings are recorded by a expensive camera with a media crew that adds to the cost of streaming video. South of the canal, Palos Park and Palos Heights broadcast their meetings but Orland Park does not. “I don’t want to go Hollywood here, I would just like to make it easier for our public to have access to our meetings,” Durkin said. “It’s something to offer our citizens and I think it’s something we should do.” • In other news at the meeting, Rick Morrow, of Parkside Avenue, accused former Chicago Ridge school board member and current Chicago Ridge employee Robert Gushes of neglecting his duty as a village inspector during the summer months when Morrow’s apartment reached over 95-degrees, which caused his pet to overheat and die in August. Morrow said he reached out to numerous village employees to no avail. Due to the building’s broken attic fan, Morrow said he ran five portable fans to keep his 800-square-foot condo at livable temperature, which increased his air conditioning bills by $200 and a total of $600 in other bills. Morrow said he talked to the police and claimed that he saw Gushes sleeping on the job. One village inspector, Rich Sumner, came to Marrow’s aide upon his request and inspected the third floor condo. Sumner attested to the extreme heat and Morrow’s efforts to abate the heat by using multiple fans. “When I called [Tokar’s] secretary she said I was a problem and Gushes just hung up on me,” Morrow said. “It’s ridiculous but the animal didn’t have to suffer because of it. I did everything I could to save that animal, and I spent every dime I could.” Tokar said he sympathized with Marrow, saying that there are apparent legal issues outside the village’s control; however, the living conditions are an area of concern for the village. “This sounds like a legal problem between you as a condo owner and the condo association,” Tokar said. “It’s a different story if it’s unhealthy to live there.” Lind said the village will look into the issue of the code enforcement officer and make the health department available to Morrow to help determine if the condo association must be cited code violations.
“Like Mayor Tokar said, a lot of these issues you have you’ll have to take up with the condo association, but I will make our health department available to you so you can sit down and have them hear your complaints,” Lind said. “I can’t say he can help you but at least he can hear your complaints and maybe cite them for any code violations.”
Area pantries feeling crunch as more ‘desperate’ people seek food
A crowd of people gathered on aHerb Mohn of Palos Heights unwraps some canned goods recently at Elsie Pantry, a joint ministry of Moraine Valley Community Church and Savior Divine Lutheran Church. Photo by Bob Rakow. recent Thursday afternoon outside the back entrance of Savior Divine Lutheran Church in Palos Hills waiting for Elsie’s Pantry to open.
Inside, a team of volunteers hurriedly placed donated food—bread, bags of salad, frozen meat and dairy products—on tables, while others filled boxes with canned and dry goods stored on rows of metal shelves. The food pantry wasn’t forced to turn anyone away, but director Beth Heinrich is concerned about the future. “Right now, my shelves are bare,” Heinrich said. “We broke a record last month. The canned goods are really low.” Heinrich is not alone. As the holiday season approaches, food pantries throughout the region are working harder than ever to meet the needs of a growing client base and looking to donations to fill the void. Elsie’s Pantry, a joint ministry of Savior Divine Lutheran Church and Moraine Valley Church, served nearly 600 clients in October, a significant jump from the 350 to 400 individuals who are typically helped on a monthly basis, Heinrich said. The pantry receives some of its supplies from the Greater Chicago Food Depository, which distributes donated and purchased food to a network of 650 pantries, soup kitchens and shelters throughout Cook County. But Elsie’s also relies on private donations and monetary contributions to serve clients. Bob Shields of Palos Park removes a case of food from the shelves at Elsie’s Pantry in Palos Hills. The pantry relies on food and monetary contributions to serve needy families throughout the area. Photo by Bob Rakow. Moments before the pantry opens, volunteers form a circle, join hands and pray for the people they serve as well as the success of their mission. When the doors open, clients take their seats and wait patiently until their numbers are called. Some are regulars who make small talk with volunteers and other clients. Newcomers, meanwhile, check in at the front desk and present identification to prove they live in one of the communities served by the pantry. The pantry, located at 10040 S. 88th Ave., is open from 3 to 5 p.m. on Thursdays and serves nearly 41,000 residents from Palos Hills, Palos Heights, Palos Park, Hickory Hills, Willow Springs and Orland Park. In addition to helping meet nutritional needs, the pantry offers blood pressure screenings on the first Thursday of the month and nutrition workshops from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on the fourth Thursday. A pet pantry provides food for clients’ dogs and cats. Donations can be dropped off between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The pantry is always in need of canned goods, cereal and pasta, Heinrich said. Elsie’s Pantry is not the only one in the southwest suburbs fighting to meet the basic nutritional needs of a growing number people who need some help making ends meet. “We get a lot of new clients,” said Sue Coffey, secretary at Worth United Methodist Church, which operates a food pantry. “They are having a hard time.” Like Elsie’s Pantry, Worth United Methodist Church looks to the Greater Chicago Food Depository and private donations to keep the shelves stocked. The pantry also counts on food drives sponsored by schools and local organizations as well as contributions from its congregation. The pantry, 7100 W. 112th St., is open from 9 to 11 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays. Clients can visit twice a month and receive a selection of meat, canned and dry goods as well as dairy products, including milk, butter, yogurt and cheese. Donations can be made when the pantry is open. Organizations with large amounts of food can contract the church at 708-448-6682 to arrange a pick up. The pantry is always in need of non-perishable items such as cereal, macaroni and cheese, pasta, instant potatoes, ramen noodle packages, soup (dried or canned), cake mixes and vegetables. The pantry serves a wide area bounded by 79th and 135th streets, Cicero Avenue and LaGrange Road. It will provide food to people who live outside that area on a one-time basis, Coffey said. “People are desperate,” Coffey said, adding that unemployment and a recent decrease in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits are two of the primary reasons why more people are turning to food pantries for help. “There are people who are homeless who come in,” she said. “We try to do what we can.” Teresa Rodriguez, southwest regional director for Catholic Charities, said food panties have become more important than ever as the need increases and smaller pantries close their doors. “(Clients) are really stretching every single dollar,” she said. “There’s always a need. “We are talking about basic items.” Catholic Charities, which has an office in Worth, operates a food pantry at St. Blasé Church in Summit, which serves surrounding communities. The church also provides a hot meal at 6 p.m. on Wednesdays. The pantry has seen the number of families served jump from 650 to more than 1,000 over the past few months, Rodriguez said. “It’s frightening,” she said. They’re the working poor.” Unemployment, a decrease in work hours or a family illness often lead people who’ve never before visited a food pantry to take advantage of their services. “They’ll say, ‘I never envisioned myself in a food pantry,’” Rodriguez said.
She added that clients are extremely thankful for whatever the pantry can provide. “Ninety-nine percent will take what they need,” she said. “They feel welcome. They’re made to feel important.”
The pantry is open Mondays, Tuesday, Thursdays and Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and from 1 to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays. It provides one package per month that includes canned goods, dried goods and frozen meat. In addition, clients can come to the pantry each day it is open for food that is donated by local grocers, restaurants and bakeries.