Power of the Purse 2018

A table full of powerful and philanthropic women from Long Grove, Kildeer and Buffalo Grove  helped raise funds recently for early childhood literacy in Lake County.

A table full of powerful and philanthropic women from Long Grove, Kildeer and Buffalo Grove helped raise funds recently for early childhood literacy in Lake County.

On November 4th, Royal Melbourne Country Club in Long Grove was the location once again for Power of the Purse, the major fundraiser of Women United. As a member of this women’s affinity group of United Way of Lake County, I was pleased to participate by donating a gift basket of items showcasing downtown Long Grove, and sponsoring a table of twelve local ladies of influence. Two of these ladies even happened to be the mayors of neighboring Kildeer and Buffalo Grove–talk about harnessing some female strength! Long Grove played another major role in this fundraiser, as the Primrose School of Long Grove partnered with Women United to be the Platinum sponsor of the event. Owner Jennifer Wierzchon is a member of Women United, and together with families from the school helped teach the students the value of philanthropy and helping others by raising over $3,000. towards early childhood literacy at a spring school fundraiser. Long Grove businesses, families and ladies all came together today to rally around a worthy cause: to ensure that children living in Lake County’s most vulnerable communities are prepared for kindergarten and ready to succeed.

Besides the important work of philanthropy and support, we did manage to enjoy some fun and friendship along the way. New purses were acquired, games played, prizes awarded, bling bestowed, and raffle winners announced. New books and educational toys were donated and a silent auction rounded out the day. The sold out crowd of 216 women raised a net total of $59,800 which will go directly to support early childhood literacy programs in North Chicago, Round Lake Beach, Waukegan and Zion. It was gratifying to play a small part in making this event successful again this year, and I was proud to see our community of Long Grove becoming even more involved this time around. Kudos, ladies, to a job well-done!

Julie Burger-Branham (on the left) and I show off our new purses that we won, and "bling rings" that glowed, but unfortunately did not win us any real bling!

Julie Burger-Branham (on the left) and I, having fun and showing off our winning new purses and “bling rings” that glowed, but unfortunately did not win us any real bling!

 

Small Town Sweetness

Pictured above are the awesome local kids who volunteered to help run the games for the younger kids at the Historical Society Penny Carnival.

Pictured above are many of the awesome local kids who volunteered to help run the games for the younger kids at the Historical Society Penny Carnival.

I grew up in small town America. The Central Illinois farming community where I was born has a population of only 2,000 and a Main Street lined with historic buildings and a vintage train depot. Even though Long Grove is a suburb of Chicago, and with it’s 8,000 residents is quadruple the size of my hometown, there are times when it truly feels like a close-knit village. Case in point–our recent Vintage Days weekend. The Historical Society sponsored two family events run by kids, for kids, and it was heartwarming to be part of the festivities.

What's a Penny Carnival without a penny pitch game?

What’s a Penny Carnival without a penny pitch game?

The Penny Carnival

Older kids readily volunteered to organize old-fashioned games for younger children on the lawn of our 1860’s farmhouse. Costing only 1 cent per game, kids could have fun playing pirate ring toss, duck pond, ring the bell, and the ever-popular frog launch. It was incredibly sweet to see the teens and tweens patiently helping the little ones pitch pennies and redeem tickets for prizes, and generating happy smiles all around. Everything needed to man and run this event was donated, highlighting genuine community spirit. Here is a quote overheard at the event:

“This Penny Carnival epitomizes small town ambiance at its best–children laughing, adults chatting, frogs flying. Kudos to the organizers!” 

Local kids also showcased their talent by performing an original play about our town's history entitled, "Good Times with the Gridleys." The cast is shown here crossing "Fifteen Miles on the Erie Canal."

Local kids also showcased their talent by performing an original play about our town’s history entitled, “Good Times with the Gridleys.” The cast is shown here crossing “Fifteen Miles on the Erie Canal.”

The Back Porch Players

Twelve talented local middle and elementary school students, with assistance by Narrator and Musician Mike Dvorak and professional Puppeteer Krist Neumann, performed an original show on the farmhouse back porch. “Good Times with the Gridleys,” told the story of the founding of Long Grove in the mid-1800’s and featured historical songs and real-life historical characters. My personal favorite was an original song involving the entire cast called, “The Long Grove Bridge.”  

