Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Ballet Performance Coming to Clearing

Boitsov students, guest artists to perform

By Joan Hadac
Editor and Publisher
Southwest Chicago Post

The community is invited to enjoy a live ballet performance by students of the Boitsov Classical Ballet School, set for 1 to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, July 23 at the Clearing Branch Library, 6423 W. 63rd Place.

The school, currently located in a storefront studio at 6102 S. Archer, is owned and operated by Madame Elizabeth Boitsov, an internationally acclaimed Russian ballet teacher who began training in the art when she was a small child, more than 60 years ago.

“I am excited about this event,” Madame Elizabeth said. “We continue to have a great opportunity to bring dance to many children in the Midway area. I am optimistic about our future, and I hope people of all ages join us.”

In addition to the Boitsov students, there are expected to be dancers from the Bray Ballet in Wisconsin, as well as other individual dancers of acclaim.

The school teaches the Vaganova Technique of Russian classical ballet. “This technique is practiced around the world,” according to a statement on the Boitsov website. “It is the highest standard by which a professional ballet dancer is trained.”

The school accepts girls and boys as young as age 4 and teaches them all the way to adulthood, with an eye on them having careers as professional dancers.

While most will not choose a career as a dancer, the lessons learned at Boitsov go far beyond the stage.

“The benefits acquired from the program are not only important in ballet, but can be very beneficial for students to apply to life in general,” Madame Elizabeth says on her website. “Boitsov Classical Ballet School's program helps students to develop discipline, personal power, self-awareness, body awareness, self-confidence, and to develop the love and passion to achieve whatever endeavors and dreams their heart desires.”

She left the old Soviet Union in the 1970s, teaching ballet in Poland and later Sweden, before coming to the U.S. and eventually setting up shop in Chicago in early 1980.
Madame Elizabeth

With her husband, Vladamir, she founded her school in the South Loop, along with a ballet company. Both thrived and drew critical acclaim until Vladamir died from lung cancer in 2000. The company shut down, but Madame Elizabeth maintained the school.

In 2013, she closed its downtown location and relocated to Garfield Ridge—a move she called “a dream” she and her husband shared, to make classical ballet more accessible to communities not normally exposed to it. She lives in Garfield Ridge.

The school’s move was made possible through assistance from the Greater Southwest Development Corporation, which in recent years has helped her organize her school from the business end. DevCorp operations director Tina James called the school “a gem” that all Southwest Siders should be proud to have.

Monday, July 11, 2022

‘Me? A school bus driver?’

Yes you, First Student says

By Tim Hadac
Managing Editor
Southwest Chicago Post

In a world where “Help Wanted” signs now outnumber “Wear a Mask” signs by about a thousand to one (or so it seems), employers across the board are scrambling to compete for prospective employees like never before.

Having a leg up on the competition are companies already known for good pay, flexible schedules and strong benefits—like First Student, widely known as one of North America’s leading school transportation providers in North America. Its yellow school buses are a fixture across the Chicago area.

“This is a very good place to work, no doubt,” said Andrew Zanoni Field Supervisor and Recruiting Team Leader at First Student’s terminal in Hodgkins. “We draw people from different age groups and different positions in life. We have a workforce that is diverse, capable and motivated.”

Zanoni himself is an example. He started with the company in 2017 as a college student (majoring in industrial design) seeking a part-time gig while he was away from school.

First Student attracts its share of college students, but also retirees and middle-aged folks seeking new employment because their companies downsized.

One of those people is Chicago Lawn resident Rita Bencomo, 51, who has been driving school buses for 20 years—the last 13 with First Student.

“Years ago, I was a stay-at-home mom with four kids who took the bus to school,” she said. “I got to know one of the drivers on our route. She was a nice person. One day she asked me, ‘Why don’t you drive a school bus?’ I had not thought about it; but then I did, so I thought I’d try it.”

These days during school years, the grandmother of 10 most frequently runs routes for Argo Community High School and Lyons Township High School, as well as Jefferson Middle School.

“I like working for First Student,” she said. “Getting kids to and from school safely is important, and I’m proud that I’m a part of that.”

Tinley Park resident Rosa Lanagan, 32, was a 21-year-old working at Menards when she a First Student recruiting sign.

“At first, I thought, ‘Me? A school bus driver?’ But I guess I’m a little adventurous, so I said, ‘Bring it’ and my friend and I decided to give it a try.”

Years later, Lanagan has succeeded and worked her way up into a First Student supervisor’s spot—training prospective drivers and helping with recruitment.

“It’s worked out well,” she said. “As a driver, you typically handle a few hours in the morning; then you’re off and come back for a few hours after school.

