Tag: Proviso Partners for Health

Group Publishes Comprehensive List Of Summer Activities For Maywood Youth

Monday, May 21, 2018 || By Community Editor || @maywoodnews 

A local wellness organization has recently released a comprehensive listing of more than 40 summer activities and programs designed for young people, ages 5 to 24.

Continue reading “Group Publishes Comprehensive List Of Summer Activities For Maywood Youth”

Photos of the Week: Chris Epps Tends to His Maywood Garden

Wednesday, September 6, 2017 || Photos by Spooner Baumann/Spooner Photography || @maywoodnews 

Christopher Epps, 36, is the full-time gardener who is slowly, deliberately making the Proviso Partners Giving Garden the start of what he hopes will be a paradigm shift in how Proviso Township residents relate to the food they eat.

Continue reading “Photos of the Week: Chris Epps Tends to His Maywood Garden”

In Maywood, a Gardening Revolution Could Be Slowly Taking Root


Christopher Epps, the full-time gardener responsible for cultivating the Proviso Giving Garden in Maywood. | Michael Romain/VFP

Saturday, July 8, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

The closing of Aldi in Maywood last year, and Ultra Food in Forest Park and Meijer in Melrose Park this year, have created something of a desert in Proviso Township when it comes to places residents can go to get fresh produce.

But on Madison St. in Maywood, right across the street from Proviso East High School and adjacent ReUse Depot, there’s an oasis.

“I grew too much,” said Christopher Epps, 36, during an interview on Saturday. Epps is the full-time gardener who is slowly, deliberately making the Proviso Partners Giving Garden the start of what he hopes will be a paradigm shift in how Proviso Township residents relate to the food they eat.

He pointed his soiled hand to raised beds of carrots, egg plants, bell peppers, jalapeños, yellow and blue watermelons, collard greens, brussels sprouts, swiss chard, tomato, rhubarb, basil, cilantro, dill — all of it grown organically on a sliver of land that’s roughly the size of someone’s backyard.

“I’m aiming to grow 4,000 pounds of [food],” Epps said. “Right now, I’m at, like, 487. At this rate, I might get more than 4,000 pounds.”

The work of Epps and the Giving Garden are the result of around $2.5 million in grants that Proviso Partners for Health (PP4H) will receive over five years from Trinity Health.

Formed in 2014, PP4H is a coalition of stakeholders that united to fight against childhood obesity in the western suburbs.

The community stakeholders include “Loyola University Health System, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing, as well as Proviso-Leyden Council for Community Action, Proviso East High School, Quinn Community Center, Green Business Network and more than a dozen other community and social service organizations, government agencies and businesses,” according to,” according to a 2016 Loyola statement announcing the series of Trinity grants.

Epps said he partnered with PP4H and Trinity in order “to teach all of the kids in the area how to grow food.” The grant funding allows Epps to work the garden full-time, 40 hours a week. Epps volunteers another 45 hours on top of the hours for which he’s paid. 

“This was a trial period,” Epps said of the garden, adding that if all goes according to his ambitions, the Madison Street garden will be the first of 13. He plans to set down 12 more gardens in Bellwood, Broadview and Maywood over the next three years.

Each Saturday this summer, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., volunteers will be selling produce grown in the Giving Garden on Madison at a farm stand erected in front of ReUse Depot. Prices for vegetable bundles, such as carrots and chard, range from $1 to $3.

What isn’t sold is donated to charities and social organizations like the Quinn Community Center in Maywood, where all of the produce from the garden is stored after its picked.

By September, Epps said, the garden’s produce will be sold on shelves in four corner stores — two in Maywood, one in Forest Park and one in Oak Park.

“The idea is to make Proviso Township a sustainable food hub,” said Epps. “Some people have to leave outside of the township just to get food and it shouldn’t be that way. You can have a neighborhood that way but you can never have a community that way.”

Epps said that the idea of eating organic produce is a learning process for many residents, one that he helps expedite by often giving away food to residents who live nearby and to the elderly.


