St. Gerald pastor won't retire until June 2019

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

The prayers of many parishioners of St. Gerald Church in Oak Lawn were answered when the Archdiocese of Chicago informed them last Thursday that their pastor, the Rev. Lawrence Malcolm, would not be retiring until June 2019.

Parishioners of St Gerald Church, 9310 S. 55th Court, had begun a letter-writing campaign asking for the archdiocese to reconsider after Malcolm told them at Mass a couple of weeks ago that he had been asked to retire this June.

“He received one more year and we’re all very, very happy,” said Laura Kowalski, the wedding planner for the parish on Monday.

The pastor himself agreed.

“I’m very happy and the people of the parish are very happy,” said Malcolm, when asked for his thoughts on the subject this week.

Although the archdiocese generally asks pastors to retire at 70, St. Gerald parishioners are asking for an exception to be made for Malcolm, who is 73. The one-year extension will allow him to celebrate his 10th anniversary at St. Gerald in June, without being rushed out the door.


“This past week brought great news to all of us as a parish and our hearts are filled with joy knowing that Father Malcolm will continue to help strengthen our faith and build our parish community. The efforts of the entire parish and school in writing letters, signing petitions and just praying have once again shown what a great bond we have with Fr. Malcolm and our parish family,” said Annamarie Blaha, who has been active in St. Gerald Parish since moving to Oak Lawn more than 30 years ago.

“As the saying goes, a family that prays together, stays together,” she added.

Blaha, who helps manage the church’s Facebook page, noted that the pastor’s post after getting the first call about retiring reached almost 7,000 people.

Bishop Andrew P. Wypych, auxiliary bishop in charge of Vicariate 5, which encompasses the part of the archdiocese that includes Oak Lawn, was planning to meet with parishioners to discuss the situation on Feb. 28. But that meeting was canceled when the good news was announced.

Before coming to St. Gerald, Malcolm was pastor of St. Daniel the Prophet in Chicago’s Garfield Ridge neighborhood, and at St. Bede the Venerable in the Scottsdale neighborhood. He was popular in both parishes, and a new gymnasium built at St. Daniel the Prophet School is named after him.

Similarly, at St. Gerald, he oversaw the building of the Jonathan Collins Activity Center, which was dedicated in 2013. Since then, the debt related to the construction has been paid off.

Among other things, the pastor is known at St. Gerald for is his homemade bread, a hot commodity at all the parish events and fundraisers. He is not averse to sharing his baking skills with students either. But he is also known for being physically active, walking at least 10,000 steps a day, either around the neighborhood or when taking St. Gerald students on class trips to downtown Chicago.

Oak Lawn Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd), a lifelong member of the parish and member of the Holy Name Society, recently described him as “the most energetic, dedicated people-person I have ever seen here.”

He credited the pastor with making St. Gerald what it is today.

“We’re a faith-based, active parish with growing enrollment at school. With the way he shares his beliefs and faith, I think Fr. Malcolm is the right man for the job here. He is very inspirational.”

Plans for new Palos Hills public works building are back in play

  • Written by Michael Gilbert

Nearly two decades ago a now out-of-business architectural firm created design plans for a new public works facility in Palos Hills.

The plans, which are 17 years old, remain tacked to an office wall at City Hall, providing a constant reminder of a project put on hold because of other needs in the city.

However, that may soon change.

During Mayor Gerald Bennett’s first report of 2018 he indicated the project is not only back on the front burner but also may go out for bid within the next few months.    

“I believe that we can do it this year,” Bennett told the city council during a committee-of-the-whole meeting Jan. 4. “The plans are pretty much developed other than to [officially] finalize it and put together a bid document.”

Bennett asked Paul Hardison, the city’s building commissioner and an architect by trade, to review the plans. If all checked out, Bennett said he hoped to come back to the council with a cost estimate and bid timeline “within a few months.”  

“Everything down to the internal layout and the room sizes has already been determined,” Bennett said. “We just need to get an updated price estimate and from there we can write the specs and go to bid.”

The exact square footage of the building proposed on the 40-acre lot at 7800 W. 108th St. was not immediately available, but Bennett said it would house all the public works staff as well as the department’s 30-plus vehicles. A conference room, lunch room and shower facility — all amenities not included at the current public works facility at 9742 S. 89th Ave. — are proposed in the plans. Space to store road salt and gravel is also planned for the new building.

The public works commissioner operates out of City Hall while the superintendent and the rest of the staff are located at the public works building. With inadequate storage space at the public works building, some vehicles and materials are stored at the Kuecher Farms property near Moraine Valley Community College and the city’s municipal golf course.

