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Shepard High School reflects on the events of 9/11

  • Written by Kelly White

shepard salute photo 9-15

Submitted photo

Shepard High School students salute as an ensemble from the Shepard marching band performs the national anthem prior to the start of the walk-a-thon that took place at the JROTC 9/11 memorial event held Friday at the school.

The administration, faculty and student body at Shepard High School in Palos Heights gathered on the school campus grounds Friday to remember and reflect on the horrific events that shook our nation on Sept. 11, 2001.

For the fourth year in a row, the Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) at Shepard High School held a 9/11 memorial event. JROTC is a program offered to high schools that teaches students character education, student achievement, wellness, leadership and diversity. The 113 students in the program are under the guidance of Major Dan Johnson and Master Sergeant Chris Saberniak.

“Sept. 11 is a day we all must remember because of all the people who lost their lives,” said Paulina Witek, 16, of Worth. “I enjoyed helping out with this ceremony because we are all honoring and paying our respects to all who perished on that day. I believe this is truly beneficial for everyone.”

The U.S. was the victim of a terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001 that killed 3,000 people when two planes crashed through the two World Trade Center buildings in New York City. Another aircraft also deliberately crashed into the Pentagon. Another plane crashed and killed all the passengers in Shanksville, Pa., 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

To begin the day, JROTC cadets walked for 14 miles on the track in the football stadium to raise money for The Heart of a Marine Foundation. The Heart Of A Marine Foundation is a non-profit organization that provides comfort, support, financial assistance and educational resources to improve the quality of life of military personnel in all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, including veterans and their families. Each JROTC member collected money in their own discretion for the walk.

This was the first year the walk was held, according to Johnson.

Johnson has been instructing the Shepard JROTC program for eight years, with this marking the second year of instruction for Saberniak.

“We wanted to do something more visible to remember 9/11, and our cadets can earn a ribbon for their uniform if they organize and participate in a 14-mile walk, so we decided to combine those opportunities into one,” Johnson said.

Throughout the school day, inside of the building and also outside on the track inside the football stadium, JROTC cadets dispersed to read the names of all victims who perished on 9/11. The list of 3,000 names was obtained by the cadets through the website, 911memorial.org.

“I think it is easy to miss the impact of 3,000 people being killed on a single day,” Saberniak said. “When you take the time to read each name, the victims become people, not just numbers.”

“I enjoyed bringing everyone together as a whole to pay respect to the victims of 9/11,” said Samantha Gebbia, 17, of Worth. “9/11 was the day we as a nation stood together as one to mourn those we lost and to fight against a common terror.”

Previous 9/11 events hosted by JROTC were held only at the start of the school day and did not involve many others from the school.

This year, teachers had the option to choose to bring out their classes for each period during the day to the football track to observe the walk and read the names of the victims. In order to help teachers prepare for the observation, JROTC cadets developed a short presentation explaining the event to classes about the importance of 9/11.

“The hope this year was that by extending the ceremony, more students and staff were also able to participate at some point during the day,” Johnson said.

The presentation consisted of JROTC cadets explaining the activity at the track and also sharing some facts and details about 9/11.

“The presentation was beneficial to students since few, if any, high school students have first-hand memories of that day,” Johnson said. “Students were able to gain an appreciation for what their parents, grandparents and older siblings might feel when 9/11 comes around. To most of today’s high school students, 9/11 is simply another historical event. If those of us who lived through those days can share our memories with them, the lessons of that day will be remembered.”

 

Local library staffs welcome addition of security guards

  • Written by Joe Boyle

Public libraries in the southwest suburbs have been adding additional programs the past few years, much to the delight of regular patrons and students.

The additional programs have been drawing more people, many of them grade-school children and teens. Security guards have been added during regular hours at most local libraries. But some patrons have called The Reporter office wondering if the reason for that is because some disturbances have occurred at some local libraries.

Sara Kennedy, assistant director of public services at Green Hills Library, 8611 W. 103rd St., Palos Hills, said that a security guard has been on staff at the facility for the past couple of months. However, she pointed out it is not because of any specific reason or due to an incident.

“We have so many programs here and we are pretty busy,” said Kennedy. “We just need another body on site to help monitor things.”

Kennedy said that the Green Hills staff often has to answer questions at the front desk and they are often called away to another section of the library. She said the presence of a security guard is a benefit because they can help visitors while staff can respond to questions in another part of the building.

“But nothing has happened,” said Kennedy. “We have three floors here so we just think it is a good idea to have a security guard on hand.”

Kennedy said that the security guard was hired by another company. A security guard works from 3 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The presence of a security guard has caught the attention of some patrons, Kennedy said.

“”A few people were asking us,” added Kennedy, “It’s not because of any problems. They were just curious. Some other libraries have security.”

Rose Gilman, library director at the Chicago Ridge Library, 10400 S. Oxford, said they also have a security guard. Gilman has been at the library for a year and she essentially inherited the policy of having security on hand for Tuesday and Thursday evenings during the school year.

