Oak Lawn woman welcomes two children in her life

  • Written by Claudia Parker


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Submitted photo

The child known as “Baby E” stands outside the Daley Center on the day she officially was adopted by Oak Lawn resident Linda Panico.


Room for two!

According to the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS), Linda Panico’s Oak Lawn condo has just enough square footage to accommodate raising two children.

Living unwed and child-free, Linda found herself longing for motherhood. So she took the reins of fate and signed up for the Foster to Adoption Illinois program. Her journey began in May of 2012 and came to fruition Feb. 15, 2017. On this day, a 4-year-old miniature Cinderella I’ll refer to as Baby E officially became Linda’s daughter.

Valentine’s Day was working overtime!

The outpouring of love for this child is so great it sends shivers through my spine. Hearing about Baby E’s adoption day was ear candy. Over 30 family and friends commuted into the Chicago Loop and packed a Daley Center courtroom for the official news. For those unable to squeeze their rump in the 15-passenger van rented for the day, they trailed by the carloads. There were two professional photographers on hand to capture the exuberance in and outside of the Daley Center. Between the adoption day selfie frame, ‘it’s official’ poster and custom made matching T-shirts, there was plenty of posing going on.

The T-shirts, which read “It’s Official. I’m a Panico!” included a photo of Baby E with her adoption date. They were worn by a fleet of people.

“In total, 125 family and friends wore the T-shirts on her adoption day,” said Linda. “The people that couldn’t physically be with us texted pictures of themselves wearing the shirts. It was overwhelming. I received several hundred congratulatory messages.”

Linda said she even provided T-shirts for the presiding judge, her attorney and the state's attorney. She and nearly all of her associates seemed to be celebrating Baby E. After all, as written on her sign, she had been in foster care 1,385 days. But Feb. 15, 2017 wasn’t one of them.

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Linda said the foster care process went faster than expected. After passing an FBI background check and 27 hours of parenting classes she was granted a foster care license from Springfield. She was told it could take up to six months before a child came into her home. Nonetheless, Baby E was placed in her arms within the same month of receiving her license.

Linda reminisced what it felt like when she and 13-month-old Baby E first met.

“She was barely awake. They handed her to me with the clothes on her back and one diaper,” said Linda. “They said, ‘Here she is, she’s yours,’ and just like that, they walked away.”  

How ironic. In similar fashion, that’s exactly what happens to mothers who give birth. We’re given this little lump of joy and sent home from the hospital after watching a couple of hours of parenting videos. Yet, somehow, we all seem to manage.

Love leads the way.

Unlike the foster care process, an adoption process can be lengthy and stressful with hope uncertainties on both sides. While the adoptive parent or parents hope for an opportunity into parenthood, the biological parent or parents hope they won’t live to regret their decision to relinquish the baby.

For some parents, unfortunate circumstances lead them into that direction.

It was a Chicago police officer by the name of Officer Diaz that suspected the then 13-month-old Baby E needed to be removed from her mother’s custody. Her biological baby brother, whom we will call “T,” made his way into the Panico residence much sooner than 13 months. He was seven days old. Little brother T, now 2, and Baby E are said to be happily inseparable.

Baby E and her little brother T, whose adoption is still in process, are incredibly lucky. They have a biological mother who loved them enough to allow them to be loved and cared for by someone else. That takes great courage and I applaud her for giving these precious children the gift of a life with Linda Panico.

An emotional and teary Linda expressed compassion around the situation that brought these two special people into her life. She's merciful, protective and selective when she speaks, choosing to be considerate of everyone involved. She's doing what good mothers do; we protect each other and refrain from judging. She's only spoken of their biological mother with empathy.

“I'm grateful to her, I don’t want my gain to be her loss,” Linda said. “I include her in their lives. We talk on the phone. I send emails and share pictures.”

Parenting isn't easy, it takes daily sacrifice and a willing heart to learn, give and teach. Some people simply aren't equipped to be parents. They do not possess the skill nor do they desire to learn what's essential to providing the nurturing, safe care children need. Adoption for their children becomes just as crucial as those who are orphans. When Linda's children are older and mature enough to understand, she’s prepared to provide the details of how a single, white female became the mother of two, half African American and half Honduras, children.

