Evergreen Park mayor is presented with ‘Super Bowl’ ring

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

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Photo by Sharon L. Filkins

Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton joins members of the fifth and sixth grade Evergreen Park Stallions football team, winners of the Metro League Super Bowl, during Monday night’s board meeting. Kathryn Fontaine (right), president of the Evergreen Park Stallions Youth Athletic Association, presented the mayor with a Super Bowl ring.


Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton may be the only mayor in the south suburbs who has been presented with a “Super Bowl” ring, thanks to the Evergreen Park Stallions football team.

The Monday night board meeting opened with the special presentation to Sexton from Kathryn Fontaine, president of the Evergreen Park Stallions Youth Athletic Association, a not-for-profit organization for youth from kindergarten through eighth grade.

“We have 176 youth in our programs and the village has been very supportive of our teams and we are very grateful for all you do,” she said.

The Evergreen Park Stallions Youth Athletic Association is also part of the Metro Youth Football League, which consists of 12 teams, all from local communities.

Fontaine said the fifth and sixth grade Stallions team, known as the widgets, was 8-0 during the regular season. They won two playoff games and advanced to the Super Bowl. The Stallions defeated the Blue Island Untouchables in the championship game. The head coach of the Stallions is Davie Torres.

“Our kids work hard, they practice four to five days a week,” Fontaine said.

A Super Bowl ring was also presented to Dennis Duffy, director of recreation for the village. Fontaine said that Duffy had been very cooperative in scheduling the practice times for the Stallions at Yukich Park.

In a later conversation, Fontaine stated that the Youth Athletic Association is the only place the kids can play football if they are not attending a Catholic grade school.

“We help prepare them for the athletic programs available to them when they reach high school,” she said. The program also offers cheerleading and wrestling instruction.

Sexton praised the team and the program.

“You have done a great job winning the Super Bowl and we know you have worked hard. Congratulations and keep up the good work.”

In other matters, two ordinances were passed amending the Evergreen Park Municipal Code. The first amendment repealed a motor vehicle leasing tax, limiting the tax to rental cars in the village. Sexton said the ordinance will eliminate the tax on trucks rented from stores, such as Menards, by customers who have purchased large pieces of furniture or equipment.

“We are not going to impose a rental tax on people spending money in our stores,” Sexton said. “The tax will remain on cars rented from rental agencies.”

The second amendment will allow for minor traffic violation tickets in the village to be handled in-house rather than going through a costly court session.

A resolution was approved authorizing a settlement agreement between the village and Luke Oil, Inc., in the amount of $60,000. The agreement is a result of an emergency mutual aid call involving the possible discharge of hazardous materials at or near the intersection of 85th Street and Harlem Avenue in Bridgeview in 2013. Evergreen Park is one of eight municipalities receiving the payment.

In a second resolution, the village approved a payment in the amount of $510,000 from the Illinois Department of Transportation for the maintenance of streets and highways from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31 of this year.

Five business certificates were presented for approval with four being unanimously approved. However, the first one on the list, a license for Cigars & Vapes, a retail tobacco shop at 8740 S. Kedzie Ave., hit a snag when Trustee Mark Marzullo voted “Nay.”

Because two trustees, Mary Keane and Carol Kyle, were absent, with notice, Sexton said he would invoke his right to vote, which made the approval a 3 to 1 vote.

The remaining four businesses approved were Fuji Sam, a Sushi operation at 9400 S. Western Ave.; Red Snapper, a fast food restaurant at 9648 S. Western Ave.; Foundations Counseling, LLC, a private mental health therapy at 9730 S. Western Ave., Suite 215; and Five Guys Burgers and Fries, a fast food restaurant at 2442 W. 95th St.

A payment of $26,560 for purchase of lights was approved for Brennan Electric.

A request from Police Chief Michael Saunders to purchase two new police vehicles through the Suburban Purchasing Agreement, and to sell a 2013 Ford Taurus, was approved.

Local candy history proves city is ‘Sweet Home Chicago’

  • Written by Kelly White

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Photo by Kelly White

Green Hills Public Library offered the perfect program on Friday afternoon just in time for Valentine’s Day called “Chicago’s Sweet Candy History” offered by Leslie Goddard, historian and public speaker.

Patrons who visited the Green Hills Library on Friday afternoon learned that the Chicago area indeed has a sweet tooth.

