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College Foundation helps build bridges


By Laura Bollin

Without the help of the Moraine Valley Community College Foundation, Palos Hills resident John Francey wouldn't have been able to realize his dream of attending college.

Come fall, he will be majoring in criminology and psychology at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Francey, 45, said he is grateful for the foundation's help.

"I'm not your average college student," he said. "I'm a little older than some of the students and some of my professors. I knew the road to gaining an education was not going to be an easy one. I didn't want to just give up because I thought it cost too much."

With the encouragement of his family, Francey applied for scholarships. He is the 2012 recipient of the Sandra Broadbend Scholarship.

"It was a huge honor and relief when I learned I had gotten the scholarship," Francey said. "The scholarship gave me [financial] breathing room. I didn't have to worry about money, I could focus on my studies and not how I was going to pay my bills."

Since the Moraine Valley Community College Foundation began its "Foundation for Success" fundraising campaign in 2008, it has raised $2.8 million. For the final year of the campaign, which ends this year, the challenge is to raise an additional $500,000. The original goal of the campaign was to raise $3 million, but that goal has been bumped to $3.5 million by the end of the year.

At a luncheon celebration Jan. 25, the foundation revealed a glass donor wall in the lobby of the Moraine Valley Business and Conference Center on the Palos Hills campus. The wall lists the names of just more than 300 donors, including the Chicago Blackhawks, which donated $250,000 to the school. The wall was designed by Moraine Valley creative design coordinator Laurie Hoffinger.

Foundation executive director Sue Linn said the funding has provided help for students, including funding for the Performing and Fine Arts Center and has also sent members of the school's soccer and volleyball teams to Europe to play in the intercollegiate games. The foundation helps fund student scholarships and emergency assistance programs, for students who are struggling to stay in school. The foundation also helped fund the Education and Wellness Center, a $34.5 million, 115,000-squarefoot health and wellness facility that will feature a four-lane lap pool, three full-size basketball courts, a fitness center, an indoor walking track, group exercise studios, locker rooms, and an area for a healthcare provider to offer health-related programs and services to community members. The center, which broke ground on Jan. 10, is expected to be completed in 2014.

Assistant foundation director Kari Pantol said it has been amazing how much the Foundation has been able to raise in the five years of the campaign so far.

"It's a celebration of how far we've come and a challenge to push the rest of the way through," Pantol said. "We are really proud of what everyone together has been able to do."

College president Sylvia Jenkins said the fundraising campaign and the college's students are an inspiration to her.

"Sometimes, people are the first in their family to go to college," Jenkins said. "Sometimes, they are parents returning to college, or are those who have a lifelong dream of getting an education, and this is their second chance. All of our students have a unique story, and we are inspired by each of them."

Palos Heights resident Maria DeCaprio-Sunta, an artist, Moraine Valley Community College board of trustees member and alum of the college, said she believes a Moraine education is life-changing.

"I can't imagine this area without the college as a resource," DeCaprio-Sunta said. "It makes education available for every person."

Palos Hills Mayor Jerry Bennett said the college is an important part of Palos Hills.

"Moraine Valley Community College is the economic engine of Palos Hills," Bennett said. "With 20,000 students on campus every day, it doubles our population. The foundation has been a great support to the college, with its support of the Fine and Performing Arts Center and the scholarship programs they offer students."

Super Bowl XLVII by the numbers

Super Bowl XLVII between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers will be played Feb. 3 at the Superdome, which will be the 10th time the Super Bowl has been played in New Orleans. To commemorate this occasion, the Census Bureau has compiled a collection of facts examining the demographics of the host city, as well as the cities represented by the contenders, in this year's edition of our nation's most celebrated sporting event

San Francisco (49ers)

14th - Where San Francisco ranked on the list of the nation's most populous cities. The estimated population of San Francisco on July 1, 2011, was 812,826. San Francisco gained 7,486 people from July 1, 2010, to July 1, 2011.

52.1 percent - Percentage of San Francisco residents 25 and older who had a bachelor's degree or higher in 2011; 85.9 percent had at least graduated from high school. The respective national figures were 28.5 percent and 85.9 percent. The percentage of San Francisco residents 25 and older who graduated from high school is not statistically different from the percentage of New Orleans residents 25 and older who graduated from high school.

29.6 minutes - Average amount of time it took San Francisco residents to get to work; 37.6 percent of the city's workers drove to work alone, 7.3 percent carpooled and 31.6 percent took public transportation. Nationally, it took an average of 25.5 minutes to get to work. The average amount of time it takes San Francisco residents to get to work is not statistically different from residents of Baltimore. The percentage of San Francisco residents who carpooled to work is not significantly different from the percentage of New Orleans residents.

46.0 percent - Percentage of San Francisco residents 5 and older who spoke a language other than English at home. The national average was 20.8 percent.

