Tag: Theodore Matthews

New Church To Settle Inside Cinemark Theater In Melrose Park


Cinemark Theater in Melrose Park, which will host Empowerment Church on Sundays starting March 27. | Cinematreasures.org

Thursday, March 24, 2016 || By Michael Romain 

Starting this weekend, a trip to Cinemark in Melrose Park will mean more than an afternoon matinee. This upcoming Easter Sunday, Proviso Township’s newest congregation, Empowerment Church, will host its first service inside of the multiplex.

Theodore Matthews, the church’s founding lead pastor, is a former minister at Rock of Ages Baptist Church in Maywood and has served in other religious capacities. He said he started the church to fill a local need that he believed isn’t being substantially addressed in an area that’s already saturated with churches.

“We see a lot of buildings, but the question that arises is, are there still people who are not being reached and who will not come into a ‘traditional’ environment, but who may be willing to try something different,” he said in a recent interview.

Matthews said his church would cater to people who may have been hurt during past church encounters.

“The local church was designed to be the place where lost can be found, where the broken can healed and the wounded can be restored. Empowerment Church is a place of love, a place of hope and a place restoration.”

Empowerment started out of a weekly Bible study group that met each Thursday night in River Forest, said the 20-something-year-old. Matthews, a Maywood native, graduated from Walther Lutheran High School (now Walther Christian Academy).

“What prompted me to start Empowerment Church was an undeniable calling through a burden placed on my heart to see people reached, lives restored and generations impacted through the message of hope found in Jesus Christ,” he said.

“Our commitment is to not just being a church in the community but a church for the community, so we have a strong focus on outreach and having multi-generational impact.”

The married father of one outlined his church’s main avenues of influence and detailed some of the outreach programs community members might anticipate.

“Some important aspects of the church’s mission would be community outreach, and empowering individuals and their families with the tools necessary live lives of promise and hope,” he said.

Matthews noted that the church plans to hold seminars, empowerment sessions and a summer fest in the near future. He also said that the church would partner with local and national organizations “to serve the under-served.” The Saturday before the inaugural service, the church will host an Easter Egg Hunt.

Another point of emphasis — modernity.

Empowerment is a “church that redefines what modern society has made the church out to be,” according to the statement online.

That partly means services that are “90 minutes or less,” welcome teams sporting blue “Ask Me” t-shirts as parishioners and guests file into the movie theater, a familiar “radio” song playing softly over the sound system before the service begins and, perhaps the biggest break with convention, a lot less pressure on attendees during offering.

“We’ve all heard it said before, ‘The church just wants my money.’ At Empowerment there is no pressure to give in any of our services,” the church statement notes.

“In fact, if you’re our guest please don’t feel any obligation to give — the service is our gift to you. There will be a time during our services where we will receive an offering in accordance to what scripture teaches and we encourage those who believe in Empowerment Church and consider themselves to be a part of the Empowerment Family to continually support the mission of the church with their giving.”

Those who do give, however, may prefer to do so online, the statement notes. VFP 

Empowerment’s first service, and all subsequent Sunday services, will be held March 27, 10 AM, at Cinemark Theater, 1001 W. North Ave., in Melrose Park. For more information on the church, click here.

B A C K-T O-B A C K   E A S T E R   E V E N T S

Easter Egg EmpowermentEaster Egg AK

Analyzing Campaign Cash in D209 Board Race

Children FirstFriday, April 17, 2015 || Originally Published: School Board Focus West || By Jean Lotus 

A grassroots campaign of motivated volunteers, many from Forest Park, toppled a 15-year majority on the school board of Proviso Township High School District 209 this April. How did it happen? Campaign contributions to the political committees of each slate tell part of the story.

The Proviso Children’s First Party raised almost 50 percent more money than the Proviso Together slate of Theresa Kelly, Claudia Medina and Ned Wagner. For the 12,093 ballots cast in the race, Kelly, Medina and Wagner raised $2.44 per vote while Children’s First raised $3.67, nearly 50 percent more.

