Pass It On thrift center boosts Chicago Christian community

Pass It On Thrift Store in Crestwood benefits Christian education serving the Palos-Orland area.

By Jamie Hiskes, Student Correspondent

As a Palos area resident, you may have driven by Pass It On Thrift Center at Route 83 and 127th Street, Crestwood.

What you may not know is that the store established over 10 years ago is a not-for-profit to benefit Christian education at Chicago Christian High School (CCHS) in Palos Heights and its two feeder schools in Oak Lawn and Tinley Park. Additionally, the entire store is run by volunteers.

Out of all these wonderful people who come and sacrifice their time for others every week, though, there are three particularly special ones.

Don Holwerda, Harry Beezehold, and John Langland are 91, 93, and 90 years old, respectively. They are the only volunteers at Pass It On in that age bracket, and it hardly hinders them at all. Whenever they get the chance, they come in and work diligently to maintain the building and the items for sale within it, and they contribute in a large way to the overall feeling of warmth and joy that patrons experience when they walk through the front doors.

Don arrives at the thrift store early every Monday, when he is the M.O.D. (Manager of the Day), and shares a “Monday Hug” with his colleague, Palos Heights resident Jan DeVries. He is one of the few volunteers that have been at the store from the very beginning, and to this day he splits his time between Bible for Missions — the original business — and Pass It On. He loves to chat and always has a big smile on his face, and his jokes could leave the most stoic of people in stitches. Even though he has a pretty heavy job — as the M.O.D., he basically oversees the entire store and deals with any and all problems that arise — he likes to keep it fun, and he enjoys himself immensely.

“You lose friends all the time when you get to be this age,” Don says matter-of-factly during our interview. “Many of mine have, well, gone to live upstairs. But you make new friends every day working here.” He recounts the time when a bunch of women suddenly started singing the hymn “Marching to Zion” in the middle of his shift, and he joined in. By the time they were finished, everyone was friends with everyone else.

One of the friends he’s made over the years is Harry Beezehold, the oldest volunteer currently working at Pass It On. After he retired from the label printing business, he found he wanted some way to pass the time. When he heard about the thrift store opening just ten minutes away from his home, he decided that that might be something worthwhile to do. He worked mostly at the receiving doors in the back, where the store brings in its donations, and now he does some toy repairs.

“Mother Nature was telling me to slow down,” he says, “and I listened. Now if I can get in a few hours here, I’m happy. It’s a beautiful place to work."

When John Langland walks up to the table where Harry and I are talking, Harry turns to him and smiles. “Well, if it isn’t Mr. Fix-It!” he exclaims jubilantly, patting John on the arm. He turns back to me. “I don’t care what anybody says; this guy is the man!"

John just smiles softly and takes his seat at the other end of the table. “Oh, enough of that,” he says, humble as always.

But Harry is right. When regular patrons of Pass It On think about the store, their thoughts usually return to one man: John Langland. The 90-year-old insists that his work — recycling unneeded materials, restoring almost every piece of furniture to come through the store’s receiving doors, and “taking out the trash” — isn’t important, but if you ask anyone else they will disagree entirely. John has restored and re-upholstered an average of fifty chairs a year with his own two hands and the vast array of tools that he has at his “work station” by the back doors. He says he tries to fix everything he can, “no matter how long it takes,” because he knows he’s one of the only people who will actually do it.

Even before the thrift store opened, John was helping out in a huge way. The glass storefront used to be covered in paint from different ads and displays, and because there were no chemicals they could use to strip it safely, John had to scrape it off single-handedly with razor blades. He ended up using 125. Now he works at the thrift store six days a week, as he has been since it opened its doors. He is, according to several people, “the heart of Pass It On.”

When asked if they would recommend Chicago Christian High School teens to volunteer at the thrift store, they answer with a unanimous “Yes.” And when I ask them how long they intend to remain working there, Don replies seriously, “As long as the Good Lord gives me health to do it.” The other two men nod in agreement.

In many ways, these three men embody what volunteering really means: Working hard not for your own benefit, but for the benefit of everyone else around you. They have become best friends while working together over the years, and are immensely thankful for the opportunity to work at such a wonderful place as Pass It On.

If you ever stop by the thrift store, look for a tall man with a broad smile on his face, a shorter mustached man wearing a plaid shirt, and a friendly-looking guy in a black parka vest and a ball cap. Say hi to them. Shake their hands. Thank them for everything they do.

Jamie Hiskes is a junior at Chicago Christian High School in Palos Heights.


50 years ago
March 7, 1963
  The Worth Police Department purchased more than $1,000 in new equipment including a $225 resuscitator, two first aid kids, two speedometers, eight blankets, two fire extinguishers, two shot guns, and winter hats and jackets for police officers. The resuscitator would allow the police department to give aide to people if they arrived at an emergency before the fire department.
  Irwin Manor, a nursing home at 10426 Roberts Road in Palos Hills, was scheduled to open April 15. The home featured 59 rooms and 25,000 square feet of floor space, and would be able to house 87 patients. It was expected to employ between 45 and 60 people including nurses’ aides, maintenance workers and physical therapists.

25 years ago
March 10, 1988
  Republican presidential candidate George Bush, Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis, Cook County State’s Attorney Richard M. Daley, and Cook County clerk candidate Jane Byrne marched in the South Side Irish Parade.