Click this link below to watch a five minute video of highlights from the show:

 

Mentors and Heroes

Current elected officials with future elected officials at the April 15th WINGS meeting:  (L to R) Cheri Neal, Zion Township Supervisor, Teagan (our scholarship winner), Brighton (Teagan's sister) and Angie Underwood, Long Grove Village President.

Current elected officials with future elected officials at the April 15th WINGS meeting: (L to R) Cheri Neal, Zion Township Supervisor, Teagan (our scholarship winner), Brighton (Teagan’s sister) and Angie Underwood, Long Grove Village President.

Last weekend I attended a meeting of WINGS–Women In Government Service. Our theme for the program was “Mentoring and Heroes” which was certainly appropriate as we presented our annual High School scholarship. Teagan, who is our winner this year out of an incredibly talented pool of candidates, is graduating next month from Lakes Community High School in Lake Villa. She is heading to Dartmouth this fall to study government, and aspires to one day be a Senator.

Another young lady, a 5th grade student from Prairie Trail Middle School in Wadsworth, was at the meeting to give a short presentation. She is a member of the Great Americans Club, which is a civic group for students (both boys and girls) at the school. Every year they pick an issue to spotlight, and as a result of our national election last November the students are focusing on Women’s Leadership. They are sponsoring a Women’s Day Celebration Event on May 18th, featuring guest speakers on how women have shaped our world.

One of the very best things about holding an elected office is being in a position to show the next generation of women that it is possible. We are getting there slowly, but surely towards breaking that final glass ceiling. I have been fortunate to have had several women serve as role models and mentors to me. Their advice, expertise, and support has made a real impact in my ability to grow as a leader, and persevere through difficult challenges. Being able to pass along that legacy of encouragement to others has been very rewarding.

These girls make me so proud. They are our future. They are my inspiration.

National School Choice Week

Having fun with the students and teachers of the Montessori School of Long Grove on January 25, 2017.

Having fun with some of the students and teachers of the Montessori School of Long Grove on January 25, 2017.

What better way to liven up a gray and wintry day than by sharing lunch and enthusiasm with some of our local students? Last week I was invited to come visit the Montessori School of Long Grove, as a special visitor during National School Choice week. I had loads of fun getting to know the kids and even got to meet Shelly, the classroom turtle. As a bonus I was given a warm yellow scarf to remember the event, in fact we all did, as shown in the picture above. It was a pleasure sharing pizza and veggies with my charming lunchtime companions!

The children had many interesting questions about my job, and wanted to know about some current events like the discussions on how best to renovate our covered bridge. Since the school is located only a hop, skip, and a jump from the bridge, the Montessori students are very familiar with it and sometimes take walks in the warmer weather using it to cross over Buffalo Creek to the park. They wanted to know how they could get involved, if they wrote letters or made posters would the elected officials pay attention? I assured them that even our youngest residents have important voices! Not all the kids had the same opinions on what should be done (just like the grown-ups!) and we talked about how in a democracy, everyone doesn’t always agree but we respectfully listen to one another and then decide what the majority thinks is best. Who knows, maybe one day some of these Montessori students will be serving our town, our state, or our country as an elected official themselves? From what I saw last week, they are off to a great start!

Helping Cub Scouts “Build A Better World”

Cub Scouts from Kildeer Elementary Pack 56 and Country Meadows Elementary Pack 964 met with me at Village Hall on January 20th, 2017.

Cub Scouts from Kildeer Elementary Pack 56 and Country Meadows Elementary Pack 964 met with me at Village Hall on January 20th, 2017.

I can’t think of a better way to carry out the spirit of Inauguration Day today than by meeting with (and maybe inspiring) some potential future leaders of our country. It was my pleasure to welcome two 5th grade Cub Scout dens from our local elementary schools to Village Hall this afternoon, and work with them towards achieving their “Build A Better Word” requirement. The boys had great questions for me about my job as Village President, and also about some of the important current issues facing Long Grove. We discussed the Rt. 53 extension, video gaming machines in the downtown, revitalization of our historic business district, and the recent extension of our municipal water system.