Analyzing how the money flows in local elections is mostly a hindsight game, as the State of Illinois does not require political committees to disclose contributions until April 15, after the votes have been counted for local elections the first Tuesday of April. Furthermore, by that date candidates are only required to disclose contributions and disbursements up until April 1. This leaves money-shifting in a campaign’s final days under wraps until July, when committees disclose their second quarter numbers.

But in the case of District 209, illuminating differences show up between the committees of Proviso Together and Proviso Children’s First Party in the amounts donated, number of donors and the people writing checks.

Citizens for Kelly, Medina and Wagner raised $29,477 between Jan. 1 –March 31, including in-kind donations. The Proviso Children’s First Party raised almost 50 percent more, reporting $44,339 in all contributions.

A difference was the Children’s First slate received a much higher amount of in-kind donations, including last-minute printing donations totaling $11,664 reported April 1 from 7th District State Rep. Chris Welch and Del Galdo Law Group, the school district’s law firm.

The number of donors and amounts given also underscores the differences in the campaigns. As might be expected in a grass-roots campaign, Kelly, Medina and Wagner received donations from 35 individual donors, many of whom had Forest Park addresses. Donations were small but frequent, ranging from $25 to $650 for a total of 96. One local politician, Forest Park Village Commissioner and mayoral candidate Chris Harris, gave three donations totaling $355.

The Children’s First committee was able to take in more money from fewer donors, and stretched its fundraising reach to politicians outside Proviso Township. The committee reported 17 total donations between Feb. 22– when it was formed — and April 1.

Political transfers

Children’s First received $500 each from the war chests of Mayor Larry Dominick of Cicero; 92nd Dist. Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth of Peoria and the SEIU Local 73 PAC. Proviso Township Supervisor Michael Corrigan also kicked in $500.

During this timeframe these politicians also transferred money among and between the political campaign chests of mayors Ron Serpico of Melrose Park; Christopher Getty of Lyons and Steve Landek of Bridgeview, as well as Cook County Commissioner Jeffrey Tobolsky of McCook.

Another familiar political name to Forest Parkers was Forest Park’s hired lobbyist Matthew O’Shea who donated $500 to Children’s First. O’Shea pops up on Welch’s campaign donor list multiple times over the past several years.


The amount of money contributed by candidates and their households was almost 10 times higher by Children’s First candidates than the Kelly-Medina-Wagner slate.

Candidates Francine Harrell, Teddy Matthews and ShawnTe Raines-Welch each donated $5,000 to the committee. When family contributions from Chris Welch to his wife’s campaign are included, the total amount self-financed was $20,075.

In contrast Nathan “Ned” Wagner and family members donated around $1,900 to the campaign, and candidate Theresa Kelly donated $850.

Business donations

Other heavy-hitters to the Children’s First campaign included businesses Restore Construction ($1,000) and M & M Building Services ($250), both vendors to the school district. Both companies were hired in the $5 million reconstruction of Proviso East High School after a May 2014 fire.

There was only one business donation to Kelly Medina and Wagner: $500 from Circle F Properties in Naperville.

Proviso District 209 School Board race by the numbers:

Proviso Together vs. Children’s First

Number of donors: 35 vs. 13

Number of donations: 95 vs. 17

Contributed $ per vote $2.49 vs. $3.67

Candidate self-financing $2,750 vs. $20,075

Political committee transfers $0 vs. $2,000

Total contributions $29,477 vs. $44,339 VFP

Contact: schoolboardfocuswest@gmail.com. 

Mystery Campaign Flyers Enter D209 Race

D209 Mailer Rotated

A mailer paid for by the mysterious Proviso Ministers Alliance. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015 || Originally Published: The Forest Park Review || By Bob Skolnik

Candidates say ads seem intent on sowing confusion and racial division

With the school board election just one week away, the silly season in the hotly contested Proviso District 209 school board race has arrived. Fliers have begun appearing that seem to be trying to cut into support for hometown candidates Ned Wagner and Claudia Medina.

Backers of the opposing Children First Party slate, which consists of incumbent Francine Harrell, ShawnTe Raines-Welch (wife of former D209 board president and current state Rep. Chris Welch) and Theodore Matthews, are attacking Wagner and Medina and their running-mate Theresa Kelly. They are also attacking Mayor Anthony Calderone. Two fliers rip into Calderone, who has endorsed Medina and Wagner but not Kelly. One seems explicitly designed to appeal to supporters of Calderone’s opponent in the mayoral election, Chris Harris, and independent village council candidate Dan Novak.

