Neat Repeats volunteer saying goodbye to 'family'

  • Written by Joe Boyle

chris and cake photo 5-18


Photo by Joe Boyle

Chris Doran cuts a piece of cake during her retirement party held May 11 at Neat Repeats Resale in Worth. Doran retired after serving 29 years as a volunteer for Neat Repeats.


It all started when Chris Doran wanted to take a few courses at Moraine Valley Community College.

“It was suggested as part of my class to do a paper by volunteering at the Crisis Center,” recalls Doran. “I don’t know if I could do that. But then it was mentioned that they have a retail store. I thought that would be a great idea.

“And I have been here ever since,” she added.

That was the beginning of her 29 years as a volunteer for the Neat Repeats Resale, which is now located at 7026 W. 111th St., Worth. Doran reminisced about the early days on May 11 during a retirement party held in her honor at the shop.

Funds raised from Neat Repeats Resale benefits the Crisis Center for South Suburbia, a non-profit community organization that provides emergency shelter and other services for individuals and families victimized by domestic violence. The Crisis Center has helped hundreds of women build a better life for themselves and their children. Neat Repeats also has another location in Orland Park.

Doran said that she began working at the first Neat Repeats store in the fall of 1988 at a different location down the street in Worth. In those days, there were just three or four volunteers who assisted shoppers who wanted to purchase items or were dropping off clothing to be used for resale.

The first store was considerably smaller than the current location, Doran said. In the early days she might just have a couple shoppers come in the store. Today there are shoppers coming all day, while other people are dropping off items.

“We have not only benefited the Crisis Center, but we have benefited the community,” Doran said.

She mentioned that they had previously participated in job fairs at Moraine Valley. They would offer suggestions to people who would shop at Neat Repeats, many of whom were the victims of domestic abuse and were struggling financially.

“We would give them tips on how to dress conservatively for interviews,” Doran said. “And we would help them with the clothes they could wear. You don’t realize that often these people have been abused and often just don’t know how to go to an interview.”

Doran said that often the people who attended the job fairs would come back to Neat Repeats to inform her that they had a couple of interviews.

“We believed in them and supported them,” Doran said. “I appreciated what the shop did for the community. It really grew. The people who volunteer are truly amazing people.”

Doran grew up in Chicago’s Auburn-Gresham neighborhood and attended St. Sabina School. Her family later moved to Oak Lawn. Doran is a graduate of Queen of Peace High School. She and her husband, Jerry, have two children. The couple has lived in Oak Forest for 27 years.

“We now have 175 volunteers,” said Doreen Holford, who serves as the operations manager at the Neat Repeats Resale store in Worth. “Everything is based on the volunteers. Chris trained me. I could not be trained by a better person.”

Holford, who is a longtime Worth resident, said that Doran is a last of a breed of volunteers who have worked at Neat Repeats.

“Because of the economy and raising families, a lot of women have to work and don’t have time to volunteer,” Holford said. “We won’t have anyone anymore like Chris who will volunteer for 29 years. That’s why we have a lot of seniors as volunteers who are retired and have more time. We are community based. The stores keep going through the work of the volunteers. We have been blessed to have these seniors volunteer for us.”

Joyce Athey serves as the store director at the Neat Repeat shop in Worth. She also plans to retire in June after working as a volunteer for 21 years. She said that Doran was a dedicated volunteer.

“In the beginning, she would often work late and have her kids here with her,” Athey said. “She really cared for the people and would talk to them and share their concerns. It’s more than just the clothes, it’s the people.”

Doran also applauded the efforts of Joni Rusco, a former longtime volunteer who surprised her by attending the retirement party. Doran said she was one of the original managers and was one of the many volunteers that have worked at Neat Repeats over the years.

“You know a lot of the women who volunteer have lost husbands and we become like family,” Doran said. “We really care for each other. I go out to dinner with many of these people. We enjoy each other’s company.”

Current and former volunteers stopped by to visit Doran last Thursday. One longtime customer dropped by specifically to see Doran.

“We have come such a long way,” Doran said. “We are now a boutique. People love coming here and we see many of these customers all the time. They are appreciative of what we do here because retail is not doing that well since the economy went bad. This is a place they can come to where they feel comfortable, and the prices are affordable.”

Doran was asked what she is going to miss most about Neat Repeats.

“I’m going to just say the friendships I’ve developed,” Doran said. “I’ve been with some amazing volunteers. A lot of people stay because they say it’s very comfortable, a great group of people.”

Doran said she as fortunate to put in as many hours in the beginning because her husband owned a Popeye’s chicken franchise in which he put in a lot of hours. Her sons, Jerry, 31, now lives in New York, and Matt, 26, lives in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood. She and her husband have decided to move to Chicago’s South Loop.