$69,894 - Median household income for San Francisco. The national median was $50,502.

$719,800 - Median home value of owner-occupied homes in San Francisco. The national median was $173,600.

Baltimore (Ravens)

24th - Where Baltimore ranked on the list of the nation's most populous cities. The estimated population of Baltimore on July 1, 2011, was 619,493. Baltimore lost 1,067 people from July 1, 2010, to July 1, 2011.

27.5 percent - Percentage of Baltimore residents 25 and older who had a bachelor's degree or higher in 2011; 80.5 percent had at least graduated from high school. The respective national figures were 28.5 percent and 85.9 percent. The percentage of Baltimore residents 25 and older who had a bachelor's degree is not statistically different from the national value.

29.6 minutes - Average amount of time it took Baltimore residents to get to work; 60.7 percent of the city's workers drove to work alone, 10.1 percent carpooled and 17.5 percent took public transportation. Nationally, it took an average of 25.5 minutes to get to work. The average amount of time it took Baltimore residents to get to work is not statistically different from the average amount of time for San Francisco residents. The percent carpooled is not statistically different from New Orleans or the U.S.

8.1 percent - Percentage of Baltimore residents 5 and older who spoke a language other than English at home. The national average was 20.8 percent. The percentage of Baltimore residents 5 and older who spoke a language other than English at home is not statistically different from the percentage of New Orleans residents 5 and older who spoke a language other than English at home.

$38,721 - Median household income for Baltimore. The national median was $50,502.

$154,400 - Median home value of owner-occupied homes in Baltimore. The national median was $173,600.

New Orleans (host city)

51st - Where New Orleans ranked on the list of the nation's most populous cities. The estimated population of New Orleans on July 1, 2011, was 360,740. New Orleans gained 12,833 people from July 1, 2010, to July 1, 2011.

32.4 percent - Percentage of New Orleans residents 25 and older who had a bachelor's degree or higher in 2011; 83.7 percent had at least graduated from high school. The respective national figures were 28.5 percent and 85.9 percent. The percentage of New Orleans residents 25 and older who graduated from high school is not statistically different from the percentage of San Francisco residents 25 and older who graduated from high school.

22.7 minutes - Average amount of time it took New Orleans residents to get to work; 69.5 percent of the city's workers drove to work alone, 9.7 percent carpooled and 7.8 percent took public transportation. Nationally, it took an average of 25.5 minutes to get to work. The percentage of New Orleans residents that carpooled is not statistically different from the percentage of residents in Baltimore, San Francisco or the nation.

8.7 percent - Percentage of New Orleans residents 5 and older who spoke a language other than English at home. The national average was 20.8 percent. The percentage of New Orleans residents 5 and older who spoke a language other than English at home is not statistically different from the percentage of Baltimore residents 5 and older who spoke a language other than English at home.

$35,041 - Median household income for New Orleans. The national median was $50,502.

$185,400 - Median home value of owner-occupied homes in New Orleans. The national median was $173,600. The median home value in New Orleans is not statistically different from the national median home value.

This is only a test

Oak Lawn to try out new tornado sirens

By Laura Bollin

If Oak Lawn residents hear tornado alert warnings in the coming weeks, they shouldn't worry: it's only a test.

The village will be testing a new tornado siren system between Feb. 11 and Feb. 22. The system will replace the village's current one, which is 25 years old.

Residents might hear the sirens anytime between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday during the 10-day testing period. Days and times cannot be more specific because installation is weather dependent, said Oak Lawn police Cmdr. Arthur L. Clark, coordinator of the village's emergency management team.

"The installation includes sinking telephone poles and electrical hook ups," Clark said. "Testing will occur as each pole is installed. Testing involves checking the tone and volume at each location."

Along with the sirens, the system will also include programmable microphones for emergency vehicles, Clark said. The microphones will be installed in four police supervisor vehicles and in the village's incident command vehicle, a converted ambulance set up like an office.

"It has multiple computers and radios and allows you to deal with large-scale incidents," Clark said. "Microphones will also be in the 911 center and the emergency operations center, where the village does large-scale events and disaster planning. It's in the basement of the fire station on 93rd Street. It is where village supervisors would come during a large-scale disaster, and they would work from here."

The purchase and installation of the system will cost $120,000. The total includes $114,872 for the purchase of the sirens, poles and software. The remainder covers the cost of the electrical work, programming of the 911 consoles and the purchase of programmable microphones for selected emergency vehicles, Clark said.

The new system will have the ability to relay messages in four languages: English, Spanish, Polish, and Arabic. Ninety percent of Oak Lawn residents speak one of those languages, village manager Larry Deetjen said. Out of all Oak Lawn residents, 15.1 percent are foreign-born, and 26.4 percent speak a language other than English at home.

Test messages will include siren test tones and voice alert messages.