On one side of that flier is a picture of Calderone cupping his hands to his mouth with the words “Proviso High School Stinks.” The rest of that side of the flier is devoted to derogatory comments about Calderone’s performance in office with statements such as “Calderone’s failures have led businesses and residents to leave Forest Park for better communities.”

The other side of the flier urges voters to vote for Harris for mayor, Novak for commissioner and Matthews, Raines-Welch and Harrell for the District 209 Board of Education.

D209 Mailer Rotated II

The reverse side of the mailer.

The flier is paid for and being mailed to voters by the previously unheard-of group Citizens for a Better Forest Park. No record of Citizens for a Better Forest Park exists, but campaign committees do not have to register with the state unless they raise $5,000.

The irony of the flier is that Harris and Novak have both been vocal supporters of the 209 Together slate of Medina, Wagner and Kelly.

“It’s just a filthy campaign trick,” said Harris. “The [Children’s First slate] people know they’re going to get hammered in Forest Park, and they’re trying to deceive to get votes in any way they can. They’re pulling out all the stops. I received dozens of calls and emails after that came out from confused people, and I had to clearly state yet again that in no way am I supporting those three people.”

Raines-Welch told the Forest Park Review that she doesn’t know who is behind Citizens for a Better Forest Park.

Calderone also said he didn’t know who was behind the fliers attacking him.

Another flier — this one paid for something called the Proviso Township Ministers Alliance, which apparently doesn’t exist (though there is a Proviso Township Ministerial Alliance) — seems to be playing the race card by specifically appealing to black voters. It was put on car windshields last Sunday while both sets of candidates were appearing at the Rock of Ages Baptist Church in Maywood.

On one side of the flier is a photograph of a black teenage boy with the statement, “Shouldn’t Those We Elect to Our School Board Understand Our Community?”

On the other side are photos of Wagner who is white and Medina who is Hispanic, along with photos of Harrell, Raines-Welch and Matthews, who are black. The flier claims that “Mayor Calderone is trying to take over the board by electing members of his community when they make up less than 10% of the entire district.”

The flier urges people to vote for Harrell, Matthews and Raines-Welch. It says, “On April 7, Reject Anthony Calderone by Voting for Candidates Who Understand Our Community.”

“It leaves out the fact that the third person on our ticket is Theresa Kelly, an African American woman from Maywood,” Wagner said. “They’re targeting African American people in Maywood, which is largely the people who go to Rock of Ages. And then they’re pitting Forest Park against Maywood.”

Theresa Kelly RotatedAnother flier, this one paid for by the Children First Party, attacks Kelly. It shows an apparently manipulated photo of Kelly at a resort swimming pool and accuses her of taking more taxpayer-funded trips than all other Proviso school board members combined. Kelly has served on the school board for 16 years, longer than any other member of the board. On other side of the flier is the photo of a boy sitting in a classroom with his head down on his knees. Under the photo is the caption, “Under Board Member Theresa Kelly’s Leadership 80% of Proviso Students Are Not Academically Prepared To Attend College.”

Raines-Welch, who is married to state Rep. Chris Welch, a longtime former Proviso 209 school board president, said the flier is a fair response to Kelly citing her long tenure on the school board.

“She’s the one going around touting that she’s been the longest-serving member, so it’s only logical that she had a hand in the state of the district at this point,” Raines-Welch said. “Remember, it didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t happen just by her sitting by idly on the sidelines. You can attribute that flier as a response to her own comments.”

Wagner called the fliers “hate pieces.”

“They’re putting out a lot of hate,” Wagner said. “This is a school board election; we’re talking about the education of our children. These people are campaigning on a message of hate and smear, and I find that repellent.”

He said the fliers are a sign that his opponents are worried.

“I think what it boils down to is that they’re scared,” Wagner said. “I don’t think in their wildest dreams they thought they would encounter a grassroots movement of this magnitude.” VFP