 “I guess it’s time for a new adventure,” Doran said. “I told everyone I’m going to miss it. They have been like family.”

‘Poppy Day’ highlights need to reach out to veterans

  • Written by Joe Boyle

Members and volunteers from the Marrs-Meyer American Legion Post 991 in Worth will be out in force next Thursday.

The volunteers will be found at main intersections and near retail stores throughout the village on May 25 collecting for current and past veterans. The gift for people who donate will be artificial flowers that represent poppies.

Bethanne Lode, secretary and treasurer for Marrs-Meyer American Legion Auxiliary, is the local Poppy Day chairman. She said the volunteers are dedicated and a great help on Poppy Day.

“I’m getting in the neighborhood of 50 to 55 volunteers,” said Lode. “We have some older seniors who are out there as long as six hours. We have some great volunteers.”

Lode said her preparation for Poppy Day begins in January with the bulk of the work occurring in the final two weeks. Lode said the auxiliary understands the sacrifice of the U.S. Armed Forces in their effort to preserve freedom and to honor past and current service members. The members will wear a red memorial poppy as a sign of their appreciation on Memorial Day weekend.

The 900,000 members of the American Legion Auxiliary, the world’s largest patriotic service organization of women, are asking every American citizen to wear a poppy on the observance of Memorial Day, Monday, May 29, in addition to the entire preceding weekend.

“Wear it in honor of the millions of Americans who have willingly served our nation, all too many of whom have made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Lode. “This entire Memorial Day weekend will pay an honored tribute to all veterans, especially those who are currently serving in the war on terror.”

The poppy also honors the hospitalized and disabled veterans who hand assemble the small red flowers as a rehabilitation project each year.  The poppy continues to provide a financial and therapeutic benefit to those veterans who construct them, as well as benefiting thousands of other veterans and their families by the revenues collected from poppy distributions, Lode said.

In the battlefields of France during World War I, poppies grew wild amid the ravages of war. The overturned soils of battle enabled the poppy seeds to be covered, allowing them to flourish and forever serve as a reminder of the bloodshed of war.

The field poppy is an annual plant which flowers each year between about May and August. The seeds are disseminated on the wind and can lie dormant in the ground for a long time. If the ground is disturbed from the early spring the seeds will germinate and the poppy flowers will grow.

This is what happened in parts of the front lines in Belgium and France. Once the ground was disturbed by the fighting, the poppy seeds lying in the ground began to germinate and grow during the warm weather in the spring and summer months of 1915, 1916, 1917 and 1918.

Lode, 53, who grew up in Worth, said she has assisted the auxiliary on Poppy Day for 33 years. She also plays a major role for the auxiliary by helping to organize clothing and food drives for the poor during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“I helped my mother, who did this for 25 years,” Lode said. “I would help back bags and boxes. Most of my family would help out.”

Poppy Day was inspired by the observations of a Canadian solider named John McCrae, who noticed the vibrant red flowers growing in Belgium and France in the midst of World War I. He composed a poem, “In Flanders Field” after the death of a friend about the phenomenon of the poppies growing in war-torn areas.

Today, Lode receives ample support from nieces and nephews. She said the money raised on Poppy Day is vital to assist current and past veterans.

“This is the flagship fundraiser for our veterans,” said Lode. “Without this huge fundraiser it would be difficult to provide for the veterans.

Lode said funds purchased from Poppy Days can help provide medical equipment and clothing for the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago, the Edward Hines VA Hospital and the Illinois Veterans Home in Manteno. Funding is also provided for the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy, Lode said.

She reminded residents to wear their poppies on Friday, May 26 on National Poppy Day to highlight the sacrifice of U.S. veterans of our past and today.

“We raised just under $14,000 last year and that was a big boost,” Lode said. “When we raise that amount of money, we can buy the veterans clothes, candy and toiletries. This a great help to the veterans.”

Carson's thrives, Plaza project progresses

  • Written by Joe Boyle

plaza construction photo 5-11

Photo by Joe Boyle

Retail stores are being built alongside the new Carson’s beginning at 9700 S. Western Ave. for the new Evergreen Plaza. The stores, many of which will open this summer, will include DSW, Petco, TJ Maxx and Dick’s Sporting Goods Store.


The new Carson’s, the anchor for the development of the new Evergreen Park Plaza, has exceeded expectations while plans for additional retail shops and restaurants are on schedule, according to Mayor James Sexton.

“They are rocking,” Sexton said about the new Carson’s at 9700 S. Western Ave. “Business is doing very well there. I have heard they are very happy.”