Keion Mackey, a Berkeley resident who volunteers with the Proviso Giving Garden in Maywood. | Michael Romain/VFP

“This is food is healing people,” he said. “It’s also a tool for the elderly in the neighborhood to come out. Each morning I speak with them and we exchange ideas.”

The garden is also a place to cultivate young minds like that of Keion Mackey, a teenager who lives in Berkeley but who volunteers his time on the weekends at the garden.

“I’ve been gardening since I was little, when I did it with my grandmother,” he said. “It feels like I’ve been doing this my whole life. My family owns land in Arkansas and Mississippi that we lease to the government to grow soil.”

Alyssa Post, a rising senior at Illinois State University and aspiring dietician who is undergoing an internship at Loyola, said her time at the garden is essential to her career path.

“When I graduate this upcoming spring, I have to do dietetic rotations and Loyola has a master’s program that I eventually want to enroll in,” she said.

Until then, she takes in the hard-earned mastery of Epps, who was on an entirely different career trajectory before taking up gardening.

“Five years ago, I was a forklift operator at Waste Management,” he said. “I was stuck, though. My pay had peaked at around $19. I said, ‘I need to do something else.’ I saw an ad for an internship with the Chicago Botanical Garden. I applied, got it and graduated at the top of my class. They introduced me to PP4H.”

Epps said that, in addition to scaling up, his plans for the Madison St. garden point are sky high — quite literally.

“It’s going to get better,” he said. “I’m thinking about expanding to the roof. You know McCormick Place has the largest rooftop garden in the Midwest. I helped put it up there.” VFP

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At Proviso East, YMCA-trained Lifeguards Revive Old Pool

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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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Breaking: Maywood Could Raise Minimum Tobacco Age to 21

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

The Maywood Board of Trustees may pass an ordinance that would raise the minimum age required to buy tobacco products in the village from 18 to 21 years old.

During an April 26 Legal, License and Ordinance Meeting (LLOC), the village board voted unanimously to move the measure to the next regular meeting on May 2 for final approval. Trustees Antonette Dorris and Ron Rivers were absent.

The proposed ordinance was introduced at the urging of Maywood Police Chief Valdimir Talley, who said that the measure would help deter the sale of tobacco products to minors and young adults, “which often leads to loitering concerns around retail tobacco establishments,” according to a village memo.

“Proviso East stands next to two gas stations and we found that 18 year olds capture [tobacco] products from those gas stations, bring them into school and sell them,” Talley said.

The village has a partnership with the health advocacy organization Proviso Partners 4 Health, which is affiliated with Loyola University. Representatives with PP4H have been advocating for a new ordinance as a public health measure.

Talley said that if the measure passes, then retail establishments who sell tobacco products to minors would face a range of penalties,  including the revocation and suspension of their business licenses, that are similar to those for illegally selling alcohol.

Other municipalities that have raised the minimum age of tobacco sales to 21 years old include Oak Park, Chicago and Evanston.

The proposed ordinance in Maywood cites a range of statistics showing the negative public health effects of tobacco use, which “remains a leading cause of preventable premature death in the United States, killing nearly half-a-million Americans and costing the nation almost $200 billion in healthcare expenses and productivity each year.” VFP

Read the proposed ordinance below:

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In Maywood, Recycled Patriotism on Permanent Display

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A flag, made of wood and on permanent display outside of ReUse Depot in Maywood. Below, owner Kyle FitzGerald works with volunteers on building the installation. | William Camargo/Wednesday Journal 

Kyle Fitzgerald ReUseTuesday, July 12, 2016 || Originally Published: Forest Park Review || 7/5/16 || By John Rice

Patriotism was expressed in many different ways during the 4th of July weekend: parades, concerts, fireworks. But a special brand of patriotism was practiced at ReUse Depot, 50 Madison St.

Bill Grier, a Vietnam-era vet and employee of the sprawling reusable building material center, with the help of Boy Scouts from Forest Park, created a huge wooden American flag, now on permanent display in front of the facility.

Bill had a simple reason for starting the project.

“I love America,” he said. “We get a bit dysfunctional sometimes. But I wanted to put up something that shows we’re united. The flag is not a political statement. It says this is still America. I love the red, white and blue.”

