Photo by Joe Boyle
Donations and local support has been a relief for the Oak Lawn Children's Museum that has been closed since mid-March due to the pandemic.
By Dermot Connolly
Being closed to the public for the past two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic has been financially hard on the Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn.
Open since 2003, the museum features “hands-on” interactive and educational exhibits, drawing children and families from Chicago and the south suburbs.
“ We had a staff of 18 and now we are down to two,” said Adam Woodworth, executive director of the museum located at 5100 W. Museum Drive, just east of the Metra train station on 95 th Street.
Woodworth, who has headed the museum for 14 years, said on Monday that the museum applied for and receive a grant through the federal Paycheck Protection Program, enabling furloughed employees to receive paychecks through June.
“ I have keeping in touch with several of the staff members. We hope when the restrictions are lifted and we can reopen, as many of them as possible will return,” he said.
Although the museum is closed to the public and admission and membership fees are not coming in — bills still are.
As of Tuesday, more than $13,000 in donations have been collected in an emergency fund that was created in order to allow the museum to stay afloat.
“ People have been very generous, and we really appreciate it,” said Woodworth.
“ Something else that will hopefully help us is the online shop we opened this week. We sell educational toys — from a puzzle of the periodic table to stuffed animals,” said Woodworth, the executive director. “Non-essential stores can do this type of curbside pick-up now, and these items part of our inventory in the museum store. So we may as well sell them.”
“ People can make purchases online on our website, and make an appointment for when they want to pick the items up outside. One of us will come out and place it in the back seat or trunk,” he explained. “People can also purchase gift cards,” he added.
“ This situation has affected every single business and the non-profits, such as the museum and Park Lawn,” said Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury, referring to the social service agency also located in the village. “They are all really struggling and they need our support. If we want them to be there when the crisis is over, we should help them as much as possible.”
“ I am extremely optimistic we will be open again. It is just a matter of when and how,” said Woodworth. “We’ve got to go along with the reopening plan (that Gov. Pritzker set up). We have to make sure it is safe to do so.”
“ We usually have a lot of field trips during the school year, and birthday parties too,” he said. “If we can reopen with groups of up 50 people, we can start to have birthday parties again,” said Woodworth.
“ We have a lot of events planned for the summer and fall, from July to October. Nothing has been canceled yet, but we want to make sure they can be held safely,” said Woodworth. “I have been working for non-profits since 1993, and I have never seen anything like this. I hope we don’t see it again.”
More information about the online shop and the museum’s plans for reopening may be obtained on the website at www.cmoaklawn.org.