“But I think it is a good idea,” said Gilman. “We have a lot of programs for kids and teens on those nights so it can get very busy.”

Gilman said that security is arranged with the village. She said she was going to place a call with the Chicago Ridge Police Department to set up the arrangement.

“It’s not because of any incident,” said Gilman. “We don’t have as many people on staff so it is just helpful to have another person around.”

Gilman likes the idea of having a security guard around when the kids come in to take part in their programs.

“What’s so exciting about this is that the teens in these programs can get a chance to interact with police,” said Gilman. “They get to know the police in a positive way.”

While Green Hills Library and the Chicago Ridge Library have security guards, the staff at the Evergreen Park facility does not.

Julie Keaty, virtual services and special events coordinator at the Evergreen Park Library, 9400 S. Troy Ave., said that a monitor is employed to help out at the library during after school hours. The monitor is a resident who mostly likely is a patron who may have children who take part in programs at the library. The monitor works Monday through Thursdays.

Keaty said that no real issues have occurred at the library.

“It’s more about noise levels,” said Keaty, who explained that they are across the street from a junior high school and they have many programs during the week for kids. “Having a monitor helps our staff.”

Keaty also added that the Evergreen Park police are just a block away.

“They are very responsive,” added Keaty.

The Oak Lawn Library, 9427 S. Raymond Ave., was closed over the weekend due to the Fall on the Green festival that was held outside their grounds, so one was available to respond to calls regarding security. The library offers a variety of programs for adults, youths and teenagers. They have had a security guard on staff for some time.

Carol Hall is the director of the Worth Library, 6917 W. 111th St. She said they do not employ a security guard.

“This is a small library,” said Hall. “But I can see at larger libraries that could be helpful. When you have a lot of people coming in, you could use the help. For us at the moment, it is not an issue.”

In respect to the Green Hills Library, Gilman said that is understandable that they would have a security guard now on staff. Gilman served as the youth services manager at Green Hills Library from 2006 to 2013.

“I agree with them,” said Gilman. “I can tell you that they have increased their programs greatly since 2013. Sometimes you just need more help. I think is a good idea.”

Oak Lawn trustee says problems with estaurant are being addressed

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

 

The Chuck E. Cheese chain of restaurants are billed as family entertainment centers, but the Oak Lawn location at 4031 W. 95th St. has a reputation as a trouble spot and Trustee Terry Vorderer (4th) said he recently met with owners of the Texas-based company to solve the chronic problems.

“It is a very big issue with people in my district,” said Vorderer, who reported at the village board meeting on Tuesday that since being elected three years ago, he has been working with owners of the local establishment to address the concerns.

“As a result of these meetings, advanced security measures have been incorporated,” he said.

For instance, the liquor license was voluntarily relinquished by the owners, who also have bolstered security with at least two off-duty police officers in the restaurant. Sections of seating were also removed to prevent overcrowding. In addition, the owner of the shopping plaza where the restaurant is located pays for a police vehicle and an off-duty officer to monitor the parking lot.

“All of these items and more were instituted at the request of the village with the goal of advancing the safety and security of a place designed to attract and entertain young children and families alike. Unfortunately, while these measures were successful, they are not perfect, as evidenced by the latest incident in August,” said Vorderer.

He was referring to an incident in which a domestic dispute between customers escalated, and a man injured police officers as they were arresting him.

The trustee said that on Sept. 10, he and Mayor Sandra Bury, Village Manager Larry Deetjen, Village Clerk Jane Quinlan and the village’s legal counsel had a two-hour meeting with Chuck E. Cheese President Roger Cardinale, and senior vice president Rudy Rodriguez, who arrived from Irving, Texas, for the meeting. Their attorneys and regional manager were also in attendance.

“We discussed our continued safety and security concerns for those families visiting Chuck E. Cheese and the neighboring stores, and sought real solutions to the problems plaguing this area,” he said.

He said Chuck E. Cheese has agreed to retain a security consultant who will be providing his findings at the next village board meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 29.

“After this report is reviewed by our police department and our comments have been incorporated, the consultant will present it at the first October board meeting (Oct. 11), so the public will know that these issues will be addressed in a swift and meaningful manner,” said Vorderer.

He noted that the company owners have already promised to perform additional staff training in spotting potential trouble and taking corrective measures before things get out of control.

“In the end, the concerns of not only my constituents but all the citizens of Oak Lawn regarding this problem will not fall on deaf ears, and we will continue in our efforts to make sure this area is not only family-friendly, but also safe and

Local youths make cards at Evergreen Park Library for hospitalized children

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

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Photo by Kelly White

Claire Cushing, 3, of Evergreen Park, is working hard on her handmade cards for hospitalized children at the Evergreen Park Public Library.


Evergreen Park Public Library’s youth patrons have extended their hearts in a project geared toward hospitalized children.

