Thursday, July 30, 2020

Serving Sweetness, One Glass at a Time

By Joan Hadac
Editor and Publisher
Southwest Chicago Post

A little girl serving a sour drink is spreading sweetness
throughout Clearing and Garfield Ridge.

Nine-year-old Margaret Huitron’s lemonade stand in front of her home, across the street from the west edge of Wentworth Park, is typically open just two hours a day, four days a week.

But she’s pouring with a purpose.

After hearing that children will be required to wear masks while at school in the fall, Margaret—entering fourth grade at Kinzie Elementary School--decided she wanted to buy fun masks for all the students at school.

She told her mom, Theresa, that she thought some kids would be afraid to wear masks, especially the younger ones. So Margaret decided that colorful, fun masks would make wearing them less fearful for those students.

Theresa said she thought it was a wonderful idea, but asked Margaret how she would pay for the masks.

Margaret had the answer: a lemonade stand.

Mom’s response: “Let’s do it.”

Theresa and her husband, Fabian, invested in Margaret’s lemonade stand by buying her the supplies she needed. 
Margaret’s goal of 750 masks from the Crayola corporation would cost $3,900 before taxes.

Yet, she’s technically not selling lemonade (there is no “price” for a glass). She gives her stand’s visitors the option of donating what they can afford. Margaret said they could donate dollars or cents. All donations are welcome.

“She doesn’t keep any of it--but there was a gentleman who gave her a $10 donation for the masks,” Theresa says. “He also gave her $5 for herself, saying, ‘This is for you. You should set out a tip jar just for you.’ But Margaret hasn’t done it. She said she feels selfish doing it.”

With guidance from her mom and dad, Margaret operates a
stand that is a model of cleanliness and safety. She wears a mask and gloves, serves lemonade (yellow and pink) in disposable cups with straws and lids—and she has even chalked the sidewalk at six-feet intervals to encourage social distancing.

It’s working.

In a pandemic-weary world in which folks are longing for a little human contact, a little bit of life the way it used to be—Margaret is quenching people’s thirst, literally and figuratively. She has raised well over a thousand dollars, and her Facebook group went from zero to 300 members in the blink of an eye.

Margaret’s venture has also attracted the attention of some businessmen and women in the area. 

While Margaret’s first lemonade stand was cute and colorful, its cardboard design made it vulnerable to wind and rain.

So Theresa reached out to Geno Randazzo of All Exterior Contractors, a local business owner known for his generosity when it comes to the community, especially children.

She knew of Geno through his uncle, the late George Randazzo. Theresa, who is of Italian descent, knew George through his organization, The National Italian Sports Hall of Fame, as well as her visits to the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii in Little Italy.

Margaret also participated in a tribute to George Randazzo with her Little Lady Sinatra persona singing My Way. She and another young contestant won the contest. 

“It’s a small world,” Theresa says.

Geno came through. He sent over John Sabbia--who built a new, durable stand within an hour--free of charge. Margaret kept her parents up late one night to paint the stand with magnetic and chalkboard paint so she could hang things up. Geno and John also gave Margaret a $100 donation for the cause.

Original stand (right). New, sturdy stand (left).

Hearing of All Exterior’s good deed, Garfield Ridge Chamber of Commerce President Mary Ellen Brown stepped up next. She said going forward, if Margaret needed more supplies, the chamber would pay for them. Mary Ellen also extended an invitation to Margaret to set up her stand every Wednesday at the GRCC’s farmers market at Mayfield Banquets.

Theresa says they are investing in a credit card app, so donations will be easier. They also opened a PayPal account so people could donate through that. “People aren’t cashed based,” Theresa says. “People want to donate, so we wanted to make it simple. We are learning along the way.”

No matter how many masks Margaret is able to buy, she will hand them over to Kinzie Elementary School Principal Dawn Caetta at the beginning of the school year.

In the meantime, Theresa--who has lived in Garfield Ridge since she was 17 and once worked at the old Blockbuster Video and then TCF Bank, continues with her job as a home healthcare worker. Fabian is studying for his EMT exam and hopes to complete his studies at the Fire Academy to become a Chicago firefighter. 

Margaret wants to continue her lemonade stand after school starts. When the weather turns cold, she wants to convert it to a hot chocolate stand. 

“It’s gotten bigger than I thought,” Theresa adds with a chuckle.