Specific figures on sales were not available, but staff at Carson’s said that business has been doing well despite ongoing construction along the old Plaza site. The old Carson’s building, which was located across the parking lot from the new facility, has been torn down. The only remnant of the old structure, the last symbol of the old Plaza, was a portion of a wall that was visible as of last Thursday.

The Evergreen Park Village Board approved special-use permits during their most recent meeting for outdoor seating at three restaurants. The outdoor seating was approved for Potbelly Sandwich Restaurant, Raising Cane’s and Mod Pizza.

The demolition of the old Carson’s was expected to occur this spring. It did not receive the fanfare of the first phase of the demolition when the old Montgomery Ward’s building was leveled. Sexton is pleased because this means that soon the parking lot will be expanded and cleaned up to make way for the new retail stores that are being built alongside Carson’s.

Additional retail stores that will be joining Carson’s will be DSW, Petco, Five Below, TJ Maxx, Ulta, Rally House, 365, Carter’s Oshkosh, Dress Barn and Dick’s Sporting Goods. The stores will extend as far west as Campbell Avenue.

The old Carson’s was the last store that was still operating that goes back to the early days of the old Evergreen Plaza. The store actually remained open until last September, when the new Carson’s held its grand opening.

Along with Cane’s, Potbelly and Mod, Rusty Taco will also be built along Western Avenue. Naf Naf Grill will eventually open between Potbelly and Mod. Outdoor seating is also scheduled to be available at Naf Naf Grill. Applebee’s will continue to operate from an outlet lot nearest 95th Street. Applebee’s had already been in operation for a number of years while the old Plaza was still open.

“It’s all going along to the timetable,” said Sexton. “A lot of these stores could be up in June and July.”

Sexton is also optimistic about the prospects for the old Evergreen Plaza Office Tower at 9730 S. Western Ave. Anthony Ruh, of RSA Properties in Merrionette Park, provided a few options for the Evergreen Park Village Board last fall. His one suggestion is to level the existing garage and have a ground level lot aligned and integrated with the new Evergreen Plaza parking lot. The space could provide locations for one or two retail lots, according to Ruh.

A second alternative would be to build a new multi-level parking garage and incorporate one additional retail development along the street at the sidewalk level. Ruh said this would create attractive sight lines and landscaping. Ruh would need the cooperation of the village to implement this plan.

The final option would be a simple renovation of the existing garage and building in accordance with current building codes for rehabilitation projects. Ruh, who has been in the construction business for 25 years, added that this would include some exterior improvements and alterations. Ruh added that this was not his preferred option.

Sexton admits that he likes Ruh’s ideas and there is room for discussion. The opportunity to provide more parking and to make improvements on the old tower would be a plus, the Evergreen Park mayor said.

“He has a lot of good ideas,” Sexton said. “This guy has a nice plan. He did buy (the office tower) out of foreclosure and he wants to make improvements. Some new parking space would be great.”

New park options in Hickory Hills

  • Written by By Joe Boyle

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Photo by Joe Boyle

Hickory Hills residents Gus Papadrosos and his daughter, Maria, utilize the new outdoor exercise equipment May 6 at Kasey Meadow Park.


Despite delays as a result of unseasonably cool temperatures and wet conditions, an upgrade in playground equipment and other amenities are evident for residents who visit the Kasey Meadow Park in Hickory Hills.

 “Because the weather has been so cold and with all the rain we have had, there have been some delays in completing the projects,” said Jennifer Fullerton, executive director of the Hickory Hills Park District. “But as of Monday, we are putting in asphalt for our walking paths and working on getting the stones along the wall fixed up. With all the rain we have had, we have to work on the stones about three times.”

Fullerton is referring specifically to the improvements scheduled for the Kasey Meadow Park District, 8047 W. 91st Place. Many improvements have already taken place, including repairs to the splash pad that will be open this summer. Repairs to some fencing have also taken place at the park.

She believes better days are ahead. The Hickory Hills Park District will host a carnival at Kasey Meadow Park, beginning today (Thursday, May 11) and continuing through Sunday, May 13. Rides and activities for children and families will be available. More information can be obtained by calling Kasey Meadow Park, (708) 598-1233.

“We are pretty excited about the carnival,” said Fullerton. “They are beginning to set everything up. I think we had one about 30 years ago. We are excited to see the response of the community. This is something we would like to do every year.”

A new outdoor fitness center has been added to Kasey Meadow Park this spring. The Fitness Zone is located at the northwestern corner of the park near the baseball fields. Residents have been utilizing the assortment of machinery that works on cardio development. Visitors to the park will eventually have the opportunity to walk and jog along the completed paths and stop for a some exercise on the new machines.