“I was asked if I had a race preference,” said Linda. “Race doesn’t matter to me. Race was never a question. They've been loved and accepted by me and my entire family from the very beginning.”

Linda said being a mom is going well. She said she's labored through a few challenges the children have experienced while adjusting to their new environment. Yet, she’s done it with a smile -- some days a few tears, and a sense of humor.

Honey -- that’s all of us. Welcome to motherhood!

Linda Panico’s condo may only have room for two, but she has the capacity in her heart to house a Hilton.

If you’d like to learn more about the Foster to Adoption program visit.

Claudia Parker is an author, photographer and a reporter. Her columns appear every second and fourth Thursday of each month. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


St. Patrick’s Day goes into overtime

  • Written by Joe Boyle

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St. Patrick’s Day has still not arrived, but why do I feel like it has been around for a month? The wearin’ of the green seems to have somehow turned into a seasonal event, not just one day.

During the first weekend of March, I attended a St. Patrick’s Day fundraiser and party at my old parish in Chicago. Looking through some other community newspapers I noticed there were several St. Patrick’s Day events occurring at other Catholic parishes throughout the Chicago area.

And this past weekend, we had a St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Downtown Chicago. The highlight of that parade is witnessing the Chicago River dyed green. It is a big event and it draws a large crowd.

But it does not compare to the South Side Irish Parade that was held this past Sunday. The parade route begins at 103rd and Western Avenue and concludes at 115th and Western. The parade took about one hour and 40 minutes. I took photos of the event for our paper and a couple of other editions. It is a good time and an opportunity to see people you have not seen in a while.

The parade estimate was about 200,000 people. That is quite a huge crowd for a neighborhood event. And to think that this parade drew as many as 400,000 during the days when the event became too large, drawing people from throughout the suburbs and the city’s North Side. Revelers in those days would empty out of bars and into the streets. The partying was getting out of hand and the parade was shut down for a few years.

The parade has gone back to its original concept, which means it is more of a family event. However, there are still many who go into the local bars on Western to tip a few pints. And walking to and coming back from the parade, I noticed people holding parties that spilled out into the streets. But most of all, these neighbors appeared to be having a good time.

I like it the way it is now. You can bring kids to the event if you like. On the other hand, the bars are open for those who want to celebrate by having more than corned beef and cabbage.

It was a little cold at 36 degrees but the sun was shining. That’s an improvement over last year, when a steady drizzle made it difficult to watch the parade. And I can tell you that it was difficult to take photos, too.

But the downtown parade and the South Side Parade are not the only St. Patrick’s Day events. We now have a St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Chicago’s Northwest Side. They don’t seem to draw as many people as downtown or in Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood, but everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves from the news clips I’ve watched.

A St. Patrick’s Day-themed parade called the Irish Fleadh Parade has been held in Oak Forest for a number of years. Tinley Park has hosted a St. Patrick’s Day Parade for years. Countryside also has a St. Patrick’s Day Parade. A St. Patrick’s Day Party is also held in Chicago’s Garfield Ridge neighborhood.

If these parades all have something in common, it’s that they are rarely — if ever — held on St. Patrick’s Day. At one time, the parades were actually held on March 17. But like many of these events, they are now celebrated on the weekends as close to the March 17 date as possible. Consequently, we have been adding more of these St. Patrick Day celebrations beginning in late February.

My Uncle Jack was born in Chicago but grew up in Ireland. He used to laugh when he came back here in regards to how we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. First of all, there were no parades or corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland. But since the 1950s, immigrants would come over here and take part in our parades. Visitors and local dignitaries arrive here and in New York City and Boston and are impressed with the festive parades.

So, while St. Patrick’s Day was just another day to go to the pub and celebrate, parades are now held in Ireland as well. The Irish may have been amused when they first saw the American creations of St. Patrick’s Day. But most of the Irish like to have a good time, so the parades and I imagine even corned beef have found their way to the Emerald Isle.