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, often the perfect gift encompasses some kind of delicious dessert or favorite candy. For residents who love candy, the staff at the Green Hills Public Library offered the perfect program just in time for the holiday called, “Chicago’s Sweet Candy History.”

The free program was offered by Leslie Goddard, historian and public speaker, and drew 50 people to the library, 10331 S. Interlochen Drive, Palos Hills.

Goddard has a Ph.D. in history and a master’s degree in museum studies. She first became interested in the Chicago candy industry while working at local history museums in the greater Chicago area, many of which were home to the city’s candy businesses or entrepreneurs.

“Candy tends to be seen as something frivolous and fun, so it’s easy to overlook it when you’re exploring a city’s industrial history,” Goddard said. “Chicago is often thought of in terms of its contributions to the meat-packing and grain and steel and railroad industries. Compared to those, candy feels like light history, and that’s too bad because candy was not only a huge business in Chicago, it also reveals a lot about the city’s history.”

The presentation served as a fun nostalgic look back at some of our favorite Valentine’s Day goodies. Many attendees were unaware that Snickers was named for the Mars’ family’s favorite horse or that the name Fannie May was made up to sound like someone’s grandmother.

“I think candy remains a popular Valentine's Day gift because almost everyone loves candy,” said Brittany Ramos, adult programming and graphics coordinator at the Green Hills Public Library.

Ramos was responsible for organizing the program and said the timing coinciding with the holiday was no coincidence.

“Our community seems to love learning about Chicago history, so I thought I would aim to share Chicago's rich candy history to go along with Valentine's Day,” Ramos said.

During the one-hour lecture, Goddard spoke about Chicago's rich candy history and what made Chicago such a powerful location for candy-makers.

“It was an especially appealing business for immigrants to enter, given the low cost of starting a candy business, and Chicago candy-makers pioneered a huge number of innovations in the candy business, from popularizing candy in a “bar” shape to marketing candy as a quick-energy food,” Goddard said.

Goddard's book, “Chicago's Sweet Candy History,” was published by Arcadia in 2012 and is available at the library.

“For most its history, Chicago produced one-third of the nation's candy,” Goddard said. “In the early 1960s, Chicago’s candy output was double that of the second-largest candy-producing city, which was New York.”

Some of the biggest names in the industry were based in Chicago: Curtiss, Branch, Tootsie Roll, Leaf, Wrigley and Mars.

Candies made or invented in Chicago reads like a who’s who of American candies, according to Goddard. These candies include, but are not limited to: Snickers, Milky Way, 3 Musketeers, Baby Ruth, Butterfinger, Tootsie Rolls, Frango Mints, Fannie May candies, Wrigley’s gum, Cracker Jack, Whoppers, Brach’s candies, Willy Wonka, Dove, Ferrara, Cupid, DeMet’s Turtles, and Andes’ Mints.

Along with these giants were smaller, family-based companies with devoted followings, such as World’s Finest Chocolate and the Ferrara Pan Candy Company, maker of Red Hots and Jaw Breakers.

Not all of these were invented in Chicago and not all of them are still made in Chicago, but all were at one point made in the city, Goddard said.

“There are many, many more candies made in Chicago because there are so many smaller operations,” Goddard said. “These are often local, neighborhood candy stores selling the most fabulous homemade candies like Margie’s Candies and Terry’s Toffee in Chicago, and Dan’s Candies in Plainfield and Graham’s Chocolates in Geneva.”

At its peak, the Chicago candy industry created more than 100 companies, employing some 25,000 Chicagoans. Refreshments of coffee, cookies and candy samples were served at the library. Participants were also able to bring in brown bag lunches for the event.

Today, M&M’s are the top selling candy in the United States.

“It’s really hard to get anyone to eat any new candy other than their favorites,” Goddard said.

Local mayors want improved service for Metra riders

  • Written by Joe Boyle

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Photo by Joe Boyle

Several riders board the commuter train Saturday afternoon to downtown Chicago at the Metra station in Oak Lawn.

Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett said it is time for a discussion to figure out how to alleviate the burden placed on riders who are dealing with decreased service and fare hikes implemented by Metra’s rail service directors.

Metra directors approved a fare hike in November for riders. Adult and reduced-fare one-way tickets have increased from $4.25 to $7.75, depending on the length of the trip. The common ticket price increased from $9 to $12.50, again depending on the distance traveled. The price of $8 weekend passes has increased to $10.

