Making some picture-perfect holiday memories at Evergreen Park Library

  • Written by Kelly White

misty and zoey 2 photo 11-30

Photo by Claudia Parker


Taking a holiday photo for the first time at the Evergreen Park Library were Paul and Gayle Djikas of Evergreen Park, accompanied by their two 10-year-old dogs, (from left) Misty, a blue merle collie, and Zoey, a Doberman.

‘Tis the season for matching outfits, Christmas trees and greeting cards. Luckily, the Evergreen Park Public Library is there to help with the stress of taking the perfect holiday photo.

With the aid of two professional photographers – Claudia Parker and Ruth Hoskins -- the library offered two portrait sittings inside the library’s reading room, 9400 S. Troy Ave, next to a decorated nine-foot tree and fireplace.

“It's so easy to get a professional family photo for the holidays,” said Nicki Seidl, the library director. “People don't have to put up their decorations and then get everyone ready to take a photo. Maybe they don't have a fireplace. They just come to the library, which is probably not far from their home. They can be creating their holiday cards right after Thanksgiving. One less item on the holiday to-do list.”

Each family was required to bring in their own memory card and during the 20-minute portrait session, the photographers took as many photos as they could so the family could choose their favorite. Families said they enjoyed the personal aspect of the photo sessions, including the Beninato family of Evergreen Park.

“This was our 2-year-old son Noah’s very first professional holiday photos,” Courtney Beninato said. “Last year, I took the photos at home. With having them done professionally this year, we weren’t sure what to expect, but Noah had the time to play around in the room and really enjoy himself. We were able to relax and take our time and capture some wonderful memories.”

The Foley family of Evergreen Park agreed.

“Last year, we took our holiday photo at the mall like how we use to when our two daughters were much younger,” Kim Foley said. “This year, we decided to do something different and we love the results.”

“This is definitely less cheesy than having your picture taken with Santa at the mall,” Amelia Foley, 18, joked.

Sessions were held on Sunday. Photo sessions will also be provided from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3. The fee is $25 for the 20-minute photo session. Along with the families, pets were included in some of the photos. All proceeds go directly to the Evergreen Park Library Foundation.

The foundation, a 501(c)3 charitable organization, raises money for library services, programs, and capital projects that the library could not otherwise afford. Examples include the reading room with a fireplace, the free community-wide summer reading program, the 75- gallon freshwater aquarium in the children's department and the homebound reading program, which ensures that the residents unable to leave their home can still have access to the library by having books shipped to their house.

“It's important to give back, Evergreen Park has been good to me,” said Parker, an Evergreen Park resident. “This is my community and I take pride in that. I'm honored to use my talent to help the library provide additional programing to its patrons.”

The first session with Parker on Sunday sold out within one day through the help of social media, according to Seidl.

Parker launched her photography business, Claudia Parker Portraits (, this past June. Prior to her work now, she worked as a columnist for The Reporter newspaper and served as the communications director and school district photographer for District 124. She is also an author who published, “Becoming a Mother While Losing My Own”, in 2012.

“Photography has been a lifelong passion of mine,” Parker said.

The same passion also drives Evergreen Park native Hoskins, a professional photographer for over 15 years. She has worked for the past five years with Bella Baby Photography and since 2000 as a photographer for BNHoskins.

Parker and Hoskins were able to take their passion and turn it into holiday cheer for local area families.

The idea was sparked about six years ago when a local resident asked if she could take pictures of her two children in the library’s reading room. Seidl took the idea to the community by contacting photographers to take families’ photos for them in the same room. In the beginning, the photographers were members of the library staff. Volunteer professional photographers later began to offer their time.

The fundraiser has been a continued success, growing in popularity every year and bringing in more families to the library, Seidl said.

“I love the variety of people who come in for the portraits,” Seidl said. “Some are young couples; some senior couples. (And there are) many families with small children and even pets are allowed.”

Taking photos with their two 10-year-old dogs, Misty, a Blue Marrow Collie, and Zoey, a Doberman, for the first time were Paul and Gayle Djikas, of Evergreen Park.

“Our dogs grew up together. We raised them since they were puppies,” Paul Djikas said. “They really make you happy. They’re just like children.”

“I really appreciate how much time was spent on the photos,” Gayle Dijkas said. “There was no pressure, and we didn’t feel rushed at all. We would definitely come back again next year.”

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