It was even more meaningful for Bill to construct the flag with re-used products. He nailed together 12-foot boards and the Boy Scouts painted them red and white. They made sure to have the flag up on Madison Street in time for the 4th.

The flag may be a symbol of patriotism, but the facility is a tangible expression of the American spirit. It has 25,000 square feet of rebuilding materials. We used to talk about the American can-do spirit. It’s on full display at ReUse Depot, where everyone from artists to homeowners utilize doors, windows, light fixtures, etc. and keep them from being buried in a landfill.

The company was started by Kyle FitzGerald, who cares deeply about the Maywood community and its neighbors. For example, Bill worked with kids from Proviso Partners for Health to construct two long greenhouses along the west side of the building. These were high school-age kids being introduced to gardening.

“Kids today don’t know how fresh fruits and vegetables taste,” Bill said, “We teach them how to grow healthy food. We want to cut down on obesity and diabetes.” He noted that Maywood is considered a “food desert.” He’s seen a decline in families preparing home-cooked meals and gathering around tables for a family dinner. 

Bill would have none of that when he was raising his kids. He also grows a garden and raises chickens at his Leyden Township home. The former combat engineer has a degree in Sustainable Agricultural Technology. Working at ReUse Depot is a perfect fit for him.

The facility obtains its reusable treasures through OBI Deconstruction. For over 30 years, this company has been salvaging materials from renovations and teardowns. Their headquarters are also at 50 W. Madison St. The facility is not only a beehive of activity, it has an actual beehive. The building was formerly occupied by a printing company but it has patriotic origins: It first served as a National Guard armory.

When FitzGerald bought it, it didn’t have power, or running water, but it is now a well-ordered warehouse, surrounded by a lumber yard. FitzGerald has not only partnered with groups from Maywood, he has plans to allow Opportunity Knocks to grow their Knockout Pickles on the property.

So here’s a shout-out to Bill, Kyle, Katie and all the good people at ReUse Depot. We must also thank Boy Scouts Keegan and Peyton Brown, Donovan Wasilevich and Thomas Winniki. They took time out on a beautiful summer day to paint the symbol that reminds us we are all one.

During this election season, we need this brand of patriotism more than ever. VFP

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Briefly: Deadline For Disabled Veterans Homestead Exemption, March 2; Live Jazz; Food Patriots Film Screening; Upcoming Maywood Library Events; More

Homestead_Exemption.jpgWednesday, February 17, 2016 || By COMMUNITY EDITOR 

[By State Rep. Camille Y. Lilly]  State Rep. Camille Lilly, D-Chicago, is reminding eligible veterans that the deadline to apply for the veterans homestead exemption is March 2, encouraging them to take advantage of the new law increasing the amount received based on service-related disability.

“Increasing property tax relief for those who put their lives on the line to protect our country is the least we can do to show our appreciation,” Lilly said. “The law is a good step forward, but we cannot stop here in our resolve to give relief to our veterans. I want to make sure that our veterans can access and understand the application process to obtain this relief.”

Lilly supported the measure which expands eligibility for the disabled veterans homestead exemption to veterans who have United States Department of Veterans Affairs-certified service connected disabilities of at least 30 percent. Veterans are encouraged to apply for this exemption and can do so by contacting the Cook County Assessors Office’s website,www.cookcountyassessor.com, and download the proper exemption forms to mail in, or call the office at 312-443-7550. The deadline for applications is March 2 and they should be sent to the Cook County Assessor’s Office. The application must be renewed annually, as required by state law.

“During this difficult time in our state, this is another way we can help our veterans, but our work must continue to give them the proper resources needed to live independently,” Lilly said. “Efforts such as these are good examples of how we can work together to help out those in need, and it is my hope we can use that same spirit to fund the remaining human services that others rely on too.”

For additional information or if there are any questions, residents can contact Lilly’s full-time constituent service office at 773-473-7300 or email at StateRepCamilleYLilly@gmail.com.

For more facts about the Disabled Veterans Homeowners Exemption, click here.