The increase went into effect last Thursday. Service cuts took place on Monday, including the SouthWest line that serves the southwest suburbs. Two midday trains will no longer serve the Laraway Road and Manhattan stations.

“One of the things we would like to do is hold a meeting with representatives from Metra on what can be done,’ Bennett said. “Whether people understand it or not, most of the budget (for Metra) comes from the state of Illinois. They are relying on the state and right now not much is happening.”

A representative from the RTA gave a presentation during the Southwest Conference of Mayors meeting held Jan. 31 at the Lipinski Center in Justice. He informed the large crowd in attendance that the RTA has dropped services due to a lack of funding from the state. No official from Metra attended the mayor’s conference

Bennett, who is the longtime president of the Southwest Conference of Mayors, said that train service has been lacking in the southwest suburbs. Additional train service was introduced on the weekends, but since then Metra has reduced the amount of trains that pass through the southwest suburbs, including Oak Lawn, Worth and Orland Park.

What concerns Bennett and other mayors on the board is that reduced service results in the lack of opportunities, mainly attracting businesses.

“Look, I get it, I know there is no money,” Bennett said at previous mayor’s conference in the fall. “But for too long, we just seemed to be ignored.”

Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury agrees that Metra’s service had been lacking. She said that is unfortunate because Metra could be an asset in the village’s development. She does not buy the argument that there has been a decline in services because of low ridership.

“The way to increase ridership is to provide great service,” said Bury, who also attended the Southwest Conference of Mayors meeting last week. “You want people to take public transportation and we provide good service in Oak Lawn. But the Metra service, which we know can be very good, has been lacking.”

Bury said the downtown section of Oak Lawn, for instance, has plenty of locations to visit. The Oak Lawn Library is not far from the train station, as is the Village Green and several parks. The Oak Lawn Children’s Museum is adjacent to the Metra Station.

“We have a lot of places you can walk to in Oak Lawn,” Bury said. “That’s what makes it so great. In most suburbs, you are landlocked. But Oak Lawn has a lot to offer and it would be that much better with increased services from Metra.”

Metra leaders have stated that the reduction in services is because of a $45 million deficit at the state level, along with increasing expenses. This is the fourth straight year that Metra rail service has raised fares.

Bennett believes something has to be done and a meeting to come up with ideas needs to be arranged.

Bury agrees that Metra officials need to do more to attract riders from the southwest suburbs.

“No Sunday service and very limited service on Saturdays; that is disappointing,” Bury said. “Our congressman (Dan Lipinski) has worked hard to get more service on Saturday. I hope people use Metra, I really do. But we would like to have better service by Metra. Better service will mean more riders.”

Pressure intensifies for Animal Welfare League in Chicago Ridge

  • Written by Dermot Connolly


Photo by Dermot Connolly

Pet stores have suspended adoption programs they have had with the Animal Welfare League at 10305 Southwest Highway in Chicago Ridge, following an outbreak of dog flu and accusations of mistreatment of animals.

Allegations of poor treatment of animals, and an outbreak of dog flu at the Animal Welfare League at 10305 Southwest Highway in Chicago Ridge, has led to at least one pet store chain suspending the adoption program it had with the shelter.

The outbreak of dog flu in January had already led to Animal Welfare League suspending its adoption program for dogs and cats, and that has been extended to other animals in the shelter as well. As part of the adoption program that PetSmart had with AWL, some cats available for adoption through the shelter had been housed at PetSmart locations in the Chicago area. But they have all since been brought back to the shelter.

Animal rights activists, and former AWL volunteers and employees who have held several protests outside the shelter since the adoption program was suspended, claim that the flu outbreak was caused or worsened by management and poor care of the animals over many years. Numerous photos taken at the site, showing dogs housed in unclean conditions in the facility, have also been circulating online.

A manager at the PetSmart store at Chicago Ridge Commons referred all questions to the corporate headquarters in Phoenix, Ariz. There are also PetSmart locations in Evergreen Park and Burbank.     

PetSmart officials issued a statement saying, “Through our PetSmart Charities In-store Adoption Program, we work with local animal welfare organizations to help homeless pets get adopted. The Animal Welfare League (AWL) was part of the PetSmart Charities’ In-Store Adoption Program for 19 years. After learning of allegations of animal mistreatment, PetSmart Charities immediately suspended the organization from our adoption program and launched an internal investigation. We are currently waiting for the results of the investigation. Out of respect for all of our adoption partners, we do not discuss the details of our partnerships, including the reasons for suspending a relationship.”