“But there are a lot of options to get just about as many more hours as you want, with all the charters we run in the evenings and on weekends—everything from taking athletic teams and school clubs to games, to school field trips, to summer camps outside the Chicago area, everything,” she continued. “It’s technically part-time employment, but you have the opportunity to make it into more than that. And you’re not your own boss actually, but once you’re behind the wheel, you feel like it, and that’s a good feeling.”

Zanoni said First Student offers paid training at $15 an hour, but then $21 an hour once employment starts—with a $5,000 sign-up bonus. He said First Student’s Hodgkins facility boasts a fleet of well-maintained buses, many of which are new.

A limited number of jobs are open now for drivers, dispatchers and more. For more information, visit workatfirst.com and put your home ZIP code in the search engine.

According to a company statement, "First Student strives to provide the best start and finish to every school day. With a team of highly-trained drivers and the industry’s strongest safety record, First Student delivers reliable, quality services, including full-service transportation and management, special-needs transportation, route optimization, and scheduling, maintenance, and charter services with a fleet of about 40,000 buses. For more information, please visit firststudentinc.com."

Driving a bus not magical

But it feels that way, I learned

By Steve Metsch

En route to my debut driving a school bus, I got psyched up listening to “Magic Bus” by The Who.

“I don’t want to cause no fuss,” Roger Daltrey sang, “but can I buy your magic bus?”

I didn’t have $100,000 to buy a new yellow school bus.

But it does feel magical driving a 38-foot, 18,400-pound rig.

Alas, I was not allowed to drive the bus on local streets. Something about needing a permit.

But I did drive around the bus lot at First Student, 8600 W. 67th St. Hodgkins.

Driving a bus is fun. Power steering. Power brakes. Good acceleration. Seven mirrors. It’s a lot like my Hyundai Sonata, albeit nearly four times as long.

Yes, a bus is enormous.

Making a turn? Give yourself a wide berth. That’s easy in a parking lot.

I would need every minute of training - 13 classroom hours and 40 behind-the-wheel hours - to turn safely from Archer onto Narragansett, carting kids to Kennedy High School, for example.

My instructor was First Student Field Supervisor Andrew Zanoni. He’s again driving buses, as the company is a handful of drivers short of the 160 it needs for its 200-bus fleet.

Zanoni, 26, wonders if there’s a shortage—a national shortage across the industry, in fact--because people don’t like the hours. I joked that it’s because their buses don’t have air conditioning. (Actually, a number of them do.)

Seriously, if you need information about a school bus, Zanoni knows them inside out.

“Always check your mirrors. That’s one of the things you get good at driving a bus,” he said. “People don’t realize that a lot of times, a bus will handle as good as your car once you get comfortable navigating with the size.”

I felt comfortable behind the wheel. Keep in mind, there is a 5 mph speed limit in the lot and no traffic.

There’s plenty to remember driving a bus. Like when I wanted to stop and drop off our photographer.

“Put the bus into neutral, please,” Zanoni said. “Use your left foot to push the parking brake pedal to the floor. The door switch is the red one to the right of the gear shift.”

Why do school bus drivers open the door at railroad crossings? To listen for trains. There’s a laundry list of things to do at a bus stop.

Zanoni later had me back into a diagonal parking space using the mirrors. No flinging my right arm over the car seat and turning my head around as I have for decades.

I parked inside the lines. Did not hit another bus. “Great job,” he said. Maybe I found a new gig.

Potential drivers are paid $15 per hour for 40 hours of training, he said. If they feel they need more, they can have more. 

If hired, they earn $21 per hour for the 2022-23 school year.

You are guaranteed two hours in the morning, two in the afternoon, even if your route takes less time. There’s a chance to make more money on side jobs.

Zanoni, who has never had an accident and has driven a bus 75 mph on a highway, later took me on a brief tour of La Grange. I marveled at his driving skills on narrow streets.

Two motorists honked at us. How dare we stop a school bus at a railroad crossing? 

Even with jerks like that, Zanoni loves his job.

“The kids are usually really good,” he said. “If you lay out the rules on the first day, they’ll be angels the rest of the year.”

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Coming Soon: Two Holy Martyrs' Family Fest Offers Four Days of Carnival Fun

By Tim Hadac
Managing Editor
Southwest Chicago Post

After a pandemic-driven absence of two years, Two Holy Martyrs Parish’s Family Fest has returned.

The carnival is set for Thursday, July 14 through Sunday, July 17 on parish grounds at 62nd and Austin. This is the event 27th year, and it is the parish’s largest and most important fundraiser.