Margaret’s Lemonade Stand is usually open noon to 2 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays in front of her home—and now 3 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays at the GRCC farmers market at Archer and Monitor.

See you there?

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Friday, July 10, 2020

Teens Launch Pony Ride Business

Popular with kids, available for rentals

By Tim Hadac
Managing Editor
Southwest Chicago Post

Motorists in Garfield Ridge have recently been heard saying things like “What the…?” and “Did I just see…?”

Cellphone photos of what they saw have been popping up on local Facebook pages.

The photos are of a miniature pony pulling a cart down a side street, and they represent the marketing-on-a-shoestring savvy of two high school entrepreneurs.

Matthew Orta and Armani Diaz are heading into their seniors years—Orta at St. Rita and Diaz at De La Salle. Both are 2017 graduates of St. Daniel the Prophet School.

“We plan to study business in college and become entrepreneurs,” Orta said. “We started by cutting lawns. We saved our money and then we saw that this kind of business—pony rides--had potential.”

Their path was made easier by Diaz’s grandfather, an immigrant farmer with a spread in Frankfort that includes trained ponies and other livestock.

Their unique business—simply named Garfield Ridge Pony Rentals—launched last week and offers rentals of two 2-year-old miniature ponies and three baby Nigerian dwarf goats.

Different deals and combinations are offered. The full package includes both ponies and the goats for two hours, at a rental price of $300.

The carts the ponies pull can carry several children at a time. The baby goats are presented petting zoo-style, in a small pen.

Orta and Diaz also clean up any mess the animals may make while they are at an event.

The teenagers see the venture as perfect for children’s parties and other festive occasions.

The animals are cared for humanely, Orta said. He and Diaz are at the farm daily, ensuring that the ponies and goats are well fed and have fresh water, and that they have access to veterinary care.

Should the venture succeed, Orta said he and Diaz envision expanding and even hiring their younger brothers to help run the business.

Those interested in more information on rental packages are advised to visit the pony rental service on Facebook.

Archdiocese Announces Schools Re-Opening Plans

Released to the press at 9:00 a.m. Friday, July 10:

The Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office of Catholic Schools
today released its plans to safely reopen school buildings in the fall. The COVID-19 pandemic has left its mark on education in Illinois, but our Catholic schools were praised by families for our ingenuity and creativity in responded to the challenge of providing virtual instruction to our more than 70,000 students.

“We live in extraordinary times and it is our intent to reopen our school buildings safely to all families this fall,” Dr. Jim Rigg, superintendent of the Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Schools. “Such a reopening has required careful and diligent planning on the part of our school employees, along with consultation from medical professionals, state and local officials, educators, parents, and others. We believe that in-person instruction is the best way to benefit our students and are committed to providing that instruction in a safe manner.”

Schools will completely revamp their approach to providing daily instruction and follow four guiding principles:

1. The safety and well-being of students and school employees is our primary concern and we will do what we must so everyone in our schools feels safe and undeterred.

2. Everything possible is being done to reopen school buildings and provide a faith-filled education in a safe and timely manner.

3. The progress of the COVID-19 pandemic in Illinois remains unpredictable and there is still potential that school buildings must be closed again if a significant rise in cases were to occur.

4. Faithful citizenship is key – we expect our families to take personal responsibility for the common good as well as their own safety.
Last month, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago, announced our intent to reopen school buildings for face-to-face classes this fall. Since that announcement, the Office of Catholic Schools has been working diligently to develop a specific plan for reopening through consultation with several groups, including the Archdiocesan COVID-19 Task Force, a panel of medical experts, state and local officials, priests, principals and school parents. Among the plan elements and rules are these:

All students over the age of 2 and school employees will be required to wear masks while indoors. Masks may only be removed during designated activities (such as lunch and recess) and only then if students remain physically distant.

Students will be assigned to a “cohort”, which will correspond to their homeroom class and will remain with those same classmates throughout the day. Students within a cohort will remain physically as far apart as possible to prevent the spread of illness.

Schools will provide new pick-up and drop-off procedures, walking routes within the buildings and other measures to limit the physical interaction of students. 

Parents will be asked to take their children’s temperatures daily. Temperature checks will also occur as students enter the school building every day.

Schools will adhere to infection protocols, requiring any student who presents symptoms of COVID-19 and/or tests positive for the virus to quarantine and seek medical attention before returning to class.

