Month: April 2017

Op-Ed: One Year In, We’re Still Committed to All Generations

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People worshipping during a 1-year anniversary service of Empowerment Church in March. | Below, Empowerment’s pastor, Rev. Teddy Matthews, preaches during service. || Shanel Romain/VFP

emp1Sunday, April 30, 2017 || By Rev. Teddy Matthews || @maywoodnews

Starting a church is no easy task. In the beginning, we had no members, no facility, no budget. What we did have, however, is a call and the understanding that it was time to act on that call.

My wife, daughter, mom, and a few close friends and family began a local Bible study in the fall of 2015 at the River Forest Public Library. That’s when the vision was cast and the need for a church became clearer than ever to me.

Despite reports stating that churchgoing was declining nationally and that young people were turning away from the church, our Bible study proved that people of all ages have a desire to grow and learn.

In early 2016, I shared publically for the first time that we were starting a new church in order to reach people, restore lives, and impact generations — which remains the mission of Empowerment Church.

In our short existence, we’re proud to say that we serve five different generations—from our babies to our seasoned saints. We’re living out our commitment to impact generations.

We recently celebrated our church anniversary with record-breaking attendance, which indicates clearly that we’re going in the right direction. In just one year of existence, we’ve executed a range of outreach initiatives.

Some of those initiatives include partnering with District 89 to provide backpacks and school supplies in the fall, hosting a coat drive in the winter and serving over 100 kids in the community during our first Easter egg hunt. The list could go on and on. We’ve seen God do amazing works through the hands of those committed to serving his church.

We host our weekly services at the Cinemark Theater in Melrose Park, where we have seen growth and life transformation take place. Our E-Kids children’s ministry meets weekly during the same time as our adult service. It is an experience where children under 12 are provided the opportunity to learn and grow on their level.

Our online platform and social media allow us to serve those all over the world. Our street team goes out weekly to provide outreach and evangelism in some of the local community hotspots, including the malls and restaurants.

Suffice it to say, I’m excited about what is happening and consider it a great privilege to serve our church and the community at-large. I’m excited to see what God will continue to do as we stay focused on His purpose and mission of reaching people, restoring lives and impacting generations.

For more information about Empowerment Church, you can visit www.empowerment.church or Facebook.com/empowermentchurchchicago. VFP

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Letters: Anahi Soto Goes to Washington | This Is Politics, Or Is It?

Letter to the Editor

Sunday, April 30, 2017 || LETTERS || @maywoodnews

My experience at the National League of Cities Conference

The Maywood Youth Council has once again made their appearance in the National League of Cities Conference in Washington D.C., which was held from March 11 to March 15.  Keyanna Turner and myself, who are both sophomores from Proviso East High School;  Jeramia Sowell, a junior at Proviso East; John Michael  Dawson, a junior at Proviso Math and Science Academy; and Reena Murphy, a senior at Walter Lutheran Christian Academy.

We are five brilliant students with impressive GPAs well above 3.0 and a desire to improve their beloved village. Trustee Isiah Brandon took on the responsibility to bring us to Washington D.C. yet again in hopes that more resources could be utilized. 

This year, the conference events taught us about the importance of networking. Many of us received contact information from people like Scot Carter, the chief of the Department of Agriculture; Star Wilbraham, a small business analyst; and Diane Delaware, the mayor of Yazoo, Mississippi.

Upon our arrival to the conference, we went through workshops that gave us a foundation for future networking. We also attended congressional meetings on issues like clean water preservation.

We also learned how lobbyists lobby, how policies function and how to be leaders. For instance, at one workshop, we had to write a policy that implemented a plan to give an area free internet. During these meetings, we were conversation-starts and deep-thinking participants.

As a returning member of the council, I was very impressed by these individuals who knew that they attended this conference with a greater purpose: to make Maywood prosper — and not just for themselves.

I want to thank everyone who made this available to the youth: the trustees, the mayor, the teachers and the residents of our fine village. We’ve done well as community members to raise such open-minded individuals.  The village of the eternal flame shines on!

