Category: Parks & Recreation

It’s Time for Park District to Take Back Parks, Say Village, Park District Officials

Thursday, October 5, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews 

Officials with both the village of Maywood and the Maywood Park District, two separate taxing bodies, have said that they’re ready to see six village-operated parks in Maywood turned over to the park district. And the park district executive director said that the district is currently working on a plan to do just that.

Continue reading “It’s Time for Park District to Take Back Parks, Say Village, Park District Officials”


Maywood Board Approves $285K for 809 Madison Building Rehab

Thursday, September 21, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews 

Featured image: The Maywood Park District-owned building at 809 W. Madison St. in Maywood. 

During a Sept. 19 regular meeting, the Maywood Board of Trustees unanimously approved a request from the Maywood Park District for $285,000 in TIF funds to help pay for the rehabilitation of the district’s 809 W. Madison St. building and the area surrounding it.

Continue reading “Maywood Board Approves $285K for 809 Madison Building Rehab”

Maywood Park District Hires New Executive Director

Lonette HallWednesday, August 2, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

The Maywood Park District has hired a new executive director, according to a press release issued by Park District Board President Dawn Rone on Aug. 2.

The district hired Lonette Hall (pictured) to succeed former executive director Antonette Dorris, who announced earlier this year that she would not request an extension of her one-year contract that expired in July.

Continue reading “Maywood Park District Hires New Executive Director”

Fred Hampton Pool Officially Opens and Proviso East Lifeguards Start Work

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Newly installed lifeguards at Fred Hampton Aquatic Center prepare for a photograph with Maywood and Proviso East officials on June 12. | Michael Romain/VFP

Haptom Pool IIMonday, June 12, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

During a short ceremony held outside of the Fred Hampton Aquatic Center, 300 Oak St. in Maywood on June 12, a crowd of at least 300 people witnessed six lifeguards receive their official life guard shirt and sunglasses from the West Cook YMCA — the Oak Park-based nonprofit that operates and maintains the aquatic center.

According to YMCA officials, by late afternoon more than 550 people had cycled through the center’s turnstiles to enjoy the pool on its grand opening day. 

The scene was particularly special to community members because the lifeguards were trained inside of the swimming pool at Proviso East High School in Maywood.

The Red Cross-certified, 5-week training program that was facilitated by West Cook resulted in the revival of the high school’s pool and may have been the catalyst for what high school officials hope will be regular swimming courses at the school starting next year.

West Cook staff members maintain the pool during the summers, with the village of Maywood sharing half the operating costs with the nonprofit organization. This year was the first time that West Cook collaborated with Proviso East to help train lifeguards from within Maywood and surrounding Proviso Township communities.

Hampton Pool III

From left: Maywood Trustees Kimyada Wellington and Isiah Brandon, Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins, West Cook YMCA President & CEO Phillip Jimenez, Maywood Trustee Henderson Yarbrough, Maywood Village Manager Willie Norfleet and Maywood Trustee Antonio Sanchez. | Michael Romain/VFP

In the past, most lifeguards who worked at Fred Hampton were from other areas due to a dearth of well-trained local young people. The swimming classes at East, West Cook officials have said, worked to fill that void.

“This collaboration is a true example of the impact that can be made when organizations come together and add value to our community,” said Kevin Klein, the West Cook YMCA’s chief operating officer, during the June 12 opening ceremony.

Klein said that he anticipates this pool summer to be the biggest since West Cook since 2011, when West Cook started operating the pool.

“In 2014, we had 1,300 people visit the pool. Last year, the number increased to 4,000 visits. And just last summer, we had as many as 9,000 guest experiences,” Klein said. “Our goal this year is to break into five digits. We want 10,000 guest experiences here at the Fred Hampton Aquatic Center.”

“Fred fought hard for this pool to be in the community,” said Bill Hampton, the brother of the slain Black Panther after whom the pool is named. “We can make this a monument not just to swimming but how to how we got it and how we can keep it well.”

Hampton Pool IV

Bill Hampton, second from right, with Maywood Library Trustee John Rice and other members of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, which held a small vigil for slain Black Panther leader and the pool’s namesake earlier in the day. | Michael Romain/VFP

Maywood Village Manager Willie Norfleet said that the pool is an example of the kind of fusion that’s necessary to make a healthy community work — a sentiment that Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins reinforced.

“It can be done and it will take all of us to do it,” Perkins said, before Norfleet praised the parts that “the board, mayor, employees, parents, residents and taxpayers” played in the pool’s existence.

“As long as this park area is green, clean and safe, the people will come,” Norfleet said. “Take away one of those ingredients, the people won’t be here. This is a testimony of the will of the village council and the work of the employees so that we can have this place green, clean and safe.”

The Fred Hampton Aquatic Center, 300 Oak St. in Maywood, is open daily, 12 p.m. to 7 p.m., from June 12 until September 4. For more info and/or to buy passes, click hereVFP

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Work on Maywood Park District’s $500K Exterior Redesign to Begin This Month

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An aerial view of the Maywood Park District’s headquarters at the corner of 9th Ave. and Madison St. | Google Earth

Friday, June 9, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

The Maywood Park District’s headquarters at the corner of 9th Avenue and Madison Street will get an extreme exterior makeover this summer. Construction is scheduled to start on June 19 and end by late September or early October, park district officials said.