“We spend hundreds of hours each year shuttling vehicles back and forth,” said public works commissioner Nick Oeffling, alluding to the lack of storage space.

Bennett said it is important for “all of Public Works to be under one roof.”

“We have hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in that equipment and it needs to be inside,” Bennett said. “Most of our vehicles are outside and [our employees] have to jump into those things and in the cold weather the hydraulics can break. You get better life out of vehicles stored inside.”

Having all staff and equipment in one place and indoors will also help with response times, Oeffling added.

“Right now we have vehicles at three different places,” he said. “A lot of that equipment is not made to be kept outside.”

The city has owned the land earmarked for the building since the 1990s. Bennett said a developer once wanted the property to erect a 230-unit condo development, a plan that was not well received by a majority of the residents in the area.

“The residents were obviously up in arms over it so after some back and forth [with the developer] we made a commitment to buy the property.”

Money from the city’s sewer and water fund as well as the reserve fund would cover the cost of the project, Bennett said. With various other projects to complete as well as the economic downtown a few years ago, money was not previously available, he said.

“We obviously wanted to do this a long time ago but it was a money thing,” Bennett said. “We had some infrastructure to fix in town that took priority.

“This would be the last major city project to complete.”

Oak Lawn Community High School nurse’s quick actions help save student’s life

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

amy tucker photo 12-7

Amy Tucker

The Oak Lawn Community High School nurse is being credited with saving a student’s life using a portable defibrillator on Nov. 10.

According to a report from Detective Peter Hennessy, the school resource officer, when Amy Tucker, RN, was called to the gym when the student collapsed, she knew it was serious but no one knew how serious the situation was.

“But as Amy immediately responded, she not only grabbed her medical bag but the AED (automated defibrillator) from her office as well.”

Hennessy said that Tucker knelt by the student’s side, monitoring his condition, and immediately directed staff to call 911. But when the student became unresponsive, and went into cardiac arrest, she began CPR and got to work with the AED. She applied the shock 56 seconds after he became unresponsive.

“As Amy resumed CPR, to everyone’s wonderful surprise, (the student) regained consciousness. He left the school in an ambulance with not only his life back, but with the chance to enjoy close to the same quality of life that he walked into school with that morning,” said Hennessy in his report to staff and school board members.

According to reports, the student has since received a pacemaker and is recovering well.

“Amy Tucker is a fantastic school nurse. The addition of her to our staff this year has been amazing and we are proud to call her a Spartan,” said Assistant Principal Marcus Wargin on Tuesday.

“Amy makes a difference each and every day at Oak Lawn Community High School. We are grateful for her quick thinking, her ability to evaluate all medical situations, and her preparedness during an emergency.”

“Her quick thinking was instrumental in saving the student’s life. She was prepared and did not waste any time,” added Wargin. “We have three AEDs throughout the school, and one in the nurse’s office. Every school should have them if they don’t already.”

Tucker, who earned a bachelor of science degree in nursing from Northern Illinois University, worked at Edwards Hospital before coming to OLCHS this school year. In response to a request from a reporter, she issued a brief statement about the incident, downplaying her actions.

“As a school nurse, my job is to make sure the kids’ medical needs are tended to. This includes emergency situations just like the one we had here early November. The event was recognized quickly, and with great teamwork by the staff, it resulted in the best possible outcome.”

Oak Lawn business and Girl Scouts provide Hurricane Harvey relief By Joe Boyle An Oak Lawn business and local organizations have rallied to assist the residents of southern Texas whose homes have been flooded and their lives have been turned upside down.

  • Written by Joe Boyle



An Oak Lawn business and local organizations have rallied to assist the residents of southern Texas whose homes have been flooded and their lives have been turned upside down.

The owners and staff at Pluto’s restaurant at 10341 S. Cicero Ave. have donated food and other items to the victims of Hurricane Harvey. Ownership has provided for a truck so that items can be sent to the region for people living in temporary quarters as the long process of rebuilding begins.

Teachers and students at Shepard High School in Palos Heights have been creating signs and helped in collecting supplies to donate to the Hurricane Harvey relief effort. The truck full of collected items left the school for the Houston area on Tuesday afternoon.

Shepard teacher Jennifer Glanz and her digital photography class assisted in creating signs and taking photos of the faculty and staff helping out. Parent Liaison Kim Burke and security officer Ashaunti Graves organized the drive to collect supplies to donate to Hurricane Harvey relief.

Worth Mayor Mary Werner said that local schools and organizations have raised funds and collected clothes and toiletries to provide for people who have lost everything because of the flooding.

“I know local Girl Scout troops have been collecting goods and the Lions Club in Chicago Ridge have been collecting items that have been brought to their village hall to be sent down there,” Werner said.