After all this celebrating, what is going to actually happen on St. Patrick’s Day? Well, apparently even the Irish have a little pull with the Vatican, or at least with the Chicago Archdiocese. We have been informed by Cardinal Blase Cupich that Catholics will be given special dispensation tomorrow for St. Patrick’s Day.

And that means pass the corned beef, cabbage and carrots. Maybe even have a Guinness or two.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone — whether you celebrate for one day or a month.

Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Little victories can turn Chicago’s image around

  • Written by Joe Boyle

Most of us have read about it and seen clips on the nightly news. Images of children dying because they just happen to be in the crossfire of feuding gangs are heartbreaking. And we can’t seem to hide from the violence. Our new president seems to tweet about Chicago’s shootings every other day.

Of course, we know Chicago has to come to grip with this endless violence. But it is also important to point out to critics--including the current president--that the majority of these shootings are in a few neighborhoods on the city’s South Side and West Side.

Of course, we know Chicago will be the focus of some jokes. On the Weekend Update segment on “Saturday Night Live” this past week, Colin Jost mentioned that Chicago has had no snow during the month of January and February. And then he added the zinger: “Because all the snowflakes were shot down before they reached the ground.”

But all kidding aside, the city has a lot to offer. Right now, Chicago has nine different TV shows being filmed in and around the downtown area. The stage production of “Hamilton” has also made it to Chicago. In sports, the Chicago Blackhawks are red hot and will compete for another Stanley Cup. The Hawks have already won three Stanley Cups during this decade. And unless you have been living under a rock, we all know the Chicago Cubs are World Series champions for the first time in 108 years.

The lakefront along the North Shore to the South Shore is a beautiful sight and perhaps a surprise to visitors who first witness it. The downtown area includes Cloudgate, or the “Bean,” Buckingham Fountain and the Magnificent Mile.

I was thinking about all that when I attended a St. Patrick’s Day party on Saturday night at St. Margaret of Scotland Parish in Chicago’s Washington Heights neighborhood. I graduated from the school at 9837 S. Throop St. and lived a couple a blocks away from there. I’ve been attending the event consistently over the past 10 years or so. I will meet one of my brothers and sister and attend Mass before the event. As the service concludes, members of the Chicago Stock Yard Kilty Band make their way up the aisles of the old church, playing their bagpipes and drums.

We follow them out the door and across the parking lot, entering the nearby gym. Since this is a pre-St. Patrick’s Day bash, there was corned beef, potatoes and as a surprise, lasagna. The Chicago Stock Yard Kilty Band performed again, along with a choir from Marist High School.

St. Margaret of Scotland School, like many Chicago-area Catholic schools, has had to endure lower enrollment issues and budget concerns. A lot has changed since when I went there in the 1960s in the midst of the baby boomer generation. We had 150 kids in our graduating class. The neighborhood in the 1960s was mainly Irish Catholic. Today the parish is almost exclusively African American.

But the annual St. Patrick’s Day party is a link to the parish’s past and a major fundraiser. The school has also received assistance from Big Shoulders, Catholic Charities and other organizations. The parish has also started an annual golf outing that draws many graduates and friends of St. Margaret’s. This is another way in which St. Margaret graduates can get together and have some fun while raising money for the school.

This appears to be working. Kevin Powers, the current principal at St. Margaret’s, said that a few years ago, the school had an enrollment of 150 students. Powers said that currently St. Margaret’s has an enrollment of 223. School officials are confident those enrollment figures will rise even further.

Powers and the organizers of events held at the school and for the parish deserve a lot of the credit. But it also got me thinking that with creative thinking and hard work, anything is possible. Chicago is a great city but sometimes we all need help.

I thought of the crime and the violence that is too prevalent. What needs to be done is to offer more opportunities for individuals in these neighborhoods. In the case of Trump, instead of tweeting about Chicago’s violence, sit down and meet with local public officials and developers and see what can be done. Trump said he wants to pour money into infrastructure to improve U.S. cities. Chicago would be a good start.

But it begins with little victories like what is going on at St. Margaret’s. That’s how it can begin.

Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Believing that divine hand led to payment of tenant's fee

  • Written by Claudia Parker


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A cheerful giver isn’t exactly what I’d call my husband, Don. I recall when the offering plate began its transfer down the pew at the Apostolic Church of God (ACOG) back in 2002, our first year of marriage.

He was comfortable tossing in a couple of Abraham Lincolns, but when I told him we needed to replace those ten dollars with a tenth of our income, he gazed at me like I’d lost my marbles. With one eyebrow raised he snarled, “You can give a tenth of your income, but not with mine!”  

I crinkled my forehead. “But, didn’t you hear Bishop Brazier? We’re supposed to tithe!”

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it,” would recite the late, Dr. Arthur M Brazier, former senior pastor of the ACOG. That was the extent of his petition during offering time. He didn’t plead, or engage in persuasive gimmickry. He would simply share that one passage from Malachi 3:10. As a result of his teaching, I began to give a tenth of my income on a consistent basis, which is also known as tithing.  

Since Don couldn’t quite ascertain why tithing was necessary, as the household finance manager, I refrained from giving his portion until he was ready. Somewhere between Bishop Brazier’s weekly reciting of Malachi 3:10, my routine compliance and our CPA making it known that an increase in charitable donations would reduce our bottom line, his position changed. We’ve been faithful givers ever since. Don’t confuse that with us loaning or just giving money to people randomly.

We don’t, so please don’t ask!

We give tithes and offering to the church, and to those where we feel led by God. Giving has increased our faith. I have a truckload of examples of what keeps us habitually giving, but allow me to share one.

It hadn’t been but a spell that new tenants had taken residence in one of our rental properties. I had yet to transfer one of the utilities out of my name, so when the bill would come to our address, I’d mail it to them -- usually the same day. Nevertheless, in this instance, that bill stared at me on a daily basis until the month had nearly escaped me. This was so unlike me; I was usually so prompt. Feeling as though I’d put the tenants at a disadvantage to pay the bill by its due date, I felt an internal leading to just pay it. It was as if God had distracted me from sending the bill to them because He intended me to pay it for them.

Are you buying that? Don wasn’t, at first.

I tend to have an open prayer dialog. “God, if you’re leading me to pay their bill, you’ll need to work on Don because I can already hear his resounding, ‘Oh, no we are not,” I prayed.

I began to imagine how Don might respond, “How do you figure that was the Lord speaking? What’d his voice sound like? How do you know it wasn’t the Devil that caused you not to mail their bill?”

Don was at work and I knew it’d be a long conversation so I decided to first deal with our television issue. I had several conversations with the warranty company over a part that was needed to repair the DVD player in our TV/DVD combo unit. Frustrated by the time it was taking for the matter to be resolved, I called yet one more time that morning to check the status.

“Sorry for the delay Mrs. Parker. I’ve verified your claim and a check in the amount of $850.43 has been mailed,” said the agent on the line.

Baffled, I questioned his accuracy. “Are you sure you’ve accessed the correct account? I’ve been waiting for a part, not a check!”

The agent replied. “The TV/DVD combo unit you purchased is now obsolete. You have a full replacement warranty, which obligates us to replace your entire unit if it can’t be fixed. We no longer carry the part, so we’ve issued you a check for the amount you paid.”  

I was still confused. “But sir, the TV works fine; it’s only the DVD that’s broken.”

He replied, “You’re free to do with the unit as you please. We aren’t retrieving it, continue using it if you’d like.”

“Whaaaat?” I thought, “Sure will keep using it!”

Now armed with ammo, I made the call to Don. “Babe, let me tell you what God just did,” I said excitedly. “So, He laid it on my heart to pay the tenant’s water bill. I figured you might not want me to do that so, I prayed, ‘God, please reveal a way for Don to know that this is your idea.’ And Babe, you won’t believe this!”

Don was listening, “Hmmm uh. Go on,” he nudged.    

With full theatrics, I explained how God had miraculously provided the money for us to bless our tenant. Their bill wasn’t but a third of that refund check, which happened to arrive in the mail that day. We paid their bill, kept the TV and just bought a separate DVD unit. We had $400 left to deposit in the bank. Experiences like this are so plentiful in our lives, I could pen another book on how to sow and reap God's blessings. But, I don't need to. Just believe what it says in Malachi 3:10.