On Sept. 7, 20 library patrons, consisting of young children and their parents, gathered at Evergreen Park Public Library, 9400 S. Troy Ave., to make handmade cards for hospitalized children.

The cards were created out of construction paper with markers, colored pencils and crayons – each with an uplifting and encouraging message written inside and a drawing on the front.

“This was a great event to get the kids actively involved in something important,” said Evergreen Park resident Colleen Cushing.

Cushing attended the event with her two children, Charlie, 5, and Claire, 3.

“This is a lot of fun,” Claire Cushing said as she sprinkled her card with glitter.

The event was free and open to the general public. It was organized and guided by Laura Meyer, the children's librarian.

“Kids love to make cards and be creative so it's fun for them to make cards for someone else,” Meyer said. “It also gives them a chance to brighten the day of another child.”

Meyer contacted Cards for Hospitalized Kids, a non-for-profit organization based out of Chicago. She said that the organization is an internationally recognized charitable organization that spreads hope, joy and magic to hospitalized kids across America through uplifting, handmade cards. The program has been running for five years and at the discretion of the organization, over 100,000 children in hospitals in all 50 states have received a personalized card through the organization thanks to volunteers like those at Evergreen Park Public Library.

Meyer personally sent the 100 handmade cards to Cards for Hospitalized Kids. The cards did not need to be in individual envelopes and will be delivered from volunteers of the organization to hospitalized children.

“The cards were made on our fanciest construction paper cards that you’ve ever seen,” Meyer said. “This is the first time we held this event, but we are going to continue it once a month through December.”

Participants were not instructed by library staff on what to write inside of the cards; instead the staff encouraged them to be creative and unique, keeping each card happy and positive, according to Meyer.

“We just wanted to send uplifting messages that focused on the whole child, rather than their illness,” Meyer said. “The project was unique because it gave anyone in the community an opportunity to volunteer, be crafty and do something kind for someone else.”  

The cards held a variety of messages including, “You are awesome” and “Never forget how amazing you are.”

Writing a card with the message, “You are awesome” on the cover was Asiyah Arasheed, 11, of Evergreen Park.

“I chose this message because I truly believe that everyone is awesome in their own way,” Arasheed said. “I’m having a lot of fun here today making cards for hospitalized children. I really enjoy making people happy.”

The library will hold more card-making days from 4 to 6 p.m. Oct. 5, Nov. 2 and Dec. 7 on the first Wednesday of the month.

Hickory Hills approves small tax hike for homeowners

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins


Hickory Hills homeowners will see only an 0.7 percent increase in their property tax bill next year following the city council’s approval of an ordinance levying taxes for fiscal year May 1, 2016 ending April 30, 2017.

A recent report from the Cook County Clerk’s Office stated the 0.7 percent increase is the lowest increase since the Tax Cap Law began over 20 years ago.

City Attorney Vince Cainkar stated that traditionally homeowners would see a 4.9 percent increase in their real estate Taxes but the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL), also known as the Tax Cap Law, limits the increase in revenue that districts may collect to the rate of inflation.

According to a June 13 press release from the Cook County Clerk’s office, a tax bill is based on the amount of money sought from taxing districts (the levy), the property’s assessed value, the state equalization factor and the applicable tax rate.

It stated further that in most cases, districts this year were limited to an increase equal to the 2015 Consumer Price Index (CPI) of 0.8 percent. Home Rule districts, debit obligations, other special purpose funds, and value derived from new property and terminated Tax Increment Financing (TIFs) Districts are exempt from this limitation.

In other action, the council voted unanimously to change the Hickory Hills Employee Health Insurance provider from Blue Cross/Blue Shield to Aetna. The action came following a lengthy discussion in a specially called meeting of the Committee of the Whole, held just prior to the regularly scheduled council meeting.

Mayor Mike Howley said the decision involved considerable input from the employees.

“We believe this change will provide a significant saving for our employees. We have asked them to document their experience with this new company during this first year so that we can evaluate its performance at the end of the year.”

On another matter, Police Chief Al Vodicka presided over a swearing-in of Glenn Tienstra to the position of sergeant.

Vodicka said Tienstra, who started with the department in 2001, worked as an undercover agent for 11 years.

“During those years, he worked on assignments with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bureau and the Immigration/Customs Enforcement. Working with the FBI and ATF, he helped coordinate one of the largest drug busts and confiscations in the county. With his background and experience, we are very happy to have him in this new role in our department.”

Tienstra replaces Sgt. Gary Kolnar, who retired after 26 years and served as Juvenile Specialist, teaching the DARE program for 15 years.

“Sgt. Kolnar has been a valuable asset to our department and dedicated to serving our community,” said Vodicka. “I believe I can safely say that he took the most pleasure out of serving as DARE officer through the years. We are going to miss him.”

Kolnar was present and received a standing ovation from the council and the audience.