Donation boxes will be available in the front lobby of the Chicago Ridge Village Hall, 10455 S. Ridgeland Ave., until Sept. 11, when a truck will leave for Houston with the donations for victims of the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey.

Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury is pleased with the efforts by the staff at Pluto’s and local organizations who have stepped up to assist in the relief effort.

“Our emergency management team has been in contact with officials down there to see what can be done,” Bury said. “The main suggestion is to donate to the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. That’s been our push right now.”

St Patricia students and staff participated in a fundraising event on Aug. 30 to benefit those in need after Hurricane Harvey.

Elementary school students have also assisted in helping out since Hurricane Harvey ripped through southern Texas on Aug. 25. On Aug. 24, the students and staff at St. Patricia School in Hickory Hills arrived for classes sporting their hats, along with their generosity.

The school held their “Hats for Houston” campaign and raised over $600 to be donated to Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

“We are so blessed and grateful to our school for their support to the children and families who are touched by the devastation in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey,” said Jamie Nowinski, principal of St. Patricia School.

Flooding is still a problem in certain communities of Houston. Port Arthur, Katy and Beaumont have also been hit hard by the flooding waters that in some cases range from four feet to 10 feet. Bennett said that as Texas slowly recovers from this calamity, more storms could hit another region of the U.S.

Residents who would like to donate to the Hats for Houston cause can contact and make their personal donation.

Plenty of Repeat customers

  • Written by Kelly White

neat repeats customers photo 6-29

Photo by Kelly White

A large crowd of customers arrived Saturday morning for the 50 percent off sale that took place the Neat Repeats resale store to mark the 30th anniversary of the shop in Worth.

Customers began to line up before the doors even opened at the Neat Repeats resale shop Saturday morning in Worth.

The crowd was expected because the resale shop has now been open in the village for 30 years and volunteers celebrated the occasion with a 50 percent off sale, which also took place at the resale shop in Orland Park.

Worth Mayor Mary Werner opened the Worth shop at 7026 W. 111th St. and Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau opened up the Orland Park store at 9028 W. 159th St. on Saturday morning. Both mayors spent time at the locations talking with customers and volunteers.

The two Neat Repeats shops are owned and operated by the Crisis Center for South Suburbia, and all of total revenues from the shops provide for 30 percent of the funding for the center, which offers services for survivors of domestic violence. The center serves about 2,000 people every year.

“I know firsthand the pain and loss that this violence has caused,” said Doreen Holford, who has served as the operations manager at the Worth location. “My sister was a victim of domestic violence and did not survive. Being at Neat Repeats has allowed me to help others; but, I have gotten so much more than I have given.”

Holford has been involved with the organization for 17 years. She started as a volunteer. However, as her passion and commitment grew for the cause and the organization so did her job responsibilities.

The shops are run by a total of 200 volunteers, who are almost all women and girls, ranging from those who recently retired to high school students.

“We are very fortunate that the village of Worth has some of the best volunteers because any volunteer organization is only as good as its volunteers,” said Werner.

“Neat Repeats is special because we give our volunteers a place to contribute in their own community,” Holford said. “The volunteer’s passion for the stores and the cause is amazing to me even after all this time. They have gone through their own losses and hard times and still come back to Neat Repeats and work hard to provide funds for the agency. They are truly what inspires me. We give our customers good prices and great service and we respect every person that comes through our doors. Customers search us out for lots of reasons. Maybe they were a victim or had a family member that needed the crisis center’s services. We provide a place of comfort and support. We are thankful for each and every one of them. We wish domestic violence did not exist but we know it does and we are willing to do whatever we can for our clients and their families.”

The shops contain a large selection of women’s, junior’s, children’s and men’s clothing along with a variety of household items such as furniture, giftware, toys, books, antiques, collectibles, shoes, purses and jewelry.

"Best store for best seconds, anytime, anywhere,” said Neat Repeats customer Kris Egbert, of Orland Park.

Egbert has been a customer who has shopped at Neat Repeats for over 20 years and has brought in many new customers.

Neat Repeats originally opened in 1986 in Blue Island but moved a year later to Worth. The Orland Park location opened its doors in 2002. Items within the store are sold to the general public, but are available for clients of the Crisis Center free of charge.

“In 30 years we have seen the store grow from a mom and pop organization to two main locations that provide the Crisis Center of South Suburbia with 30 percent of their annual operating budget,” Holford said. “Without the success of the two stores, our domestic violence shelter would not be able to help families in crisis.”

New or gently used items can be donated to either location seasonally with spring and summer items accepted from March 15 through Aug. 15. Fall and winter items are accepted from Aug. 16 through March 14. All donated items are tax deductible.