Stevenson Foundation: Empowering Patriot Futures


Shown L to R: Me, Sara Knight, President of the Rotary Club of Long Grove, Kildeer & Hawthorn Woods, and Breann Whitford, Stevenson to College Program Manager.

I have recently had the opportunity to participate in several events with the Stevenson High School Foundation, and I would like to highlight two programs that I feel are just outstanding. Last week I attended the Local Scholars Reception, and had the pleasure of presenting a scholarship on behalf of the Long Grove-Kildeer Garden Club, of which I am a member of the Board. Stevenson Foundation helps connect the community and school by organizing this evening and coordinating between the many private foundations and organizations who fund scholarships, and the students who are selected as the recipients. During the reception 43 students were honored with scholarships, and it was so impressive to hear of their individual stories, accomplishments, and plans for the future. Our Garden Club recipient, Gwendolyn Heidkamp is an exceptional young woman planning to attend the University of Illinois this fall majoring in civil engineering with environmental emphasis. Her inspiration for this career choice comes from living near and volunteering at Ryerson Woods Forest Preserve, and from working alongside her Dad who was an avid gardener and shared his love of nature. It was an honor to meet Gwen and her mom Shannon and I wish her the best of success in her studies!

Presenting the Long Grove-Kildeer Garden Club Scholarship to Gwendolyn Heidkamp on May 19, 2016.

Presenting the Long Grove-Kildeer Garden Club Scholarship to Gwendolyn Heidkamp on May 19, 2016.

Another initiative of the Stevenson Foundation is the new S2C program, Stevenson to College. In it’s pilot year, this program has been established to help identify and provide mentors to Stevenson students who might not otherwise attend college and then work with them from junior year of high school through college graduation. These students typically fall into one or more of the following categories: first generation in the family to attend college, financial hardship, under-represented population in college, or in need of supplemental support. While the communities that attend Stevenson are often viewed as affluent, it is estimated that we have between 100 and 200 students that fit one or more of these categories. As a former volunteer in the school nurses office, I have seem firsthand that this “hidden” need exists at our high school. With five students in this initial year, the S2C program is providing individualized mentoring, coaching and tutoring, help with the college search and selection, essays, scholarship and financial aid applications, tuition assistance, and other college necessities such as laptops. Through the six years of the mentoring experience, the relationship with the students is designed to continue through college to provide long-term support towards achieving their degrees.

I think this new program is ambitious, exciting, and one that our community has the potential and resources to make succeed. Besides donations, the Stevenson Foundation is also looking for community members to serve as volunteer mentors. Program Manager Breann Whitford gave a presentation in March to the Rotary Club of Long Grove, Kildeer and Hawthorn Woods, which is where I first became acquainted with the idea. Last week I attended a private gathering with many of the Stevenson Foundation Board members, administrators, and mentors who are already working with the current students in the program. It has certainly motivated me to consider becoming a mentor! If you would like to find out more about this program or others please visit their website at


Chocolate Fest 2016

Merchant John Kopecky shows his Chocolate Fest spirit at the start of our weekend festival.

Merchant John Kopecky shows his Chocolate Fest spirit at the start of our weekend festival.

If you are looking for something fun to do outdoors on this gorgeous spring day in Long Grove, come join me at Chocolate Fest! You will meet lovable local characters (like the one in the green wig pictured above), enjoy music, shopping, art and dancing, and of course, indulge to your heart’s content in all forms of chocolate.

Craig Leva, owner of the Long Grove Confectionery with ABC Channel 7 morning anchor Tanja Babich.

Craig Leva, owner of the Long Grove Confectionery with ABC Channel 7 morning anchor Tanja Babich.

To kick off the weekend festivities, yesterday I joined up with other dedicated supporters of our historic downtown for the early morning live broadcast on Chicago’s ABC affiliate, Channel 7. And by early morning, I mean I was scheduled for a live interview with anchor Tanja Babich at 4:45 am! Long Grove was fortunate to have Channel 7 showcasing our Village with live cut-ins from 4:30 to 7:00 am, all throughout the morning news program leading up to “Good Morning America.” One of the many segments featured the Long Grove Confectionery, and the unveiling of a newly created sweet treat available for the first time ever this weekend–the Myrtle Cookie. Yes, I have sampled it’s chocolate, caramel and pecan deliciousness and yes, it is to die for!