Family Fest hours are 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 1 to 10 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 8:30 p.m. Sunday.

The event will be paused briefly when the Rev. Bob Regan, pastor, celebrates an outdoor Mass (weather permitting) at 5 p.m. Saturday, July 16.

Celebrating a Mass in the middle of festivities underscores the purpose of Family Fest, according to event co-chairs Tom DeRose and Ken Hilliard.

“This is all about families,” Hilliard said. “It’s about our parish families and families from the larger community. That’s why we’re having the Mass. That’s why we have worked to keep our prices affordable. That’s why our parish families and our school families are so involved in Family Fest.”

Admission is free, and the event will feature 16 carnival rides, games of skill and chance, and standard food fare like popcorn, cotton candy, corn dogs and more.

Family Fest also features food booths from Taqueria la Ciudad, Strawberry Patch, Gaby’s Funnel Cakes, Tropical Sno, as well as a THM booth selling pizza and Italian beef from Barraco’s.

Bingo will be played each day in the air-conditioned I Hall. A “super bingo” with a grand prize of $500 is scheduled for Sunday.

Family Fest also includes a grand raffle with a grand prize of $10,000, as well as 19 other cash prizes. Grand raffle tickets are $20 each or six for $100. They may be purchased after weekend Masses or at Family Fest itself. Drawing will be held at 8:30 p.m. Sunday. Winners need not be present.

Individual ride tickets will be sold at the carnival. Wristbands offering unlimited rides for all four days are on sale now for $50 each through July 10. Wristbands are on sale after weekend Masses or at the parish office, 6135 S. Austin. The price goes up to $60 when purchased from July 11-13. They are $70 each when purchased at Family Fest itself. Additionally, one-day wristbands will be sold for $35, each day of Family Fest.

Carnival rides will be free to people with special needs from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, when accompanied by parents or legal guardians.

Family Fest also features a live-entertainment lineup.

The rock cover band Sixteen Candles will take the stage from 7 to 10 p.m. Thursday. The popular pop/rock group Maggie Speaks is set for 7 to 10 p.m. Friday.

Boy Band Night, a ‘90s cover band, will take the stage from 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday.

Young people from Darla’s Dance Studio will perform from 1:30 to 2 p.m. Sunday; and then Radio Gaga—a band performing covers of Lady Gaga and Queen songs—takes the stage from 5 to 8 p.m.

For more information on Family Fest, call the THM Parish office at (773) 767-1523 or send an email to info@twoholymartyrs.org.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

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.

* * *

Charged again with retail theft

A 56-year-old Englewood man was charged with retail theft after he was arrested at a store in Ford City at 1:25 p.m. Wednesday, May 25.

Jimmie D. Bentley, of the 6300 block of South Justine, was detained by store security until police arrived. A CPD spokesman declined to name the store or say exactly what was allegedly stolen.

According to public records, Bentley has been arrested 12 times by CPD since 2014 on charges that included soliciting unlawful business, criminal trespassing, criminal damage to property, possession of a controlled substance and retail theft (eight times).

Weapons charge for Oak Lawn man

A 22-year-old man from suburban Oak Lawn was charged with unlawful use of a weapon after he was arrested in the 3100 block of West 59th Street at 7:46 p.m. Wednesday, May 25.

Matthew Jose A. Rivera, 10400 block of South Mason, was taken into custody after a pat down revealed he was carrying a handgun, a CPD spokesman said without elaborating.

According to public records, Rivera was arrested by CPD in June 2021 in the 1600 block of North Lake Shore Drive and charged with unlawful use of a weapon.

* * *
Want to work directly with Chicago Police to prevent crime in your neighborhood? If you live in and/or own a business in Beat 812 (see map) make plans to attend your next CAPS meeting, set for 7:00 p.m. Wednesday, July 13 at the Clearing Branch Library, 6423 West 63rd Place. Hear updates on crime in your neighborhood and learn how you can work with neighbors and police to make the community safer and better for all. Expected to attend this meeting is Chicago Lawn (8th) District Commander Bryan Spreyne.

* * *

Arrested three times in three weeks

A 29-year-old Garfield Ridge man was charged with violating a “no contact” order after he was arrested in the 5600 block of South Menard at 11:02 a.m. Tuesday, June 14.

Luigi Versace, of the 5200 block of West 52nd Street, allegedly violated a judge’s order that he not have contact with a 47-year-old man, a CPD spokesman said without elaborating. He also was charged with resisting arrest.

The arrest was the third time Versace was apprehended by CPD within a three-week period at the same address on Menard. He was arrested on June 2 and charged with violating an order of protection and on May 28, when he was charged with criminal trespass to land.