Finally, families who are not ready for their children to return to classrooms will still have the option for online learning.
“We have worked hard to provide a reopening plan that recognizes the great benefits of in-school instruction and still expresses our commitment to the preservation of human life,” said Cardinal Cupich. “Even in the best of times, our schools help ensure children have good nutrition and a safe place to learn. It is even more important that families have access to these benefits during the pandemic.” 

For more information on the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Catholic schools, visit

The Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic schools serve nearly 70,000 students in 199 schools in Cook and Lake counties. It is one of the largest private school systems in the United States and the recipient of the greatest number of U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon Awards of any school system – public or private.

The Archdiocese of Chicago, the third largest in the United States, serves more than 2.2 million Catholics in 293 parishes in Cook and Lake Counties, a geographic area of 1,411 square miles. The archdiocese, pastored by Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, has more than 15,000 employees in its systems and ministries, including Catholic Charities, the region's largest nonprofit social service agency. The archdiocese also has one of the country's largest seminaries. The archdiocese's 199 elementary and secondary schools comprise one of the largest U.S. private school systems. It has garnered more U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon Awards than any system of any type.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Crime News Update

Editor's note: The crime news reported by the Southwest Chicago Post---taken directly from Chicago Police Department incident reports---is not by any means an exhaustive catalogue of all crime reported in the Chicago Lawn (8th) District. For example, it typically does not include news of crimes committed in the eastern sectors of the district---because the Southwest Chicago Post's coverage area is primarily the neighborhoods that border Midway Airport and secondarily because including the relatively large volume of crime news from elsewhere in the district would be a logistical challenge. We make this note to offer a little helpful perspective and remind everyone that while crime is definitely a concern in all parts of the district (as it always has been), crime remains relatively low overall in the western section of the district. May all of us work together diligently to keep it that way. May all of us also remember that a person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

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Two shot during argument on 79th Street

Two people were shot as they argued with each other near 79th and Komensky at about 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, July 7. Police said that one, a man about 30 years of age, was shot in the head. He was transported to Advocate Christ Medical Center, where he was listed in critical condition. The second person was described by police as a "male of unknown age" who sustained a graze wound to his right arm. He refused medical attention. CPD said they have not yet determined who is a victim and who is an offender in the case. Detectives are investigating.

Man charged with domestic battery again
Efrain O'Neill

A 31-year-old Brighton Park man was charged with domestic battery after he was arrested at his home in the 4600 block of South Spaulding at 2 a.m. Thursday, July 2.

Efrain O’Neill allegedly punched a 32-year-old woman in the face during an argument. 

According to public records, O’Neill has been arrested 12 times since 2016 on such charges as domestic battery (six times), criminal damage to property, burglary and criminal trespass to land.

Say man broke CTA bus door glass
Albert Lindsey

A 67-year-old Washington Park man was charged with criminal damage to property after he was arrested at the CTA bus turnaround at the Orange Line terminal, 4612 W. 59th St., at 6:05 p.m. Sunday, June 28.

Albert Lindsey, of the 300 block of East 56th Street, allegedly kicked the door of a CTA bus, causing the glass to shatter.

According to public records, Lindsey has been arrested three times by CPD since 2014 on charges that included battery and heroin possession.

Bust Burbank man on drug charge
Marcin Dzierzega

A 27-year-old man from suburban Burbank was charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia after he was arrested during a traffic stop at 6258 S. Pulaski at 8:59 p.m. Thursday, July 2.

Marcin Dzierzega, of the 6700 block of West 81st Street, was taken into custody after police found drugs inside his vehicle, a CPD spokesman said. He also was charged with driving on a suspended license.

According to public records, Dzierzega has been arrested five times by CPD since 2015 on charges that included possession of a controlled substance and violating an order of protection.

Bust man on drug rap during traffic stop
Marcos Gonzalez

A 26-year-old Gage Park man was charged with possession of a controlled substance after he was arrested during a traffic stop in the 5000 block of South Lawndale at 8:33 p.m. Thursday, July 2.

Marcos A. Gonzalez, of the 5200 block of South Campbell, also was cited for unlawful possession of cannabis and driving on a suspended license. 

Hit Joliet man with reckless driving charge
Jesse Torres

A 53-year-old Joliet man was charged with reckless driving, as well as driving without insurance, after he was arrested at 6659 S. Cicero at 3:21 p.m. Thursday, July 2.