Closing out the broadcast was the debut of a special routine for Channel 7 by the students of the In Motion Dance performing arts school here in Long Grove. Dancing to Justin Timberlake’s new release “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” was the perfect way to wrap the show and kick off the festival weekend with energy and smiles all around. Happy Chocolate Fest 2016!

Students of In Motion Dance performed a lively routine to close out the live Channel 7 broadcast.

Some of the students of In Motion Dance who performed a lively routine to close out the live Channel 7 broadcast.


A Big Announcement

Meeting up with Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor in January of this year.

Meeting up with Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor in January of this year.

Earlier today a press release was issued by our Lake County Board Chairman, Aaron Lawlor, explaining his current thoughts on the Route 53/120 Extension Project. A key supporter of the project since the Blue Ribbon Advisory Report (BRAC)was adopted in 2012, Chairman Lawlor now believes that due to “dynamics that have changed over the past several months, it has become clear that the financial and political realities have become insurmountable.” A main concern is that “critical environmental and community protections will be cut in an effort to minimize costs.” In addition, he fears that the situation “will only get worse the longer gridlock persists in Springfield. Legislators cannot agree in the short-term on a budget to fund essential services let alone have the long-term vision to enact the legislation necessary to form the environmental stewardship fund, which is a key component of the Route 53/120 project.”

For decades, the proposed path of this road extension has been slated to run through Long Grove. Our community has opposed this project for many years and the Village Board passed a resolution this past October reaffirming this position. Having our County Board Chairman come out today suggesting that “the best thing for Lake County would be to stop the Environmental Impact Statement and refocus our attention on a sustainable vision for the current Route 53/120 corridor and plan for necessary improvements to our County’s current transportation network,” was big news to everyone following this issue.

Chairman Lawlor called me this morning before the news went public and while I was surprised by the announcement, I was not shocked. When I first took office, Aaron and I met for breakfast and I was very frank about my concerns about this project, that I was personally not in support of it and worried about the financial obstacles of building it in a way that would protect our sensitive environmental areas in Long Grove. Chairman Lawlor stated that he was adamant that the Tollway and IDOT adhere to the enhanced environmental standards identified in the BRAC report, and in his mind these were non-negotiable. These recommendations set more aggressive standards for stormwater management, light and noise pollution, water quality, plant and wildlife health, salt spray and other important safeguards. Since that first meeting, these sentiments have been reiterated over and over in our conversations about this project. I believed Chairman Lawlor when he pledged to pull back his support if he felt the Tollway or IDOT was not living up to their commitments. The integrity shown today was not a surprise.

I feel that it shows great strength to thoughtfully reconsider a position on an issue, and make a new decision in light of current information. This is a character trait that I think we all want in our leaders. It takes courage to try and change course once the journey has gotten underway, and endure the criticism that is sure to come. Elected officials are often faced with tough choices. I am grateful that our County is served by those deserving of our sincere trust and respect.

Woodland Wonders

Beautiful woodland flowers such as these bluebells are blooming this week at Reed-Turner Woodland.

Beautiful flowers such as these bluebells carpet the ground this time of year at Reed-Turner Woodland in Long Grove.

Last Friday marked the end of a hectic workweek, and I needed to go someplace to relax and mull over a few Village concerns tossing about in my mind. Since it was about as perfect of a Spring day as we get here in Long Grove, I decided to take a stroll through one of my favorite places–Reed Turner Woodland Nature Preserve. Early May is an ideal time to experience this local treasure because a majority of the native Illinois wildflowers are in bloom and it is simply glorious! With the redbud trees flowering alongside the phlox, violets, and Virginia bluebells, the palette of purples at the moment is stunning. Some of the other woodland varieties that I spotted blooming right now include: trout lily, jack-in-the-pulpit, May-apples, and red and white trillium. Several years ago, resident Kathy Wiberg trained me to be a guide at the preserve so that I could lead groups on field trips, and to this day I appreciate knowing the names and stories of so many wonders to be found in the woodland.