There have been reports that Petco also has suspended its relationship with AWL, but that could not be confirmed. On Monday, a manager at the Petco at 6220 W. 95th St., in Oak Lawn, said that store had not been working with the Animal Welfare League.

“I read online that we had suspended our relationship with them, but I checked with corporate and they weren’t aware of it,” said the woman.

Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar and Trustee Ed Kowalski had a lengthy meeting with AWL executive director Linda Estrada and several other representatives on Monday, and some of the activists rallying against Estrada were invited to speak at the Chicago Ridge Village Board meeting on Tuesday.

“We had an hour-and-a-half meeting with four Animal Welfare League representatives,” said Tokar, explaining that in addition to Estrada, the group included two members of the AWL board, and an attorney for the shelter.

The mayor said Kowalski, who planned to give an update on the situation at the village board meeting on Tuesday, also “touched base” with five representatives of the activists opposing the leadership of the shelter.

“Some of their ideas did seem very reasonable,” said Tokar.

“I’m pretty happy about the meeting with the AWL officials. Together we came up with some plans for moving forward. They are looking forward to having a meeting with at least some of the activists,” Tokar added.

For the time being, the suspension of animal adoptions and surrenders is continuing at the Animal Welfare League, where signs were still posted Tuesday on the doors of the Animal Welfare League notifying the public that the adoption and drop-off of animals was still suspended. In addition to dogs and cats, rabbits and other small mammals and birds are often available for adoption there too, but a receptionist said Tuesday that they are all under the suspension now. The veterinarian clinic on-site remains open.

The receptionist, who did not want to give her name, said the suspension is expected to continue at least through the end of this week.

“We’re waiting for cultures to come back, to see what we’re dealing with,” she said. “It is dog flu, but just to be on the safe side, we have expanded the suspension to include all animals.”

Bowling party in Oak Lawn will benefit the Megan Hurckes Scholarship Fund

  • Written by Bob Bong

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(Photo courtesy of Megan Hurckes Scholarship Fund)

Megan Hurckes was a big White Sox fan. Her family will honor her memory with its annual birthday bowling party at Arena Lanes on Saturday.

The annual birthday bowling party to benefit the Megan Hurckes Scholarship Fund will be held Saturday, Feb. 3 at Arena Lanes in Oak Lawn.

Megan was the 10-year-old daughter of Jerry Hurckes and Mary Ann Hurckes and the sister of Jenna, all from Oak Lawn. Megan was killed in an ATV accident on a family vacation in Wisconsin in September 2009. She was a fifth-grader at Kolb School in Oak Lawn.

Since Megan’s death, the Hurckes family has celebrated her birthday each year with a bowling fundraiser to raise money for the Megan Hurckes Scholarship Fund, which donates money to students going to college.

The Megan Hurckes Scholarship Fund has donated thousands of dollars in scholarships for local students who go on to college from Oak Lawn and surrounding communities.

Bowling was one of her favorite activities, and because her birthday was in February, she always liked to have a bowling party for her friends. We have been holding this to celebrate her life. It keeps us busy and stops us from getting too depressed,” said Jerry Hurckes, former chief of staff for Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) and a former Oak Lawn village trustee.

Hurckes has been hired as the new executive director for the Village of Summit.

We appreciate that so many people who were important to Megan’s life still come out for this, including her teachers, classmates, teammates and coaches,” said her father. “It means a lot to us.”

In addition to being a straight-A student, Megan was active in Westside Baseball, where she played on a championship softball team in 2009.

Four scholarships are awarded each year, for either high school or college,” said Hurckes, explaining that scholarships are awarded to students from Kolb, Simmons Middle School and Oak Lawn Community High School.

Students from each school can apply for the scholarships, he said.

This annual fundraiser started in 2010 and has grown into a fun-filled night of family and friends getting together to celebrate a little girl’s birthday. Megan would be turning 19 years old on Monday, Feb. 5.

Arena Lanes bowling alley is at 4700 W. 103rd St. in Oak Lawn with doors opening at 6:30 p.m.

For more information, call (708) 599-7302.

Dermot Connolly contributed to this report.