Jesse Torres, of the 1000 block of Loren, allegedly was driving a vehicle that hit another on Marquette Road, just east of Cicero, and then struck some road construction barriers at Cicero.

According to public records, Torres was arrested by CPD in 2014, near 119th and State, and charged with heroin and cocaine possession.

Claim tow truck driver illegally solicited business
Gustavo Dirzo-Bello

A 34-year-old Scottsdale man was charged with unlawful solicitation of business by a tow truck operator after he was arrested in the 3600 block of West Columbus at 8:39 p.m. Wednesday, June 24.

Gustavo Dirzo-Bello, of the 7800 block of South Kilpatrick, was apprehended without incident, a CPD spokesman said without elaborating.

According to public records, Dirzo-Bello was arrested at his home last December and charged with two counts of possession of a controlled substance and two counts of possessing a firearm without a valid FOID card.

Charge Vittum Park man with domestic battery
Hugo Miranda

A 45-year-old Vittum Park man was charged with domestic battery after he was arrested at his home in the 4900 block of South Lamon at 6:40 p.m. Saturday, June 27.

Hugo Miranda allegedly punched a woman in the face during an argument. A charge of possession of a controlled substance was added after officers reportedly found an illegal narcotic on Miranda, according to a CPD spokesman.

According to public records, Miranda was arrested by CPD in 2014 near 46th and Cicero and charged with aggravated DUI, driving under the influence of drugs and driving on a revoked license.

Threatened me with an ax, man tells police
Manuel Ruiz

A 39-year-old Little Village man was charged with aggravated assault after he was arrested in the 5700 block of South Karlov at 11:01 p.m. Saturday, June 6.

Manuel Ruiz, of the 2300 block of South Drake, allegedly used an ax to threaten a 25-year-old man, according to a CPD spokesman who was unable to say if police recovered an ax. 

According to public records, Ruiz has been arrested six times by CPD in the last 18 months, on charges that included assault, criminal trespass to land, drinking alcohol on the public way and criminal trespass to property.

Claim man threatened police at Midway
Michael Shropshire

A 27-year-old West Englewood man was charged with criminal trespass to land after he was arrested at Midway Airport at 6:50 a.m. Sunday, May 31.

Michael Curry Shropshire, of the 6300 block of South Wood, reportedly refused to leave his seat in an airport-owned wheelchair when asked to do so. A charge of resisting arrest—as well as charges of assault and battery of a peace officer—were added after Shropshire allegedly threatened to beat two police officers and then threw punches, a CPD spokesman said.

According to public records, Shropshire has been arrested six times by CPD since 2015 on such charges as domestic battery, criminal trespass to land and criminal damage to government property.

Bust Downers Grove man on weapons charge
Creston Robinson

A 24-year-old Downers Grove man was charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon after he was arrested during a traffic stop in the 6000 block of South Central at 2:27 a.m. Thursday, June 4.

Creston R. Robinson, of the 100 block of 2nd Street, was allegedly in possession of a loaded handgun, a CPD spokesman said.

According to public records, Robinson has been arrested four times by CPD since 2014, on charges that included resisting a peace officer and solicitation of a sex act.

Say man spat in police officer’s face
Danny Fernandez

A 30-year-old West Elsdon man was charged with criminal damage to property after he was arrested in the 4300 block of West 55th Street at 2:45 a.m. Monday, June 8.

Danny Fernandez, of the 5300 block of South Kilbourn, was charged in connection with an incident that allegedly occurred at the gas station at 55th and Kostner minutes earlier. A charge of aggravated battery was added after he allegedly spat in the face of a police officer at the scene.

According to public records, Fernandez has been arrested seven times by CPD since 2014, on such charges as aggravated DUI, domestic battery, sale/possession of a deadly weapon, resisting arrest and criminal trespass to property.

Choked me with an extension cord, woman says
Vincent Hall

A 31-year-old South Shore man was charged with domestic battery after he was arrested at the Aloha Motel, 8515 S. Cicero, at 5:54 a.m. Friday, June 5.

Vincent Hall, of the 1100 block of East 81st Place, allegedly walked up behind up 31-year-old woman and choked her with an extension cord before she managed to break free and escape, a CPD spokesman said.

According to public records, Hall has been arrested five times by CPD since 2018.

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