Hat Tip to reader and supporter JoAnn Murphy for finding the information within the hyperlink. hat-tip

Live Jazz In Maywood, Feb. 27

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Maywood Public Library Upcoming Events

Maywood Library

Mo Beat Blues

On Saturday, February 20th, at 11:30 am, Mo Beat Blues will perform in room 201 of the Maywood Public Library District.  Along with music, Mo Beat Blues will also discuss the history of Blues, an African American form of music.

How Will I Achieve My Goals: Book Signing and Presentation

Regina R. Carver, a Certified Life Coach, will be visiting the Maywood Public LibraryDistrict on Saturday, February 27th, at 12:00 noon, to discuss the ideas in her book,How Will I Achieve My Goals: Six Simple Steps to Proven Success. Books will be available for purchase. This event will take place on the third floor of the Carnegie Building in room 201.

Loyola Health Screenings

Loyola medical students will visit the Maywood Public Library District to perform health screenings for the community between 5:00 pm and 6:30 pm. This will include blood pressure checks, nutrition counseling, advice on how to quit or cut down on smoking, and chronic diseases. These events are free to the public, and will take place on Wednesdays, February 24, March 16, and March 30.

Other events in March:

Book Signing: Unchanging Whys

T.L. Craig will be signing copies of her books, Unchanging Whys, at the MaywoodPublic Library District on Monday, March 7th, from 3:30-5:00 pm. Unchanging Whysis a suspense thriller that tells the story of China Barston, who is one of six children that is being raised by a single mother in New Berry, Illinois. When China meets Darren Rogers, also known as Crawl, she experiences feelings of love, and ignores teachings of her mother that were intended to protect her. Unchanging Whysshares the compelling story of an African-American girl’s coming-of-age journey, as she learns that loving the wrong man can sometimes come with life-changing repercussions. Craig grew up in Maywood, and attended Proviso East High School.

Tax-Free Investing

Herman Brunson of Balance Investments will visit the Maywood Public LibraryDistrict on Saturday, March 12, at 11:30 am to discuss tax free investment strategies.  This will be an interactive presentation, which will instruct participants on the advantages of tax savings and tax free investment opportunities.  Patrons are asked to RSVP at the Library’s Information Services Desk, or call the Library at 708-343-1847. Walk-ins will be allowed.

Loyola Health Screenings

Loyola medical students will visit the Maywood Public Library District to perform health screenings for the community between 5:00 pm and 6:30 pm. This will include blood pressure checks, nutrition counseling, advice on how to quit or cut down on smoking, and chronic diseases. These events are free to the public, and will take place on Wednesdays, February 24, March 16, and March 30.

District 89 Washington Dual Language Academy Recruiting

Washington Dual Language Academy will be in the Rotunda of the Maywood PublicLibrary District on Monday, March 14, from 3:30-5:30 pm. They will be providing information about their school, and offering handouts with more details.

e-Book Assistance

There will be a hands on workshop on how to use your tablet, e-reader, or laptop with Axis 360 at the Maywood Public Library District on Monday, March 21, from 4:00-6:00 pm in the Electronic Classroom.  Axis 360 allows library patrons to download e-books to their devices.  You may learn more about the Library’s e-books at MaywoodPublic Library District’s webpage for e-Read Illinois at http://www.maywood.org/library/eBooks_Axis360.html.

Quilting Display

On Saturday, March 26th, from 11:30-1:30 pm, there will be a display of the numerous quilts that have been made by the Quilting Class in rooms 201 and 202.

Quilting: Step-By-Step Instruction

If you are interested in learning how to construct quilts, please leave your information for Mildred A. Green at the Library by calling 708-343-1847, and ask for Information Services. The Quilting class meets at the Maywood Public Library District on everyTuesday from 12:00 noon until 2:30 pm in rooms 201 and 202.

Instructions in Sewing
People who are interested in learning some of the basic skills involved in constructing clothing will want to take this free class in rooms 201 and 202 of the Maywood PublicLibrary District on Thursdays from 12:00 noon until 2:30 pm.  Space is limited. In order to begin taking classes, please leave your information for Mildred A. Green at 708-343-1847.

Are you Ready?

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Food Patriots Film Screening at Proviso East, March 31

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