— Anahi Soto, Proviso East High School sophomore

This is politics, or is it?

Right on the brink of the recent Maywood, IL mayoral April 4th, 2017 election, voting citizens observed a duplication of two candidates’ names, titles and photographs on the Palm Cards of opposing slates. Naturally, we wonder, ‘how can this even happen?’

When then candidate, then mayor, now Mayor Elect, Madam Edwenna Perkins was approached regarding integrity and morality, unfair campaign practices, ethics, personal principles and the like, she coldly and flatly responded, “THIS IS POLITICS.”

Since then, charges regarding these self-same concerns have been leveled against Madam Mayor Elect Perkins, along with her counterpart, re-elected Village Clerk, Viola Mims, with respect to violations stemming from blatant disregard for legislation instituted by the Illinois State Officials and Employees Ethics Act, 5 ILCS 430/5-15. The Village of Maywood has adopted the prohibited political activities provisions of the Act, as required by law.

This, is politics.

— Fern Rayon, Freelancer, FERNsWORKs

Email your opinions and concerns to thevillagefreepress@gmail.com. Submissions are subject to minor editing and do not reflect the opinions or beliefs of the Village Free Press.

Maywood Checkers Shuttered | Maywood Church, Seeking to Expand, Confronts Officials Worried About Losing Taxes

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IMG_5552Saturday, April 29, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews || Updated: 3:55 p.m.

Less than three years after it first opened in September 2014, the Checkers at 1718 S. First Ave. in Maywood is closed.

The closure seems rather abrupt, considering the store location still has a Facebook page that was active up until March 28 and the location is still listed on the company’s online database of locations.

In a phone interview on Saturday, Trustee Isiah Brandon said that Checkers officials contacted village officials Monday with the news that the store was closing. They also sent an email, he said. Company officials cited low sales as a contributing factor, Brandon added.

In a 2014 interview, Christopher Ilekis, a principal at Vequity, the real estate investment and development company that bought the property before leasing it to Checkers, said that the property, which had formerly been a KFC restaurant, had been in bankruptcy before his company acquired it in a portfolio sale.

The Maywood store opened on the same day as the Broadview checkers, located at 1617 W. Roosevelt Rd. The latter location is still open. The Maywood store, along with the Broadview store, was corporately owned and operated.

No one from Checkers or Vequity could be contacted for comment over the weekend. More as this story develops.

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Maywood church, seeking expansion, runs into village concerns over taxes 

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Screen Shot 2017-04-29 at 2.04.28 PMA Maywood church seeking to expand its operations into an area that’s zoned commercial while maintaining property tax exemption encountered some wariness among some village officials at an April 26 Legal, License and Ordinance Committee (LLOC) meeting.

The New Hope Christian Center Church, 14 S. 19th Ave., wants to buildout and modify existing unoccupied commercial space at 2 South 19th Ave., which is separated from the church facility by a vacant, fenced-in lot. The church owns both properties.

New Hope plans to turn the commercial space into theNew Hope Empowerment Center, an “educational agency” that would “focus on teaching Christian principles, as well as academics and technology values to individuals of all ages,” according to project summary released by the church’s pastor, Bishop Anthony G. Wellington.

According to a business plan that Wellington submitted on behalf of his church, the new facility would host weekly job training sessions, prayer meetings, “biblical guidance sessions” and “biblical enhancement sessions.”

But village staff members and some board members stated that they’re worried that “this project may be an expansion of the [tax-exempt] church into the C2 Pedestrian Oriented Commercial District,” according to an April 26 village memo written by Josh Koonce, the village’s planning and zoning officer.

“In fact,” Koonce states, “Mr. Wellington has indicated that the purpose of the new development is to expand the capacity and footprint of the church.”

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At Wednesday’s LLOC meeting, Trustee Michael Rogers expressed some reservations over the village allowing the church to turn the commercial property, which currently generates commercial property taxes, into tax-exempt property.

“The whole concept of our [taking the] limited commercial property that we have off the tax rolls is problematic,” Rogers said.

“That zone, when you cross the tracks, is called Broadway. That’s a heavy commercial usage. The non-conforming uses already there are grandfathered in, but it’s important not to lose any more commercial property with the straits that the village is in.”

Rogers said that, despite his reservations, the church’s proposal should be vetted by the village’s Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeal. Trustee Henderson Yarbrough echoed Rogers’s sentiments.

“I have the same concerns that Trustee Rogers just mentioned,” he said. “With this going to the planning and zoning board, hopefully these questions will be answered during that period of time. We look forward to their recommendations.”

Wellington’s attorney, however, said that the church’s proposal represents the “highest and best” use of the abandoned commercial space, which used to be a paint store.

“Any other commercial use would be an island on that corner,” he said.

The board voted unanimously on village staff’s recommendation to move the proposal to the Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeal.

According to the village memo, that board will be responsible for determining “whether the proposal fits within the definition of Educational Facility, Vocational School or Training Academy (a special use in the C-2 district – Section 17.4 and Table 8-1 of the Village of Maywood Zoning Ordinance), or if this proposal constitutes an expansion of a church into a commercial district (not permitted).” VFP

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MFA AD_April 2017

New D209 Board Majority Sworn Into Office, Kelly Re-Assumes Presidency

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A screenshot of live video feed posted to Facebook by Proviso Together showing the slate’s four candidates getting sworn into office at PMSA on April 27. 

Friday, April 28, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

Three years after members of the Facebook group “Forest Parkers For Better Schools” met inside of Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor in Forest Park to talk about the direction of Proviso Township High Schools District 209, the group is now solidly steering the ship.

In 2015, the group, informally called the “Brown Cow 20,” fielded Proviso Together, a three-person slate of candidates to run for three open school board seats. All three candidates — longtime incumbent board member Teresa Kelly, Claudia Medina and Ned Wagner — won handily.

Two years later, Proviso Together pulled off another sweep, with all four of its candidates — Amanda Grant, Sam Valtierrez, Della Patterson and Rodney Alexander — winning first terms.

At an April 27 special meeting held inside of the cafeteria at Proviso Math and Science Academy, the four new board members were sworn into office by outgoing board president Theresa McKelvy and Kelly re-assumed the presidency after a unanimous vote.

Grant, who garnered the most votes among the 8-person school board race, was voted vice president while Medina was voted secretary.

In 2016, a year after Kelly had been elected board president, she was ousted from that position when board members McKelvy, Brian Cross, Dan Adams and Kevin McDermott voted to shorten the board president’s tenure from two years to one. McKelvy was then voted Kelly’s successor.

With Kelly again at the helm, the new supermajority is hoping that they can pull off a complete overhaul of a district where, fewer than five years ago, Wagner and Medina were worried about sending their children.

On Thursday, both board members announced that each had one child who would be enrolling at PMSA in the fall. Medina said that when her son received his acceptance letter to PMSA, he called Ned’s son.

“[My son] said, ‘No matter what we do, we’re going to stay together,’” Medina said. “We’re all here together.”

In their remarks, all of the board members stressed unity and togetherness, a constant theme of both the 2015 and 2017 campaigns.

“It is time for Proviso to unite and to be one union,” said new board member Sam Valtierrez, of Melrose Park. “We have to break the curse of disunity that has broken our community. We must get involved and let the fear go. [That’s how we’ll] see the transformation of our wonderful schools.”

“There is a wealth of talented and amazing people here,” said Grant. “We have the resources. We pay about $90 million in taxes each year to Proviso District 209. What we needed all along and have been sorely lacking is a unified board of education that understands that students come first.”

“I pledge to be earnest, hardworking, full-time, available and consistent in discharging these responsibilities and duties,” said Alexander. “And most of all, I pledge to work together [with fellow board members] as a team.”

Some board members emphasized the importance of enhancing equity at the district. The issue was a centerpiece of a burgeoning strategic plan that D209 Supt. Jesse Rodriguez presented to the public at a meeting at PMSA last week.

“I am fully committed to working with all community stakeholders to ensure that regardless of where your child is enrolled, he or she will have the resources to succeed,” said Patterson.

Patterson added that her focus will be on raising the district’s standard of academic performance, increasing the range and amount of selective courses that are offered and making AP and IB courses more widely available at Proviso East and Proviso West.

Wagner said that he plans on building on the record of accomplishments, particularly in the area of equity, that have been secured during the young tenure of Rodriguez, who was hired roughly a year ago.

“I want to continue working on making our schools a welcoming environment for our kids and parents,” Wagner said, before pointing out a range of measures that have been implemented within the last two years, such as offering more training for security staff at the district and putting in place restorative justice measures at the school a year before the passage of SB 100.

“We were talking about restorative justice a year before SB 100 was passed, which is the law that schools have to do everything they can to keep kids in school rather than just expelling or suspending them,” he said. “We put some good practices in so we’re in really good shape. I want us to build on that, expand on that and create a culture of understanding ad acceptance in our schools so our kids can grow into responsible adults.”

Kelly presented each board member with copies of compasses, “to remind us to measure our progress, because we know that movement does not necessarily mean progress. Each of us as a group has a moral compass that will allow us to know right from wrong, good from bad.”

“We are no longer responsible to the interest of any one person or special group,” Kelly said, “but we are accountable to all of our children and to all of our communities.” VFP

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Illinois Prairie Path Cleanup Saturday, April 29, 8:45 AM

Earth day cleanup photo

Friday, April 28, 2017 || By Community Editor || @maywoodnews

The Illinois Prairie Path, which runs through many communities throughout the state (including Maywood and Bellwood), needs sprucing up! Each year, community members throughout the area come together for an annual cleanup.

Join us as we clean up the Maywood and Bellwood section of the path. We’ll meetup on Saturday, April 29, 8:45 a.m. to 12 p.m., at 1100 S. 11th Ave. in Maywood.

Please bring your favorite gardening gloves and rakes. We will have some available, but its better to have extras. Garbage bags will be provided.

High school students, this is a great way to get community service hours. For more information contact JoAnn Murphy at JOANN.DEBOCK.MURPHY@GMAIL.COM. VFP

F E A T U R E D  E V E N T 

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At Resource Fair, Maywood Seniors Enjoy Chair Yoga

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Senior citizens participate in Chair Yoga during the April 22 Ideas for Life Senior Fair held in Maywood. Below, a senior receives a free health screening. | Michael Romain/VFP

Maywood Senior Fair_1Thursday, April 27, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

More than 100 senior citizens packed the Maywood Multipurpose Building, 200 S. 5th Ave., last Saturday for several hours of free health screenings, resource workshops, socializing and even Chair Yoga.

The April 22 event, dubbed the “Ideas for Life Senior Fair,” was organized by the Village of Maywood and Solutions for Care, an organization started in 1972 to assist senior citizens and adults living with disabilities. The fair was the first of its kind in the organization’s history.

“The purpose of this was to connect seniors in Maywood and other areas in Proviso Township with resources and have them all in one room,” said Christine Flynn, a representative with Solutions for Care.

Along with Solutions for Care, other local anchor institutions and organizations were represented at the fair, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Westlake Hospital, Oak Street Health, the West Cook YMCA and Proviso Township.

Westlake healthcare providers administered free health screenings while representatives with Proviso Township passed out literature promoting the township’s array of senior services, which include free transportation to and from medical appointments, handy man services application-writing assistance, among other services.

Representatives with the West Cook YMCA guided a roomful of at least 40 seniors in Chair Yoga exercises as David Myers, Maywood’s Assistant Village Manager, who helped coordinate the event, looked on with a smile.

“We wanted this to be an event where our seniors could get hardcore information that would be a resource to them,” Myers said. “I talked to Larry Shapiro, the Maywood Senior Club coordinator, and he thought it was a good idea.”

Connie Riales, a senior club member who helped Shapiro organize the event along with Myers and Flynn, said that most of the members of her club were in attendance.

“I think this is important because seniors still make a difference,” she said. “Without their wisdom, [the world] wouldn’t exist. We need the wisdom of our seniors.” VFP

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A Grocery Store Looks to Open Inside Former Maywood Market

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The former Maywood Market, located at 615 S. 5th Ave., which closed in 2011. | Google Earth

Thursday, April 27, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

Less than six months after Aldi — Maywood’s only full-service grocery store — closed, another grocer is looking to move into the village.

Ali Hamden, an entrepreneur who has owned and operated a range of different businesses over the last 25 years, is looking to open a grocery store, Save More Fresh Market, inside of the building that once housed the former Maywood Market, located at 615 S. 5th Ave. Maywood Market closed in 2011 after fewer than two years in operation.

Unlike Aldi, the Germany-based international discount grocery store that closed its Maywood location at 215 Madison Street in December, Hamden is an independent entity who, since 1988, has owned and operated a 7-Eleven, a string of neighborhood grocers and two gas stations.

He also buys, fixes, and either holds or re-sells single family homes, multifamily buildings and commercial properties. Hamden, who owns AH Group, is currently in negotiations to open a Save-A-Lot grocery store in the Chicago area and a 15,000-square-foot Save More Fresh Market grocery store in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood.

According to a letter of intent filed in January, Hamden has offered to pay $400,000 for the 22,000 square foot building, which is located on a roughly 61,000 square foot paved lot. Maywood owns both the building and the lot.

The Pearson Realty Group, the village’s contracted broker, suggested that the building and lot be listed at $595,000 and estimated that they could probably fetch between $505,000 and $545,000 in a final sale.

At an April 26 Legal, License and Ordinance Committee (LLOC) meeting, Hamden said that his offer “only reflects the fact that we have been through [the building] only once.” He said he didn’t know the condition of the roof. Hamden’s letter of intent states that his offer “reflects the fact that significant electrical repairs need to be made.”

This year, the village budgeted $30,000 to maintain the former Maywood Market. In the past, village officials have reported on numerous acts of vandalism that have taken place on the premises.

Hamden is asking for a Class 8 tax abatement, which would significantly lower the amount that he pays in property taxes on the store and surrounding lot each year. According to village data, the taxes owed on the facility and the lot totaled over $230,000 in 2013. A Class 8 incentive would have lowered that amount to around $87,000.

Hamden estimates that the village could realize $60,000 a year in property tax revenue and $40,000 a year in sales tax revenue, which would total around $1.6 million over 10 years.

According to preliminary projections provided by Hamden, Save More Fresh Market could generate between $3 million and $4.7 million in sales revenue each year. Hamden said that he’ll utilize all of the square footage that was utilized by Maywood Market, including the bakery and hot food areas.

In addition, Hamden said, his store will produce its own brand of specialized products that will sell in both the Maywood and Uptown stores.

“This will give us a good opportunity to compete with big stores around us,” Hamden said. “I’m looking for a bigger facility. We need a warehouse and want an easier way to operate trucks. We’ll have a full line of meat, produce, grocery and non-grocery items. We will not sell liquor or tobacco. We are strictly a supermarket for the community.”

Hamden’s AH Group had secured a loan of up to $700,000 from Chicago Bridge Loan, which would be used to finance the acquisition of the property.

Hamden isn’t the only prospect that has been attracted to the former Maywood Market.

In an interview earlier this year, Village Manager Willie Norfleet Jr., said that roughly three other suitors had expressed interest in the property, including EATS Groceries owner Thom Alcazar, who describes EATS as a “concierge-type shopping experience.”

In an interview in February, Alcazar said that the majority of EATS would be warehouse space, with customers making orders from kiosks or from their homes or businesses, since EATS would also entail delivering groceries to various locations. At the time, however, Alcazar had not made an offer on the Maywood property.

After Wednesday’s LLOC meeting, village board members went into executive session to discuss Hamden’s offer. The negotiations between the village and Hamden are ongoing. VFP

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