10 years ago
March 6, 2003
  An Evergreen Park man was charged with disorderly conduct after he allegedly photographed hundreds of women and children in their yards, at stores and in parking lots. Police reportedly found tens of thousands of pictures in the man’s home, and alleged he had spent thousands of dollars to develop the photographs.

Duty, Honor, Country

  Army PFC James M. Bilder of Palos Heights has graduated from basic training and advanced infantry training at Fort Benning, Ga. Bilder’s family held a homecoming party in his honor on Feb. 3, when more than 50 friends and relatives gathered at the home of his parents, Jim and Bernie Bilder.
  Bilder, a junior at Lewis University in Romeoville, joined the Illinois National Guard in May 2012 and reported to the Joliet Armory on Sept. 12. He is assigned to the 178th Infantry Regiment, which is part of the 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team. The 33rd Brigade served in Afghanistan from 2008 to 2009. The outfit is the same one in which Bilder’s great-grandfather, Leonard F. Fairfield, served as a forward observer with the artillery in France during World War I.

Circle of excellence

  Richards High School student Gabriel Frausto receives a Circle 10 Award of Excellence as fellow award-winner Rama Al-Ali shakes hands with retired Navy Cmdr. Douglas Groters, a senior naval science instructor at Richards, during an inspection by Navy Lt. Cmdr. Michael Kerley.
  The annual inspection includes a review of Bulldog Company’s uniform appearance, platoon alignment, marching precision, and hundreds of other bits of minutia. Kerley and Lt. James Wightman graded the Richards program with an overall mark of “Outstanding” for the third straight time.
  As a Naval officer who regularly reviews JROTC programs, Kerley meets some of the nation’s finest and most motivated high school students; so his words this week at the close of the inspection hung heavy in the air.
  “I’ve had the chance to visit a lot of Navy JROTC programs for evaluations,” Kerley said. “To all the parents and school officials gathered here tonight, I want to tell you how much pride you should feel in these young people. This is the best day that I’ve ever had at a JROTC program.”
  Inspection featured a review of our administrative, supply, financial, and operational programs. The visiting officers also conducted a personnel inspection of more than 100 cadets. Randy Flaherty and Kylla Pate, the two highest-ranking students in Bulldog Company, delivered a PowerPoint presentation highlighting the unit’s goals, achievements and future plans.
  Students who earned the Circle 10 medal of excellence included Emily Bargouthi, Donald Jones, Cameron Smentek, Thaddeus Sprynal, Qwamarria Covington, Alex Villafuerte, Craig Buckner, Oleksandr Gorobets, Rama Al-Ali, Gabriel Frausto, Margaret Kowalski, Randy Flaherty and Kylla Pate.

Park Dist. seeks input on Kasey Meadow

The Hickory Hills Park District is seeking a $700,000 grant that would fund work at Kasey Meadow Park, 8047 W. 91st Place. A public meeting on the matter will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, March 11.

Public meeting next Monday at Cynthia Neal Center

By Laura Bollin

The Hickory Hills Park District will apply for a $700,000 grant, the funds from which would be used to renovate Kasey Meadow Park.

The district, in anticipation of being approve for the grant, is putting together a renovation plan for the park, 8047 W. 91st Place, and is seeking residents’ input about what they would like to see. A public meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, March 11 at the Cynthia Neal Center at Kasey Meadow. Residents will have the opportunity to tell the district what they envision for the park, and hear about upgrades already planned.

Renovations may include new equipment at the park’s two playgrounds, a new splash pad and the addition of a half-mile walking trail and a fitness station for adults. The district will be applying for an Open Space Land Acquisition and Development in July, and will learn if it have received the grant in January 2014.

“I’m excited that we’re looking at a grant, because without it, we would only be able to remove and replace our playground equipment,” said park district Director Jennifer Fullerton. “I’m excited about the walking trail and the fitness station. It is like an outdoor playground geared toward adults. We might have rings, exercise bikes and places to do pull-ups. We haven’t picked out the pieces yet, and are gathering input from residents.”

If the fitness center is installed, it will in at the northwest corner of the park.

The park’s two playgrounds — one for children 2 to 5 years old, and the other for children 5 to 12 years old, were due to be replaced in 2014. The splash pad was scheduled to be replaced in 2017. The playgrounds were renovated in 1999, and the splash pad was installed that year. Without the grant, it will cost the park district $180,000 to remove the current equipment and replace it with new slides, swing sets and tunnels; and bring in new mulch for the playground surface.

“The playgrounds have some pieces that are older, and some sets of stairs have rubber that is coming off,” Fullerton said.

Fullerton hopes the grant will bring more to the park than just new playground equipment.

“We could just replace the two playgrounds, but we wanted to give the community more,” Fullerton said. “We are excited to put in the walking trail, and a possible toddler slide at the splash pad. We will have the opportunity to do a lot more than just replace the playgrounds if we receive the grant.”

If the grant is not received, the park district will renovate the two playgrounds in 2014 and the splash pad in 2017, at a cost of $170,000.

Kasey Meadow Park was originally a 15-acre farm purchased from the Kasey family in 1965. Today it has two playgrounds, a splash pad, two baseball diamonds, a basketball court, two tennis courts, a skate park and a sledding hill.