Gus Papadrosos, a 35-year resident of Hickory Hills, did just that on Saturday at the park. He was accompanied by his daughter, Maria. The two spent the afternoon working out on a series of equipment available.

“It just opened this spring,” he said. “I think it is very good and we get in some exercise.”

Fullerton is hopeful that the rain will hold off and that it will allow the asphalt to dry for the walking paths. That is especially true for the stones that have been inserted along the walking path. The recent downpours have prevented the stones from solidifying.

But she remains optimistic and reminds everyone that they have overcome more difficult odds in the past.

“We had about five weeks of vandalism to equipment at the park that needed to be cleaned,” Fullerton said. “We had to go over a lot of it and that caused a delay. But we got through it.”

The Hickory Hills Park District was also caught in middle of the budget stalemate in Springfield that is nearing two years. Gov. Bruce Rauner had frozen grant money for park district projects beginning in January 2015. Park district officials across the state lobbied Springfield by writing, calling and visiting with elected officials to pressure them to reverse the governor’s decision.

Fullerton was one of those park district officials who wrote letters to the governor. Up to $26 million in grant funding was made available for 75 projects across the state when the governor signed that bill. The money is part of the state’s Open Space Land and Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) program.

When the governor originally froze the grant funding, it prevented construction of playground equipment in March 2015. The Hickory Hills Park District playground and splash pad equipment that was supposed to be sent on three semi-trucks for construction of the Kasey Meadow Park OSLAD project had to be sent elsewhere. Before the governor signed the bill to reverse the decision, the equipment had to be stored on a farm in Central Illinois but was still in the elements and often facing inclement weather.

When the funding restrictions were lifted, the Hickory Hills Park District received $390,000 from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for the overall $908,000 project.

 “Without the funding it would have been really challenging,” Fullerton said. “We would have had to take out the money from our recreation department fund.”

Fullerton said that the Hickory Hills Park District was awarded a grant for a small joint project with the city about 15 years ago. But this is the first grant that was exclusively awarded from the state for the Hickory Hills Park District.

She was excited about the progress that began last fall and into November due to mild temperatures.

Fullerton also mentioned that additional seeding has to take place for plants and grass at the park.

“I think in about five weeks, it will look much better,” Fullerton said. “The paths and the stones have been our biggest hurdle. We are over 80 percent done.  It will take time, but we will get there.”

Welcome cool temperatures for SW Half Marathon

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

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Photo by Dermot Connolly

Armando Avalos (left), 51, of Posen, and Joe Betz, 67, of Valparaiso, Ind., celebrate after running in the 10th Annual Southwest Half Marathon in Palos Heights. Avalos said his habit of running the Swallow Cliff stairs on Sunday mornings prepared him for his first half marathon.



The 10th Annual Southwest Half Marathon and 10K races were run under blue skies on Sunday, and the cool temperatures were judged perfect for running.

“Here in Camelot, the weather is always like this,” joked Palos Heights Mayor Bob Straz, as he welcomed everyone to his city before the races kicked off on Route 83. He did the countdown for the half-marathon at 7:30 a.m., while Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett did the honors for the 10K Run/Walk 10 minutes later.

Next came the Walk, Run & Roll, sponsored by Southwest Special Recreation Association (SWSRA) for people with disabilities.

About 100 children also ran in the new Kids’ Dash, featuring races of various lengths for children between 2 and 10 years old. The free event, with everyone getting medals, was intended to make the 10th anniversary more of a family event. Refreshments and live music were also part of the festivities. After Pastor David Grutheson, of Harvest Bible Chapel in Palos Heights, got the day started with a prayer service, a rock band entertained the crowds during and after the races.

“We’re almost sold out of beer,” said Bridget Provost, a volunteer in charge of beer sales, at about 11 a.m. “We had a lot left over last year, when it was raining.”

Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) continued his tradition of serving as grand marshal, and running in the half marathon. His wife, Judy, also ran this time.

After being introduced on the podium, the congressman pulled up his sweatshirt to show off the T-shirt with his original bib number 1 that he wore in the inaugural race. State Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-18th), also an avid runner, was there again on Sunday, too.

Emcee Jeff Prestinario, who co-founded of the race with Mel Diab, recalled how Cunningham’s predecessor, Ed Maloney, helped make the race possible.

“It takes a lot to put this on,” said Prestinario. “The two of us told him what we needed, and while we were in his office, he called IDOT and got permission to close Route 83,” he said.

“I don’t have as much clout as him, but I’m a runner, and this is my fifth consecutive half marathon,” said Cunningham.

Diab, the race director, was pleased with the turnout, noting that 1,000 people ran in the half-marathon and 400 in the 10K.