Some of the participants in last Saturday’s Illinois Prairie Path Earth Day Cleanup gather inside a village-owned building on 11th Avenue and the Prairie Path. The event channeled the spirit of its late organizer, Lennel Grace, who passed eight weeks before it was to have taken place. | Photos courtesy Alise Buchmeier
Wednesday, May 4, 2016 || By Michael Romain
Pastor John Yi, the former president of the Neighbors of Maywood Community Organization and an active presence in Maywood’s parks, said when he embarked on this year’s Illinois Prairie Path Earth Day Cleanup last Saturday, he was taken by surprise.
“There was a lot less garbage this year than there normally is,” Yi said. “It was at least half what it usually is.”
Many of the roughly 40 participants in this year’s walk agreed with Grace’s sister, Diane Brown, who noted that the trail appeared as if her brother, the event’s longtime organizer Lennel Grace, took to the path before everyone arrived and cleaned up.
Grace, the beloved community activist and Maywood native who passed suddenly in March at the age of 67, was a frequent user of the path.
His early morning routine involved leaving the nearby apartment building where he lived and walking the trail alone or with friends, often bending over to pick up trash. Sometimes, he’d phone or text the village manager or a department head about the path’s condition.
When Grace passed, eight weeks before the cleanup was to have taken place, his friend JoAnn Murphy stepped in and took over the organizing.
“I really didn’t want the ball to be dropped,” said Murphy, the village’s deputy clerk and an active, longtime member of NOMCO, which Grace helmed at the time of his death.
“I knew it was important to him and plus I love I the environment,” Murphy said, adding that all it took was a call to the Illinois Prairie Path Association notifying the organization of Grace’s passing. Grace was a member of the organization’s board.
“We were glad to be out here doing the work, but your heart was saddened, because Lennel wasn’t here,” said Grace’s cousin, Twyanna Rand. “So you miss that aspect, but you know his heart was here. We just want to keep the positive momentum going.”
While this year’s event was somewhat embittered by Grace’s voluminous absence — and by a constant, gray overcast and rain that dampened clothes — it was also sweetened by the presence of residents who were partaking in the cleanup for the first time.
“I feel like I have to be here, because I wasn’t here before,” said Alise Buchmeier, a close friend who noted that Grace helped maintain her garden. “He’s there with me in my garden, too.”
Buchmeier and resident Rolando Villegas, who moved to Maywood, in part, because of Grace’s insistence, called themselves “spoiled,” by their friend, Maywood’s omnipresent senior citizen — who many said had the energy of someone half his age.
“He’s the reason my garden isn’t being done right now,” Villegas admitted, before laughing. “What he did by himself, we’re doing right now. We kind of took him for granted in a way. If something needed to be done, we’d always say, ‘Oh, Lennel will do it.’ But it’s nice to continue what was so important to him. It’s important to me, because it was so important to him. The way he cared about things was infectious that way.”
“I came two years ago toward the end,” said Grace’s close friend Tony Favela, who recalled the activist’s stubborn insistence. “He kept asking, ‘Are you coming? Are you coming?”
“Last year, I overslept. But this year, I had to come because of Lennel,” Favela said. “I had to. This is our responsibility now.”
Two 5K walk/runs to premier in Maywood this summer
Two separate 5K races are scheduled to be held in Maywood this summer: one in June and another in September.
Maywood native Bridgette Chatman-Lewis, who owns a business consulting firm in Oak Brook, is spearheading the organization of a 5K Run/Walk for youth programs and economic growth, to be held on June 11.
The event is part of a more comprehensive effort by Chatman’s consulting group to adopt Maywood, a process that entails enticing numerous developments, such as grocery stores and manufacturers, to the village.
“The end goal is to create a bustling local economy, create jobs, decrease crime, improve the aesthetic landscape and increase per capita incomes,” said Lewis during an interview with this publication in February. “That can be done through supermarkets, restaurants, other businesses and manufacturing.”
Lewis said her firm has created a “sustainable platform for year-round youth programs” and a series of initiatives designed stimulate job creation, decrease crime and enhance the local landscape.
The walk/run will take place on June 11, 8 a.m., at Miller Meadow Forest Preserve Trail, 2199 S. 1st Ave., Maywood. Registration costs: $35.00 adults/ $25.00 children and seniors.
You can also register in person at the following locations:
LA Fitness, 200 Broadview Village Square, May 12, May 16 and May 31
The Maywood Public Library, 121 S. 5th Ave., every Saturday in May and June 4 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The Oak Park Public Library, 834 Lake St., every Saturday in May from 1 to 3 p.m. and on June 4, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
The Second Baptist Church in Maywood, 436 S. 13th Ave., every Sunday after the church’s 11 a.m. service.
PLCCA, 411 W. Madison Ave., Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., throughout May
You can pickup your race packets at: Fleet Feet Sports, 102 Marion Street, Oak Park, from June 4 through June 10
‘Maywood in Motion 5K Walk/Run’
On September 24, the Maywood Park District, in partnership with Proviso Partners 4 Health, plan on hosting the first-ever Maywood in Motion 5K Walk/Run, which is designed to foster healthier lifestyles among residents.
You can also access the park district’s brand new newsletter by clicking here, or on the adjacent image.
Take the ‘1 Billion Step Challenge’ today
The American Public Health Association is looking to see if communities throughout the country can take ‘1 Billion Steps’ by May 31. Proviso Partners 4 Health, an APHA team, is urging community members to register for a fitness tracker, designed to monitor their movement, and to tell their friends, family and co-workers about the app as well.
To learn more about the simple three step registration process and setup your own fitness tracker, click here.
Upcoming Maywood Public Library Events
ELA/ESL Classes will take place at the Quinn Community Center
The Maywood Public Library District will continue to sign people up for an English Language Acquisition course, but this class will now take place at the Quinn Community Center. For more information, click here or call the Quinn Center at 708-343-6120.
How to Get a Summer Job
Getting a summer job is always challenging. Find out the best ways to look for work through this interactive session for the entire family. Learn about new online resources, discover new opportunities, and have access to summer jobs (and more) that are available now. This free presentation will take place at the Maywood Public Library District on Saturday, May 7th, in room 201 at 11:30 am, and will be presented by a representative from Triton College. Students and parents are invited to come.
The Vet Center will be in the rotunda of the Maywood Public Library District onTuesday, May 10, from 3:30-5:00 pm. The Vet Center offers outreach, counseling, and referral services to veterans who are eligible for their services, so that they may adjust to living in a post-war environment. For information on the Vet Center, please call 708-457-8805, or click here.
SAT and ACT Changes: Q&A
The Huntington Learning Center will visit the Maywood Public Library District on Wednesday, May 11th, from 4:00-6:00 pm in room 201. They will be explaining some of the changes that have been made to the SAT and the ACT exams, and answering questions concerning them. The first hour will focus on questions that students may have, and the second hour will focus on questions that parents and adults may have. This presentation is free to the public.
Buck-a-Bag Book Sale
The Buck-A-Bag Book Sale will continue through May at the Maywood Public LibraryDistrict. Each bag filled with hardcover or softcover books will only cost you $1.00. Bags for this sale will be supplied by the Library. For more information, please call 708-343-1847 x 10. VFP
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