Claim man would not leave pub

A 54-year-old man from suburban La Grange was charged with criminal trespass to land after he was arrested at Halina’s Pub, 7023 W. Archer, at 12:55 a.m. Friday, June 3.

Lee C. Watters, of the 9600 block of Ogden, allegedly refused to leave after he was asked to do so.

Charge woman with retail theft

A 44-year-old Clearing woman was charged with retail theft after she was arrested at the Jewel-Osco at 6107 S. Archer at 5 p.m. Tuesday, June 7.

Bridget Hughes, of the 6000 block of South Massasoit, was apprehended without incident. A CPD spokesman declined to say what allegedly was stolen.

According to public records, Hughes was arrested at the same Jewel-Osco in August 2019 and charged with retail theft.

She spat on me, woman claims to police

A 44-year-old Clearing woman was charged with domestic battery and violating an order of protection after she was arrested at her home in the 6200 block of South Narragansett at 3:38 p.m. Thursday, June 9.

Evelina Stanczyk allegedly spat on a woman during an argument, a CPD spokesman said without elaborating.

Motorist charged with kicking, biting first responders

A 34-year-old woman from the Grand Boulevard neighborhood was charged with failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident, as well as failure to stay in a lane, after she was arrested at 4300 S. Cicero at 3:10 a.m. Sunday, June 5.

Dominique M. Willingham, of the 5000 block of South Forrestville, was involved in a multi-vehicle crash. As first responders arrived at the scene, Willingham allegedly poked, kicked and bit a firefighter/paramedic and bit a police officer.

According to public records, Willingham was arrested by CPD in May 2018 and charged with DUI.

Allegedly punched woman in face

A 33-year-old West Lawn man was charged with domestic battery after he was arrested at his home in the 6500 block of South Kenneth at 4:20 a.m. Saturday, June 4.

Marco A. Corona allegedly punched a 30-year-old woman in the face several times during an argument.

According to public records, Corona was arrested by CPD in June 2020 near 44th and Fairfield and charged with DUI.

Claim man had ghost gun

An 18-year-old West Lawn man was charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon after he was arrested during a traffic stop in the 7800 block of South Pulaski at 11:20 p.m. Thursday, June 2.

Aidan Alvarado, of the 6000 block of South Pulaski, reportedly was found to be in possession of a ghost gun—a firearm with no serial number and which are often bought online and assembled at home.

He also was charged with possession of ammunition without a valid FOID card.

Charge man with phone harassment

A 50-year-old Scottsdale man was charged with telephone harassment after he was arrested at his home in the 4300 block of West 77th Place at 1:54 a.m. Saturday, June 11.

Kevin Johnson allegedly called a 44-year-old woman and threatened to kill her, a CPD spokesman said without elaborating.

According to public records, Johnson was arrested twice by CPD in 2016—once charged with domestic battery and another time with violating an order of protection.

Bust Scottsdale man on fireworks rap

A 33-year-old Scottsdale man was charged with unlawful use of fireworks after he was arrested near his home in the 8600 block of South Kostner at 2:45 p.m. Sunday, June 12.

Ernesto Rodriguez allegedly was found detonating a Roman candle.

A charge of aggravated battery was added after he allegedly pointed a lit candle at a responding officer and fired a charge at him, hitting the officer, a CPD spokesman said.

Traffic stop leads to gun charge

A 24-year-old Little Village man was charged with unlawful use of a weapon after he was arrested during a traffic stop in the 7100 block of South Hamlin at 11:07 p.m. Tuesday, June 7.

Daniel Velasquez, of the 2300 block of South Lawndale, allegedly was found to be carrying a handgun without a Concealed Carry license, a CPD spokesman said.

Traffic stop leads to drug charge

A 49-year-old Gage Park woman was charged with possession of a controlled substance after she was arrested during a traffic stop in the 4400 block of West 53rd Street at 11:16 a.m. Friday, June 3.

Hilda Lloyd, of the 5200 block of South Richmond, reportedly was found to be in possession of crack cocaine, a CPD spokesman said.

Allegedly flees to bar after crash

A 43-year-old South Shore man was charged with failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident, as well as leaving the scene of an accident and driving on a revoked license, after he was arrested at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, June 16.

Antonio Lagos, of the 7100 block of South Coles, was reportedly involved in a two-vehicle crash in the 5400 block of South Kedzie.

When police arrived, they reportedly spotted Lagos in the doorway of the Just One More bar, 5332 S. Kedzie, allegedly attempting to avoid detection by police.