Tithes are funds used to build up the church and further the work of the Lord throughout the world. It’s too overwhelming for me to determine where and to whom to allocate my tithes. God makes it simple: bring your tithes into the storehouse, which is the church. Let them determine where it goes. Don’t get caught up in whether or not they are appropriating the funds according to your preference.

Just give cheerfully!

God’s got all kinds of ways to prosper his people, even the ones with a spouse that has one eyebrow raised!  

Claudia Parker is an author, photographer and a reporter. Her columns appear every second and fourth Thursday of each month. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


Bizarre Oscars moment captured on live TV

  • Written by Joe Boyle

And the winner is…

I guess next year the Oscars will make sure those envelopes have the right winners. Either that or if the presenters think something is not right, they should speak up. Steve Harvey must be breathing a sigh of relief. He was nowhere near the Oscars. You can’t blame this one on him. If you missed it, a somewhat confused Warren Beatty, joined by Faye Dunaway, announced that “La La Land” was the Best Picture.

Since “La La Land” had won a lot of major awards, it was not surprising that they would also win Best Picture. As the producers and the writers of the movie droned on about the honor, someone was scurrying around in the background.

Suddenly, someone from La La Land said there has been a mistake. In the next instance, he said “Moonlight” won the Best Picture award.

I was just ready to use my remote to change the channel. I’m glad I waited a couple of minutes. This was live and strange television. Beatty kept stammering about what happened. He opened the letter and he saw Emma Stone’s name on it, one of the stars of “La La Land.”

So then you kind of have this surreal image in which someone presents the Oscar to the stunned crew of “Moonlight.” It was quite crowded on the stage. Finally, members of La La Land drifted off stage to make way for the technical crew and performers from “Moonlight.”

That had to be the weirdest thing I have ever seen at the Oscars. What a strange way to end the evening that again went on too long. Host Jimmy Kimmel did a good job of making jokes that did not really offend anyone. But he was also stunned at the end of the night. He did his best to use some humor to conclude the evening, blaming himself and stating that he won’t be asked back again.

Actually, Kimmel could be back. But I doubt if they will have Beatty present the Best Picture award. This was not his fault, but the Academy probably does not want to be reminded about this blunder.

That’s the great aspect of live television, even if they have a 15-second delay. The Grammy Awards has its moments of melodrama as well, like Adele cursing when the arrangement was slightly off when performing a tribute to the late George Michael last month. “Saturday Night Live” has had its outrageous moments going back to Sinead O’Connor ripping up a picture of the pope and Richard Pryor’s obscenities.

To think everybody was making a big deal about the expected references to President Trump’s immigration ban and his executive action orders since his inauguration. But is that any different than any other year? Every year an award winner will speak out on some cause or criticize political leaders for their inaction on the environment and so on. So taking verbal shots at the current president was expected and not all that surprising.

The Academy Awards has had a number of strange events over the years. The one that stands out in my mind was Sacheen Littlefeather, a Native American activist, who slowly walked to the podium on behalf of Marlon Brando, who was supposed to receive the Best Actor award for “The Godfather” in 1973. Littlefeather pushed away the Oscar and said that Brando would not accept the award due to the negative treatment of American Indians by the film industry. Littlefeather, who was dressed in Native American attire, was met with a series of cheers and boos after her statement.

The 1974 Academy Awards stand out in my mind because the streaking phase was in full swing. Co-host David Niven was at the podium waiting for presenter Elizabeth Taylor. Suddenly, a naked man streaked across the stage giving the peace sign.

Niven was briefly startled but remained composed. The longtime actor then replied, “Isn’t it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings.”

The quip received some laughs. We didn’t see most of the streaking man but noticed some bare legs racing by and could figure out what was going on. Niven proved to be an old pro capable of an ad lib on live TV. It was harmless and funny moment.

But Sunday night’s gaffe was unique. Beatty probably wanted to crawl off the stage. The only thing you can do after this is just laugh it off. But that’s the great thing about live television. It was the most memorable moment of the Academy Awards.

Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .