Township News

Annual Riverdale Community Ride

Frank M. Zuccarelli, Supervisor and Thornton Township Board of Trustees sponsored the First Annual Riverdale Community Ride. The event was organized by Thornton Township Youth & Family Services Department -Summer Enrichment Program. Kids and adults rode through various township villages and towns on the seven mile bike trip. ͞This was an incredible event that we encouraged everyone to come out and have a good time,͟ said India Riley, program developer for the Thornton Township Youth & Family Services. “This is something that we are looking to expand in future years. We like the idea of bringing people together to walk, bike, run, and just enjoy our community in Thornton Township.͟

Main Father

The forgotten holiday. Flower shops don’t care. No need to make reservations because you can walk into most restaurants that day with little to no wait time. Amazon barely remembers. People remember the first official day of summer (June 20) easily over this holiday that typically is a week people before. Father’s Day often sneaks up on suspecting family members. But the Lansing Journal has your backs fathers and we appreciate you. Here are some local Lansing fathers we are celebrating.

Charles Wynn, 44,
Having a blended family has been an incredible experience for Charles Wynn. It shows there are many types of fathers in this world providing nurturing devotion and wisdom.
“A father is important because it is part of our responsibility to guide our kids and teach them what is right,” said Wynn. “There are a lot of positive and negative roads you can take so you want to do everything you can to keep them on the right track. I show all my children the same love and care, so they don’t need to look outside the family for that kind of love.”

Wynn, who has nine children, which includes five step children, feels a special responsibility raising African American children. He believes there are challenges in this world that could affect each of them.
“There are a lot of things that are happening in this country and too often people have stereotypes about young black men and women,” said Wynn. You have to go through life with that kind of outside perception, so it is important to teach your kids about that and give them the internal love and support they need to get through everything.”

But along with support, he views a father’s role as providing the best role model in their children’s lives.
“Children pay attention all the time and you should be that example that they look up to,” said Wynn, whose family includes his wife, Lanita. “If they see you working hard and see your dedication, they will follow your lead. We have a lot of good fathers in this world that don’t get the attention they deserve.”
There is one piece of advice that he wishes someone told him before he became a father that he gives to others.
“Even when things aren’t going perfect you have to keep trying your best and eventually it will all work out. It is easy to get frustrated, but you must just consistently stay on top of your kids. They might not always appreciate it at first, but they will understand it all later,” added Wynn.

Kevin Ziemkowski
Great events in life always change you and becoming a father is no different. For Kevin Ziemkowski, he said it changed him greatly as a man. Being responsible for the upbringing of children elevates your belief in relationship and family. You have difficult conversations that are expected and unexpected and give them the tools to navigate life.

“It’s cliché when everyone says they grow up fast, but the fact is that is incredibly true,” said Ziemkowski, father of Korey, 14 and Cody, 12. “Time goes by so fast. I joke one day they are kids and the next week I will be taking them to college. Family has always been important to us. We grew up with a strong, loving family and we want to give that to our kids.

His own father died when he was 25-years-old. He understands the bonds that are created early in life.
“Having a father or a father figure in a child’s life is so important and can’t be underestimated,” said Ziemkowski. “That is taking nothing away from the incredible work that mothers do every day. I just believe a child can have great value in having both a male and female influence in their lives because no one person has all the answers.”

He has some interesting yet sincere and meaningful advice for fathers; take in everything.
“Appreciate the horrible, appreciate the good, appreciate the unpredictable and appreciate the incredible,” said Ziemkowski. “It is absolutely a blessing to be around your family. You don’t want to miss anything in life. These moments are important. We love being the popular house in the neighborhood where our kids’ friends come over. We have Scout meetings at our house and I like being around for that.”

Miguel Gutierrez, 43,
When you have multiple children, you know that comes with multiple personalities. For Miguel Gutierrez, his three children are no different. His oldest Angel, 14, reminds him of himself as a young boy; very calm, relaxed, smart, and generous. His middle child, John Paul, 11, is incredible happy, playful and loves to socialize. His youngest Victoria, 3, has a strong personality and knows what she wants and won’t stop until she gets it.
“Being a father is challenging, but incredibly rewarding,” said Gutierrez, 43. “You have to make time for each of them and they all have different personalities and needs while all treating them fairly.”

Whether it’s helping Angel with his homework or playing video games, jumping on the trampoline with John Paul or pretending to eat food with Victoria in her play kitchen set, it’s all about being together.

“I’m getting my associates degree in computer information systems so it’s like we are all going to school. But anything I can do to spend quality time with them makes me happy,” said Gutierrez. “I know I didn’t get a chance to spend as much time as I wanted with my father because he was always working in the United States while I lived in Mexico. I wish I would have been able to spend more time with him.”

The family, which includes his wife, XXX, goes on vacation together to places like Mexico. It’s those times when you can stop life and truly bond.
“We all have so many things going on our lives that we really get a chance to catch up and take a breath on vacation.” he added. “And as difficult as it can be, try to be prepared for the unexpected. What I mean by that is just know there are so many unexpected things that will happen when you are raising kids, so you have to handle all the rollercoasters in life”

Being patience remains the best advice he was given that he passes on to other fathers. “There will be times when your patience gets tested, but you can’t let it overcome you,” said Gutierrez.

He said Father’s Day is considered an important holiday in the Latino community.

“We celebrate it just as much as Mother’s Day because being a Hispanic father, we know the hard work and dedication it takes so our families tend to show us how much they appreciate us.”

Community Job Fair


Things We Liked About April

Rainy and wet one day, the next day full of warmth and greenery, that’s April. Besides the weather, the month is a significance of new life, and it brings us the best season, Spring. So, why is April so special? Well, it is named after the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, the month’s flowers are daises and sweet peas, bright and sweet-smelling flowers, and the its birthstone is a diamond. Why else is April so special? You can celebrate National Humor Month, Grilled Cheese Month, and Soft Pretzel Month all in April.

Before we knew April as the fourth month in the calendar, it was known as the second in the ancient Roman calendar. It is also one of four months to have 30 days. April 1st was used to celebrate the Birth of Christ up until Pope Julius I declared Christ’s birth would be celebrated December 25th, which is good since now April 1st is known as April Fool’s Day or All Fools Day.

Many great things have happened in the month of April. Apple the computer company, the cult favorite was formed in April. Nickelodeon and Disney kid’s cable was launched in April, as well as TV Guide. Microsoft was founded, as well as the New York City Metropolitan Museum of Art. McDonald’s opened its first restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois! April has given us the technology, entertainment and food we consume today!

This is the time to plant or start the garden you always wanted to have. Enjoy the fresh food from Farmer’s markets. The weather is warming up, and fun-filled activities are rolling out. April is warm and full of greenery one day, and rainy and wet the next, don’t forget, April showers bring May flowers.

Women You Should Know

Saturday, March 24, 2018
Briyana Kelly

Vivian G. Harsh

Born Vivian Gordon Harsh in Chicago on May 27, 1890; she was the first African American librarian in the Chicago Public School system, the first Black professional librarian in Chicago, and a significant contributor to the Chicago’s Black Renaissance. Vivian began her 60-year-librarian-career in 1909 as a Junior Clerk at the Chicago Public Library, she received her B.A. from Simmons College in Boston, and she took advanced courses at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Library Science. While working with Carter G. Woodson she recognized the need for librarian services on the South Side of Chicago in the heart of the African American community. Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature is housed at Carter G. Woodson Library.

Hazel Johnson

Hazel Johnson is known as the “Mother of Environmental Justice Movement”, and a resident of Atlgeld Gardens Public Housing. She founded “People for Community Recovery” in 1979, 10-years after her husband died of lung cancer in 1969, which was the cause for her four decades of activism. She documented illnesses and physical ailments that frequently punished her neighbors. She linked them to polluted air, water, and contaminated soil. She also played a role in Barack Obama’s starting career in public serviceThe Gardens is where he got his start in politics as a Community Organizer in the 1980s. As reported by The Washington Post, Cheryl Johnson, Hazel’s daughter, “was a nursing student when Obama arrived, and she remembers watching him and her mother strategizing many nights at her kitchen table. They made an odd pair, she said: “He was in his 20s. She was in her 40s. But they learned off each other.”” She received a gold medal from George Bush and was recognized by Bill Clinton for her environmental work in Chicago.

Amanda Berry Lewis

Amanda Berry Lewis was born into slavery January 23, 1837 in Long Green, Maryland. Her father worked to buy her family’s freedom. She was a Methodist Holiness Evangelist and Missionary, who traveled to Great Britain, India, and Africa to share her gifts. After her services overseas, she returned to the states where she founded the Amanda Smith Orphanage and Industrial Home for Abandoned and Destitute Colored Children in Harvey, Illinois in 1899. She couldn’t support the school sufficiently, so she left and moved to Florida which became her final resting place.

Dr. Maria K. Mootry

Maria Mootry was born January 3, 1944 in Nashville, Tennessee. She graduated from Farragut High School in Chicago, Illinois at 16-years-old. She went on to receive her BA from Roosevelt University, Masters at the University of Wisconsin, and Doctorate from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. She performed research in bioethics regarding race. She was a Professor of English and an unknown leader in African American history who was an Co-Editor of Gwendolyn Brooks “A Life Distilled”. Mootry taught at Southern Illinois of Carbondale, Grinnell College, and University of Illinois at Springfield. In 1980, she co-Founded the Poetry Factory in Carbondale, Illinois which encouraged others to write and publish. Much of her work isn’t known but its been floating around making a difference. You can visit Dr. Maria K. Mootry’s works at Carter G. Woodson Library, Maria Mootry Papers, and her website .

Mother Mary Lena Lewis Tate

Mother Mary Lewis Tate was the first known woman to organize an internationally recognized church and to elevate to Bishop ranking. She was born Mary Lena Street January 5, 1871 in Vanleer, Tennessee. She spent most of her life in the rural south where she had little opportunity to be educated. She established the Church of the Living God, the Pillar, and Ground of Truth, Inc. in 1903. Tate’s Apostle service extended far beyond religion into the heart of the people and the system of inalienable rights and freedoms. St. Mary Lena Lewis Tate prevailed through the struggle of education, transportation, and communication to carry out her duties. She traveled by walking while using barges, steamships, mule-drawn wagons, broken-down automobiles, and Jim Crow trains. She compassionately surpassed the many barriers of social and religious prejudice and biasness.

Women Of Honor Event

Women of Honor Celebration

By Briyana Kelly

On March 3, 2018, Thornton Township celebrated the 10th annual Women of Honor Celebration at St. Archangel Michael in Lansing.

The Honorees:

Dr. Sallie Penman

  • From Education to Politics
  • Village Clerk and has been a resident of South Holland for 30 years.
  • Appointed to South Holland Village in October 2004, elected in 2005, and re-elected in 2009, 2013, and 2017.
  • Director of the Administrators’ Academy in Chicago, IL where she provides Leadership to 1600 administrators of Chicago Public Schools
  • Mother is her inspiration and biggest cheerleader

“As an Educator, I’m inspired by our children. We can’t just complain about things, you have to be the change that you seek.”

Joyce Forbes

  • Married for 51 years to Steve Forbes
  • Lifelong resident of Dolton and Riverdale until 2008
  • Public Service began in 1983 starting School District 148 School Board, served 9 years as am member and president.
  • Brought technology into the Village during Y2K
  • Achieved certification as Master Municipal Clerk
    “Trustworthiness, honesty, being a good friend. And respecting and being respectful of others. And knowing that everyone is not going to agree with your opinion and but being accommodating. “

Vivian Payne

  • Born and raised in Thornton, 24-year resident of Lansing.
  • Prior to being elected Clerk, she was the Executive Assistant to Lansing Mayor Norm Abbott for 8 years and took on the roles of Deputy Clerk, Freedom of Information Officer, Traffic Compliance Administrator and Zoning Board Secretary.
  • In 2010, Vivian initiated Lansing’s first annual Community Clean-Up Day which brings together hundreds of volunteers each spring to pick up trash throughout the Village.
  • In 2016, in conjunction with Community Clean-Up Day, Payne organized Lansing’s first electronic recycling event for residents, where the Village collected on record 642 televisions in under 3 hours.
  • Vivian is a member of the Lansing Business Women’s Association, an organization that brings together business women.
  • She provides them with professional development opportunities to enrich themselves and others through leadership, education and networking.

“I love helping people that need help.”

Rose McGill

  • Wife to Michael McGill of The Dells
  • Very well loved by the constituents
  • Couldn’t make it due to illness and difficulty getting around, currently in rehabilitation.
  • Rose McGill has been a community activist and leader in the South Suburbs of Chicago since the late 60s
  • In 1969, she founded Rose’s House of Charm to help area youth improve their self-esteem and break into acting and modeling.
  • She has been instrumental in helping young people from our community featured in radio and television commercials, magazines, TV sitcoms and movies.
  • Her students have gone on to have successful careers in fields as diverse as academia, finance, medicine, law, fashion design, and business.
  • Janet Rogers, Public Relations Coordinator of South Cook County Mosquito Abatement District, accepted the award on behalf of the family. Janet had this to say about Rose, “Rose was a very energetic, outstanding, outgoing person, and community minded person”

Thornton Township Black Panther event unites past and future

Hundreds line up to see a real Black Panther and enjoy the Black Panther movie


LANSING, Ill. (February 18, 2018) – “Learn the true significance of the Black Panther Party during the 60s and 70s first hand, and then watch a free private screening of Marvel’s Black Panther, the first major movie featuring a Black superhero,” read the February 7 email invitation from Thornton Township. The township hosts an event every year in observance of Black History Month, and this year’s release of the Black Panther movie opened up some new opportunities.

The February 16 event combined a free, private showing of the movie with a 20-minute presentation by Dr. Jamal Turner, a former member of the Black Panther Party. An estimated 600 people lined up outside the doors of Lansing’s Cinema 8 theater, per instructions they had received via email during the week leading up to the event. Clear communication and plenty of volunteers helped ensure efficient flow of the excited crowd into two separate theaters, beginning at 9:15 on a Friday morning.

Rather than simply provide a description of the event or a review of the movie, The Lansing Journal and Thornton Township decided to take a different approach. Ernst Lamothe, Thornton Township’s Director of Community and Public Relations, and Melanie Jongsma, Managing Editor at The Lansing Journal, interviewed each other about the experience. That conversation appears in question/answer format below:



How did the idea come about to have a Black Panther event? Did you book Dr. Jamal Turner first, or did you think of the movie first and then work to make a connection with the Black Panther movement?


The event was the brainchild of Dr. Jerry Weems, our Youth and Family Services Director. He thought about ways to continue to elevate our Black History Month program. Last year, for example, we had the outstanding Dick Gregory—a civil rights activist, author, comedian, and leader. (We were fortunate to have him, especially since he passed away late last year.) Then the idea came around connecting the Black Panther movie but finding a way to also educate people about the Black Panther organization. It almost happened simultaneously—the idea of a private screening of the movie as well as connecting with Dr. Turner, who is a good friend of Dr. Weems.

What did you find interesting about the event? Why did you want to participate?


I first learned about the Black Panther superhero from Ta-Nehisi Coates a couple years ago. I have followed Coates’ writing for The Atlantic, and when he began scripting a new Black Panther graphic novel, he shared that experience with Atlantic readers. It was a new kind of writing for him, and he talked about the similarities and differences between comic book writing and journalism. Coates also talked about what superheroes meant to him as a child in Baltimore, and how meaningful it was for him to be working on Black Panther. So I was eager to see the movie because of what I learned about the character from a writer I respect. For Thornton Township to add Dr. Jamal Turner and make the connection to the real-life Black Panther movement—that was just the perfect bonus.



There is a lot of misinformation about the Black Panther organization. This is an organization that cooked thousands of meals a week for poor children, set up free health clinics, set up tuition-free schools, went to schools like Yale University to preach about the importance of being drug-free, and helped various other marginalized groups get the fair treatment they deserve. PBS had an excellent special about some of the incredible work that the organization did. Unfortunately not everyone gets taught the nuances and rich history of many people. So often, when history is not taught thoroughly, then people don’t always seek out the truth.


You’re right. The impression I grew up with was that the Black Panthers were a militant, angry movement, and I never thought to question that perception. But Dr. Turner gave us a more well-rounded understanding. He talked about the real sense of community that was so important to the movement, and the sacrifice and brotherhood that were necessary in order to create that community. It really shifted my perception of the Black Panthers. I’m glad I had the opportunity to learn that.


That’s in line with our biggest hope for the event—we wanted people in the community to not only celebrate the rich history and contributions that black people have made throughout the world, but also remind people that Black History is American History. This was more than just a private screening of one of the most hyped movies of the year. This was an awareness opportunity. In fact, one of the giveaways we gave each attendee was Black History flash cards—we want people to know this history! We want people to know these incredible facts about a lot of incredible people.
You might have noticed we had a lot of teenagers at the event. What message do you hope they took from the speech and the movie?



Both Dr. Turner and the movie gave a picture of what it’s like to have a purpose beyond yourself. The movie in particular showed the struggle between wanting to isolate and protect “our own,” or choosing to help others and broaden the community. I like that the movie presented those as both valid, understandable choices that will each have different complicated consequences. I hope the teens at the event left with an eagerness to find ways to keep making life better. I hope they feel inspired to keep learning, keep improving, keep exploring. I hope they know that whatever their passion is—technology, music, labor, leadership, family—they can use that to contribute to a community we can all be proud of.


That’s interesting that you mention that. A young woman told me something after the show that will really stick with me. She said there was so much to learn about how much stronger we are when we’re together than when we’re apart. She said we sometimes only talk about the small amount of things that we disagree on, and we don’t really spend much time talking about what we agree on—even though that’s probably the majority. Her takeaway from the movie was that it showed that divisiveness and isolation never help anyone. Those are strong words that you don’t often get from someone who just saw a superhero movie! That’s why this movie was so much more than just another superhero movie.


I agree. I mean, if you want to see a good superhero movie, yes, Black Panther is a great choice. It’s filled with action and surprises and fights and chases! But it’s so much more than that. It was like a history lesson, and a glimpse of the future, and inspiration for now—all wrapped up in elements of Star Trek, the Chronicles of Narnia, Jumanji, and James Bond.



Before opening weekend, the movie was being called “historic,” “groundbreaking,” “momentous.” Did you think it lived up to all that hype?


Definitely! And that really is an incredible thing to say because there was a lot of hype about this movie—not just for weeks, but probably for the last six months. You do not see a lot of movies that have an all black cast that open number one at the box office! Even though recently there has been more success in that area, there is still a stigma that a movie with an all black cast that performs well in the United States won’t do well overseas. However, when you look at the opening weekend numbers for Black Panther, it has shattered both those stereotypes.


I’m glad Thornton Township came up with this innovative idea. An event of this stature really has to be initiated at the township level. I’m also glad that Mayor Eidam was able to give the necessary support so that Lansing could host the event. This is something our community can be proud of. And Thornton Township’s motto— “People helping people” —really takes on additional significance in light of the Black Panther themes.


I got to Cinema 8 early that morning to set up, and I could see people starting to line up outside in the cold already at 8:20am. The doors wouldn’t open until 9:15am, but they wanted to be able to get the perfect seats to see the movie. That meant a lot to me. And then, when the show started, to see and hear people clapping, laughing out loud, and just joyous throughout both screenings—that was wonderful. It was heartwarming to know that this event truly resonated with people.

I’m glad so many people enjoyed it. It really turned out even better than I thought. It was a lot of work, but when you see that many people happy with the experience—it’s all worth it.

Black Panther Premiere

By Briyana Kelly

I had the pleasure of connecting with Thornton Township to witness the debut of Black Panther with the community, Feb. 16 at Cinema 8 in Lansing. Royal purple carpets, wristbands, goodie bags with Black History Flashcards, including free snacks and beverages were gifted to the community members for their support in making the day great. The Movie theater was filled with love from the Elders, Generation X, Baby Boomers, and the Millennials who all seemed to take away the great message the movie had to offer which was “We are stronger united than we are divided”. Can you think of any significant way to spend black history month?

There were many other messages that were encoded but the message mentioned above was commonly received by the guest. I cried many times during the movie: tears of joy, tears of realization, tears of sadness, and tears of anger. Black Panther reminded me of my constant duty to the community, and Dr. Jamal Turner, the keynote speaker in theater one, spoke to us about his experience as a real life Black Panther. Thornton Township was thanked by many guests for doing such a wonderful thing for the community because they provided an opportunity, “To those who probably couldn’t afford movie tickets” as said by Jouhan Sawe, a Thornton Township community member and employee. Another guest, Jeanette Quin said “Everything was perfect. The movie, how the event was put together, and how smooth it flowed. We were right on time and I thank them for hosting the event.” It’s more than safe to say that the community is looking forward to more remarkable things happening in Thornton Township. I know I had a marvelous time dressed in full regalia, bonding with the people, and being of service to the community. Can’t wait to see what they have in store for the rest of the month, and I hope to see you at the next outing or social.

Coat Drive

Due to the really cold weather, Thornton Township Supervisor Frank M. Zuccarelli and the Board of Trustees arranged a free coats giveaway for kids and adults. The township gave away hundreds of new coats to residents.

“We understand the need in the community is great, and we are here to support our residents in any way possible,” said Zuccarelli.

This was the first time the township did a large scale coat giveaway. Officials said they saw a significant need in the community. The township also reached out to homeless and battered women shelters as well as veterans.

“It has been an incredibly early cold winter this year, and we know there are residents that could use coats and hats. We enjoy helping out our community,” said Ernst Lamothe Jr., Thornton Township public and community relations manager.

Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Program

Thornton Township will celebrate its annual Martin Luther King Jr. program at 10 a.m. Monday, Jan. 15. Thornton Township Supervisor President Frank M. Zuccarelli, Thornton Township Board of Trustees, Thornton Township Human Relations Commission (HRC), South Suburban College (SSC), and Thornton Township High School District 205 have coordinated for the celebration. The guest speaker is Rev. Dr. Ozzie E. Smith Jr. and there will be performances by students from District #205 along with Coolidge Middle School Jazz Band. For any questions, call 708-596-6040. Ext. 3168._

Frank M. Zuccarelli, Thornton Township President said, “Love and unity overpowers division and anger. Dr. King said human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle.”

State Senator Donne Trotter (IL 17th Senatorial District) commented, “Martin Luther King was a great man that represent justice and equality for all.”

State Senator Kwame Raoul (IL 13th Senatorial District) stated, “Martin Luther King said our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. This Martin Luther King Day, I’m asking that we all speak out against the injustices that are taking place in our communities and across the state. We must speak a little bit louder against hate. We must speak a little bit louder against fear. We must speak a little bit louder against those who seek to divide us. And we must speak a little bit louder against the inequities in our society. If King has taught us anything, it’s that human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable.”

Loretta Wells, MLK Event Chairperson and Member of Thornton Township Human Relations Commission stated, “I have been chairing the program for about 6 years. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was dynamic. Celebrating him brings our youth together. It’s a phenomenal program that we celebrate yearly – MLK Day.”

John Arrington, MLK Program Chairperson and HSD205 Director of College and Career Programs, which is a Partnership between HSD205, SSC and Thornton Township said, “Martin Luther King Jr Celebration is a constant reminder of his legacy and what it meant, what he stood for and sacrifice. King stood for nonviolence and forgave his enemies. That is phenomenal and unforgettable.”

Thornton Township Trustee Joyce M. Washington, Chairman of the township’s Human Relations Commission said, “Dr. King gave his life fighting for equality. This celebration reminds us of the struggle to make things better in America.”

Thornton Township Trustee Stafford C. Owens commented, “Martin Luther King Jr stood for equality, diversity, and justice for all.” Thornton Township Trustee Norbert Cipowski said, “We should celebrate Martin Luther King Day. I will be there for the celebration!”

Thornton Township Clerk Jacqueline E. Davis-Rivera commented, “Martin Luther King Jr has been a role model and inspiration to me. He broke a lot barriers being nonviolent. It was not popular to be nonviolent at that time and he received the Nobel Peace Prize.”

Alderman Joseph Whittington Jr, 2nd Ward, City of Harvey, IL said, “Martin Luther King is a man who gave his life in the fight to bring equality for all people, and this celebration means that he will never be forgotten.”

Alderman Christopher J. Clark, 3rd Ward, City of Harvey, IL stated, “Martin Luther King’s birthday is a great celebration. This is a constant reminder that we can always do better. Reminds us that we made strides and we have a way to go. Golden Rule is: do onto others, as you want them to do onto you.”