The redesign includes the installation of pingpong and game tables, the resurfacing of the parking lot, the renovation of the outdoor garden, the installation of a flower bed island in the lot, brand new fencing, a new outdoor basketball court that could be converted into additional parking during the winter months, and a t-ball and soccer field designed for smaller children, among other improvements.

The park district board has secured Hitchcock Design Group as the lead architectural firm after an open bidding process. According to its website, Hitchcock has offices in Austin (Texas), Indianapolis, Chicago and Naperville.

The district has also identified a general contractor through an open bidding process. The park district board is expected to vote to hire the firm at its next meeting on June 13.

Toni Dorris, park district’s executive director, said that the district is waiting for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District to sign off on sewer work that would be a prerequisite for the grounds improvements.

“We have storm sewers that have been collapsed for a quite a while and it makes no sense to build on top of something that’s messed up,” Dorris said.

“The storm sewers need to be fixed so we can put in brand new pavement, grass, drains and [other additions]. We want to make sure everything runs into the 9th Avenue storm system properly,” she said, adding that district should get approval from the MWRD sometime next week.

The roughly $500,000 project is fully funded, with half of the money coming a state grant that required matching funds.

The district secured a loan from Hinsdale Bank in order to match the grant amount, Dorris said. As a condition of securing the loan, the district embarked on a period of austerity, which included enacting significant budget cuts.

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A photo of architectural drawings of a proposed $500,000 exterior rehab project of the Maywood Park District that is set to begin on June 19. | Michael Romain/VFP

An additional state grant, worth $1.62 million, will go to fund the rehabilitation of the district’s long-abandoned facility at 809 W. Madison St.

The grant had originally been given to the district in 2014 under former Gov. Pat Quinn. Shortly after he took office, though, Gov. Bruce Rauner issued an executive order suspending a range of “nonessential” state spending.

The suspended funding included the two grants that the park district had planned on putting toward renovating the 809 building and enhancing its grounds. Last year, however, the state freed up that funding. 

The $1.62 million grant requires the park district to raise 10 percent, or $162,000, on its own in order to receive the total grant.

At the time when the grant money was received, the district had a limited period to raise the matching money, with officials embarking on an ambitious fundraising campaign that was ultimately suspended.

Park District Commissioner Terrance Jones said that the campaign, which entailed the district hosting small events and projects designed to raise the money, didn’t generate much revenue. Eventually, the deadline for raising the money expired.

The state has since granted the district a one-year extension. The district has until July 1, 2017 to come up with the money, Jones said.

“Prior to my arrival the district was having fundraisers to come up with that 10 percent so that they wouldn’t have to borrow the money, but once I got in there I realized that time was running out,” Dorris said. “Even if we had a fundraiser every week [the district would still be short of the matching amount].”

Dorris said that she recommended that the district seek out a single bank that would loan the district money to match the funding for both grants.

“If we have to pay something back, let’s pay for something that’s worthy of paying back,” Dorris said.

Dorris added that Hinsdale Bank has expressed interest in loaning the district the matching amount for the $1.62 million grant as well, but the lending process has been held up because an initial financial plan developed by the park district prior to her arrival did not budget for a sprinkler system.

“Hinsdale has stated that they want to help us but they need true numbers, because what we presented to them so far doesn’t include the cost of a sprinkler system,” Dorris said, adding that a sprinkler system in a building the size of 809 W. Madison could add hundreds of thousands of dollars to the construction budget.

The additional cost means that the district’s original plans for the building, which had included state-of-the-art conference rooms, computer labs and lounge areas, may likely need to be pared back.

Dorris said that the district holds regular meetings that are exclusively devoted to discussions about grants. The next grant-only meeting is on June 29, 6 p.m., at 921 S. Madison St. in Maywood. VFP 

This article has been updated to correct for the location of the storm sewer system. Village Free Press regrets the error. 

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Memorial Park District Seeking Commissioner Applications Until June 30

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017 || By Community Editor || @maywoodnews

The Memorial Park District, which represents all of Bellwood and Stone Park, and parts of Berkley, Hillside, Northlake and Melrose Park, is seeking candidates interested in filling a vacancy on its 5-person board.

Interested individuals can email letters of interests and/or resumes to or mail them to Mari Harrell, Memorial Park executive director, at 3101 Washington Blvd. in Bellwood.

The deadline for submissions is June 30, 2017. For more information, email or call (708) 547-3907.

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At Proviso East, YMCA-trained Lifeguards Revive Old Pool

Lifeguard group water photo

Proviso East students participate in a drill during the last day of a 5-week Red Cross lifeguard and training certification program provided through a partnership between the Oak Park-based West Cook YMCA and Proviso Township High Schools District 209. | Submitted photos [West Cook YMCA and Proviso Township Districts 209]

Lifeguard group photo ITuesday,  May 9, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

Cameron Wollenschlager, a 17-year-old junior at Proviso East High School in nearby Maywood, climbed soaking wet out of the high school’s long underused swimming pool.

It was the last day of a 5-week Red Cross lifeguard and training certification program provided through a partnership between the Oak Park-based West Cook YMCA and Proviso Township High Schools District 209.

“Before I started this program, I wasn’t that strong of a lifeguard. I didn’t get the basics, but as we progressed it got much easier and the ideas and concepts came much more fluent to me,” Wollenschlager said last Friday, moments before he would receive the certificate that will allow him to interview, and likely land, a lifeguard position at one of the YMCA’s numerous aquatics facilities, or to apply for a lifeguard job somewhere else if he chooses.

But the Maywood resident, along with the program’s 10 other participants, all Proviso East Students, has his sights on lifeguarding inside of his hometown’s sole public swimming pool — the Fred Hampton Aquatic Center.

Since 2011, the West Cook YMCA has operated and maintained the pool for Maywood. And in 2014, the YMCA entered into an agreement with the village to split the costs and profits related to the pool in half.

This year, due to the lifeguard training, the pool is poised to employ more local residents than it has in recent years and, after the district puts a second class of certified lifeguards through training next fall, Proviso East will be able to finally start offering swimming instruction again to a population that needs it the most.

According to a study completed by the University of Memphis and commissioned by USA Swimming, nearly 70 percent of African American young people, and nearly 60 percent of Hispanic young people, are weak swimmers or can’t swim at all, elevating the rate at which black and brown kids drown relative to their white counterparts.

Proviso East, whose student population is roughly half African American and half Hispanic, doesn’t currently offer swimming lessons because there aren’t enough certified personnel to man the pool during classes, said Tracy McCormick, the PE department chair.

“When I went here, we didn’t have this opportunity,” said Christina Arrendondo, 20, a Proviso East graduate who trained this inaugural class of Proviso East lifeguards. “I remember one time, a teacher was taking her class down to the pool for probably four weeks. That was the only time I’d seen the pool or been active with the pool out of my four years here.”

Arrendondo, whose mother was a lifeguard, said that the training not only builds skills, but self-trust and confidence.

“They had to trust themselves and challenge themselves to go down to the bottom of the pool and save someone’s life,” she said. “They all did an amazing job. I’m proud of them.”

Lifeguard group photo II

“Part of our vision is to embrace partnerships because they add value to the work we do. That’s one of our core beliefs,” said District 209 Supt. Jesse Rodriguez, adding that he hopes to enhance and scale up the program at East to Proviso West and Proviso Math and Science Academy in the future.

Phillip Jimenez, the West Cook YMCA president and CEO, said that his organization’s entry into District 209 will help ease the demand for aquatic space currently felt in Oak Park.

“We’re always struggling to find great life guards, so we said, ‘Why don’t we produce them out of Proviso East?’ It’s not just a life skill, but it’s also an economic and employment opportunity,” Jimenez said.

He added that the YMCA is also exploring a facility sharing arrangement with the district, so that some of the organization’s aquatics programming, such as family pool time and competitive swimming, can be offered at Proviso East in the future.

Joann Kouba, a registered dietician and faculty member at the high school, said that the partnership between the school and the YMCA came about from a meeting with members from Proviso Partners for Health — a broad coalition of entities brought together by Loyola University Health System to fight childhood obesity — and the school’s community wellness committee.

“Through the years, we realized that we have to expand our programming,” Kouba said. “Wellness committees are a USDA mandate, every school district in the country is supposed to have a wellness policy and committee. They’re specifically all about obesity prevention.”

Kouba said that, during a meeting last fall, someone suggested that utilizing the school’s pool would be a way to provide more physical activity options for students.

“When we learned that the pool wasn’t in use because of the lack of certified and trained staff, we said, ‘Let’s fix that,’’ said Shanika Blanton, a PP4H member.

“So we talked to students and asked them if they wanted to swim, but many didn’t even know there was a pool at Proviso East,” Blanton said. “The only people using it were teachers who swam in it after work and ROTC.”

McCormick, who is a wellness committee member, the school’s principal, Dr. Patrick Hardy, and Supt. Rodriguez instantly warmed to the idea. Around the same time, three D209 board members — Claudia Medina, Ned Wagner and Theresa Kelly — approached Jimenez with the possibility of a formal partnership.

Soon afterward, the collaboration had legs, with the YMCA offering staff and monetary support. Currently, the organization is heavily subsidizing the training program so that each student only pays a fraction of the $300 cost.

In exchange, around a dozen students have newfound opportunities — young people like Tyler, an 18-year-old graduating senior and Maywood resident who plans on going to the Air Force.

“This will be my first job,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot of challenges and a lot of pressure on you to have to get down and dirty and save someone’s life.”

“I’m excited,” said Christian Palomares, 16, of Maywood, who is looking forward to working his first job as a lifeguard. “I want to learn as much as much as I can.”

McCormick said that the lifeguard training program still needs equipment, such as swimming caps and face masks. Two months ago, she started a GoFundMe campaign to try to raise money for the program. The campaign has so far raised $850 of its $5,700 goal. To donate, click here. VFP

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