But to me, the greater beauty of Reed-Turner Woodland is intangible; it’s not the flowers but rather the serenity of the setting. The first visit I make in the Spring always gob-smacks me with the grandeur of nature and my own insignificance. I came to the preserve this particular day to let the woodland comfort me and to be reminded why I love Long Grove so much. At times, that can be a challenge. I have a favorite bench that sits up high on the ravine, overlooking the curving creekbed below. Our recent Spring rains have left a gentle but steady flow of water over the rocks and fallen limbs, and the murmur of this never fails to soothe my soul. For me, this is a tranquil place where I sometimes ask silent questions. And if I can calm my mind enough to allow peace to come, I will usually hear some answers.

This 36 acres of high quality biological diversity was given to the community many years ago by the Reed-Turner family and in the 1980’s was dedicated as an Illinois State Nature Preserve. The property is currently maintained and restored by the Long Grove Park District, with Barbara Reed-Turner still leading the way for preservation with her ongoing spirit and love for the land. When I need some personal inspiration to keep going, she is one of the residents that I most often think of.

This coming weekend, May 14th and 15th, the Long Grove & Kildeer Garden Club will be holding their annual native plant sale at the log-cabin Nature Center located at Reed-Turner. In addition to knowing that you are supporting the major fundraiser for our local community group (which sponsors a Stevenson High School scholarship and paid summer internships at the Woodland), you can rest assured that the plants for sale will work in your Northern Illinois yard, because they all come from local gardens. If you are interested in visiting the plant sale (I’ll be working on Sunday from 10-12–come say hello!) or strolling the woodland trails, Reed-Turner Woodland Nature Preserve is located at 3849 Old McHenry Road, in Long Grove. For hours and more information please call 847-438-4743.

A Model Citizen

Sharing a light-hearted moment with emcee Bonnie Conte of Avalon Salon in Deerpark, at the May 5th Long Grove Fashion Show at the Grove Country Club.

Sharing a light-hearted moment with emcee Bonnie Conte (right) of Avalon Salon in Deerpark, at the May 5th Long Grove Mother’s Day Fashion Show at the Grove Country Club.

I could be wrong, but I’m guessing that male politicians don’t get asked to model in many fashion shows. If they do, I’m pretty sure it does not involve wearing a dress, high heels, and lots of accessories (let’s not even mention the indignity of spanx!) Last month I was asked to help support a local not-for-profit group by modeling in their “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” fashion show fundraiser. The Caring Women’s Connection helps a number of organizations and programs in Lake County serving women and children such as: A Safe Place, Lake County Haven, Mount Saint Joseph, Stuben House, and scholarships for deserving high school seniors. I was happy to assist in raising funds for these worthy causes…but modeling? Did they know that my last experience walking the runway was circa 1975, wearing my hand-crafted, (blue-ribbon winning!) 4-H sewing project at the McLean County Fair? These days I’m more accustomed to making speeches or running public meetings, but anything for a good cause, right?

The day was actually a lot of fun and I got the chance to make connections with some fantastic women. The dress that I showcased came from Fashion In Motion, which is a pink mobile truck featuring beautiful clothes and accessories for sale instead of tempting food items. For more information on the work of this dynamic and caring group of ladies visit their website at

Backstage with fellow models Cris Grooms (center) and Rita Foley (right) at the "Breakfast at Tiffany's" Fashion Show sponsored by the Caring Women's Connection.

Backstage with fellow models Cris Grooms (center) and Rita Foley (right) at the “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” Fashion Show sponsored by the Caring Women’s Connection.

Another local fashion show was held last week in Long Grove and this time my support came by way of raffle tickets purchased, boutique shopping, and cheering on the efforts of our hometown merchants. Over 150 fashionable ladies gathered to see the newest looks of the season just in time for Mother’s Day, courtesy of Long Grove boutiques Olivia’s and Bella Donna. It was a delightful evening of shopping and conversation with friends and neighbors, with the raffle proceeds going towards the fight against breast cancer. Here’s to high style, philanthropy, and lots of lovely ladies!