The message during the test will state, "the weather service has issued a tornado warning, take shelter now. The siren is designed to provide warnings for people outdoors, Clark said. Some residents may be able to hear the siren from inside their homes, but that depends on how close they are to the sirens and the construction of their home, he added.

"Weather alert radios are the best means of warning for persons who are inside their home or offices or when they are sleeping," Clark said. "You can get a weather alert radio at a Home Depot or hardware store. It can be battery operated or plug in. It is set up so when the National Weather Service sets off a tornado warning, it sets off an alarm in your house. If you're asleep, you might not hear the tone outside, but you would hear the loud tone and wake up, and it would tell you there is serious weather and to take shelter."

The system will make Oak Lawn be better prepared for tornadoes and other emergencies, village officials said. The system can also be used for situations such as chemical spills or an overturned tanker truck leaking a hazardous substance, Clark said.

"We want to use it in situations where we want to notify people to take shelter and we need to inform them as quickly as possible," Clark said.

Public works employees will be installing and testing sirens in the 5500 block of 111th Street and Frontage Road, 102nd Street and Major Avenue, 103rd Street and Kostner Avenue, 93rd Place and Keeler Avenue, 6451 W. 93rd Place, and 91st Street and 52nd Avenue near Covington School.

Mayor Dave Heilmann at last week's Village Board meeting jokingly told residents the system won't always be used for tornadoes.

"When there is no emergency, we'll play soothing music through the village," Heilmann said.

What do you say?


With Super Bowl parties coming up, what makes a great chili?

(Asked to contestants from all over the country at the Chilly Willie Chili Challenge in Orland Park)

Jim Stoddard,
Coppell, Texas

"Salt. That's the secret. Salt pops up the flavor. That's the single most important ingredient.''

Jose Torres,
Orland Park

"The secret is good meat and good spices. If you use bad meat or a cheap cut of meat, it will be greasy and grisly."

Lauren Ray,
Livonia, Mich.

"You have to make sure the meat is not too mushy. The freshness of the spices, for sure. And you have to have the right amount of salt seems to be a real big kicker."

Loretta Torres,
Orland Park

"It can't be too spicy. Just a little burn on your lips. It has to have a nice flavor - it can't be all about being hot."

Tom Heiser,
Madison, Wis.

"Ohhhhhh…top-notch ingredients. I get my chili powder shipped in from New Mexico. I don't use the cheap, store-bought powder."

Uncontested Heights elections hardly happen

By Jeff Vorva

It could be apathy. It could be a strong satisfaction with how the city is being run.

Either way, it's been a long stretch between 100 percent uncontested races during a mayoralyear election in Palos Heights.

Shortly after Palos Heights was incorporated in 1959, the first municipal election was held. On June 6 of that year, 647 voters showed up and Z Erol Smith was elected as mayor and was unopposed. Legend has it that he told people "No one else wanted the job." That year a clerk, treasurer and eight aldermen were elected and they, too, were unopposed.

Since that time, 53 years have passed and there have been 13 more mayor/aldermen elections with at least two of the positions up for grabs.

The 14th election, however, harkens back to the Z Erol-era. The April 9 election features all seven slots available on the council uncontested.

Incumbent Mayor Bob Straz will run uncontested for his fourth term. Straz also ran uncontested in 2005. He beat challenger James Pasquinelli in 2009 and Julie Corsi and Dean Koldenhoven in his first run in 2001. City Clerk Tom Kantas and Treasurer Frank Oswald are also running unopposed.

In the alderman positions, Jack Clifford (2nd Ward), Dolores Kramarski (3rd Ward) and Gerald McGovern (4th Ward) are incumbents who will run unopposed. Donald J. Bylut will run unopposed for 1st Ward alderman, a post currently held by Jeff Prestinario, who is giving up the seat.

For local politicians, running unopposed brings mixed feelings. Some love the thrill and excitement that an election can bring. But running unopposed can also mean not having to spend campaign money and can spend the coming months concentrating on city business and not having to campaign.

"You would like to think that people think you are doing a good job and they are happy with what is happening," Straz said. "In reality you know that's not always the case. But for the most part, they are happy and don't want to take the time and effort to run.

"On the other side of it, you kind of sit back and say 'why don't more people get involved?' When I first ran, I never ran for anything in my life. It's not like you have to be an experienced politician. Off the top of my head, I think everyone on our council had not been elected to anything before this. It's a downside when people don't want to get involved."

Clifford will be back for his fourth term and has also been involved in contested and uncontested races.

"It's an honor to run unopposed so some people think I'm doing my job and I try to represent them and get back to them in a timely fashion," Clifford said. "I think people appreciate what I do for them."

This is Kramarski's fourth term and the first three times she ran, she faced competition. This time she's in without a fight.

"It never bothered me to face someone else," she said. "I welcome it. If you want to run, that's what you should do."

The three veterans of the election wars agree that there are aspects of running for office that they won't be missing in February and March.