Boutique owners (L to R) Mira Pinscher of Bella Donna and Lynne Jankovec of Olivia's Past walk the runway to celebrate the conclusion of another successful fashion show.

Boutique owners (L to R) Mira Pinscher of Bella Donna and Lynne Jankovec of Olivia’s walk the runway to celebrate the conclusion of another successful fashion show.

Lights, Camera, Action!

ABC Chanel 7 news reporter Tanja Babich prepares to interview Long Grove Historical Society President, Aaron Underwood on May 4, 2016.

ABC Channel 7 news reporter Tanja Babich prepares to interview Long Grove Historical Society President Aaron Underwood on May 4, 2016.

This week I got to participate in the production of some promotional footage for Long Grove’s upcoming Chocolate Fest to be held on May 20-22. Chicago’s ABC affiliate, Channel 7, sent anchor Tanja Babich to our Village to interview a few merchants and community leaders, for segments that will be interspersed with live footage filmed on Friday the 20th, first day of the festival. Besides learning a little local history from Aaron (pictured above), the crew took outdoor shots of our historic downtown and did interviews featuring merchants at the Long Grove Confectionery, Broken Earth Winery, and Village Tavern. And of course, chocolate, wine, and broasted chicken were savored along the way! It was really great to see members of our downtown community working together in such a professional, positive, and cooperative way to make today’s film shoot and the upcoming festival succeed. This publicity, which will air just prior to and during “Good Morning America” on May 20th is very advantageous, and could really help boost our festival attendance. Here’s hoping that Mother Nature will gift us with some lovely weather this year!

News reporter Tonja Babich (right) interviews Mary Ann Ullrich, owner of the Village Tavern.

News reporter Tonja Babich (right) interviews Mary Ann Ullrich, owner of the Village Tavern.

Democracy and Difficult Decisions


(L to R) Resident Carolyn Denaro and merchants Rachel Perkal and Jenny Weizerchon help envision Long Grove’s future at a recent workshop.

It’s no surprise that the job of Village President involves making some weighty decisions. I have previously blogged about this topic, for example, in my post Just Call Me, “The Tie Breaker.” Today I have been trying to make peace with another difficult choice that will result in some number of residents on the disappointed/unhappy/outraged spectrum, no matter how the decision comes down. Certainly politics is not a job for someone first and foremost concerned with pleasing everyone.

David Brooks is a political op-ed columnist for The New York Times, and his articles often resonate with me. On February 26, 2016 he said this about democracy and decisions:

“We live in a big, diverse society. There are essentially two ways to maintain order and get things done in such a society–politics or some form of dictatorship. Either through compromise or brute force. Our founding fathers chose politics.

Politics is an activity in which you recognize the simultaneous existence of different groups, interests and opinions. You try to find some way to balance or reconcile or compromise those interests, or at least a majority of them. You follow a set of rules, enshrined in a constitution or in custom, to help you reach these compromises in a way everybody considers legitimate.

The downside of politics is that people never really get everything they want. It’s messy, limited and no issue is ever really settled. Politics is a muddled activity in which people have to recognize restraints and settle for less than they want. Disappointment is normal.

But that’s sort of the beauty of politics, too. It involves an endless conversation in which we learn about other people and see things from their vantage point and try to balance their needs against our own. Plus, it’s better than the alternative: rule by some authoritarian tyrant who tries to govern by clobbering everyone in his way.”

The article, “The Governing Cancer of Our Time,” goes on to talk about Donald Trump’s current campaign, which I am NOT going to comment on!

But on this subject of learning from other people and seeing from their vantage point, the Village is currently in the middle of doing just that with our Comprehensive Plan Update project. Earlier this winter we held a series of stakeholder interviews, and have been gathering resident opinions via surveys and other online engagement. On April 11th an “EnVision Long Grove” public workshop was held with well over 100 residents attending to participate in shaping the future development of our Village. It was a great turnout and wonderful to see so many citizens working together to help preserve our community character with an eye to our needs going forward.

Updating the Comprehensive Plan will involve a series of decisions by the Plan Commission and Village Board in the coming months. Some may be difficult and generate some passionate discussions and differing opinions. On with Democracy!