To cap off the experience, we had a mini Village Board meeting in which the students got to role play as Village Board members, and sit at the actual table and discuss and debate an actual issue from Tuesday’s upcoming agenda. The topic: Report of the Village Engineer on the options for renovation or replacement of our iconic Covered Bridge. I got to have fun impersonating Mike Shrake, our Village Engineer, and explained the various options of restoring, rebuilding, or expanding our current one lane bridge to two lanes. Opinions varied with some favoring history, some concerned over safety, and others mindful of the fiscal implications. Strikingly similar to our real-life Trustees, I must say! The kids did come to a consensus that our Village Engineers should continue their studies of the variables.

Meeting and interacting with our youngest residents has always been one of the greatest joys of this job for me. The scouts asked me if I had been active in government as a student, and in fact I was a member of Student Council in high school. I learned that many of these boys are also involved in the student government at their elementary schools and have already started gaining leadership skills that will be useful throughout their entire lives. It makes me hopeful for the generations to come, and for all those inaugurations yet to be!

Role playing a mini Village Board meeting and debating a real issue from the upcoming agenda.

Role playing a mini Village Board meeting and debating a real issue from the upcoming agenda.

 

Woodlawn Blue Ribbon Celebration

Celebrating Woodlawn Middle School's recent Blue Ribbon Recognition with Principal Greg Grana.

Celebrating Woodlawn Middle School’s recent Blue Ribbon Recognition with Principal Greg Grana.

I had so much fun today visiting Woodlawn Middle School–nothing beats the energy of a gym full of 6th, 7th and 8th Graders on the verge of a holiday vacation! I was asked to participate in an assembly celebrating their recent recognition of a prestigious national award. Below is the text of my speech:

Speaking today at the Woodlawn assembly.

Speaking today at the Woodlawn assembly.

“Good afternoon! One of the best parts of my job as Village President is getting to recognize others for their successes; by giving out awards, congratulations, or praise. Today I couldn’t be more pleased and proud to be a part of the Woodlawn Middle School community, here to celebrate the distinction of earning the 2016 National Blue Ribbon Recognition from the U.S. Secretary of Education. Congratulations!

Having top-notch schools is an attribute that is highly valued by the residents of Long Grove. I know this for a fact. One year ago, in a village-wide survey we asked our residents to rate various aspects of our quality of life. Being “a place for high quality education” was ranked number one, with 93% responding that our schools are excellent or good. Clearly, having high-performing schools is important to our community.

I also know through first-hand experience that excellent schools matter, and that Woodlawn is terrific, because I am the parent of three Woodlawn graduates. I remember being here the first day Woodlawn opened to welcome students back in 1999, as my daughter was in the very first class of 6th Graders. I’ve logged in many hours over the years volunteering for special lunch, dessert day, lighted schoolhouse, school store…you name it…in addition to attending countless parent-teacher conferences. What I have seen, over and over, is the diligent, committed, and caring way the administration, faculty, and staff dedicate themselves to making sure all of our children are given the tools to succeed, not only here at Woodlawn, but later, in life.

As a representative of the citizens of the Village of Long Grove, it is with great honor that I celebrate with you today as you receive this award. Thank you for making your community proud!”

District #96 School Board President Marc Tepper joined me outside Woodlawn before the celebration.

District #96 School Board President Marc Tepper joined me outside Woodlawn before the celebration.

Pokemon Go Long Grove!

Some of the local youths I caught today playing Pokemon Go near the Mill Pond in Long Grove.

Some of the local youths I caught today playing Pokemon Go near the Mill Pond in Long Grove.

Yesterday I became aware of the wildly popular mobile adventure game Pokemon Go, thanks in part to one of my blog readers. Resident Carolyn Osuyos tipped me off that her sons have been having lots of fun lately in our historic downtown “capturing” characters, collecting supplies, and engaging in Pokemon battles on their cell phones. Long Grove seems to be a popular place to hunt for “Pokestops” and I have it on good authority that action can be had near the Village Tavern, Buffalo Creek Park gazebo, the fountain in Fountain Square, and next to Village Pizza (pictured above). I had the chance to talk to some high school students from Lake Zurich this afternoon who are enthusiastic about this new app, and enjoying the nostalgia of the card game of their younger days.

Whatever the reason, I am delighted to see lots of young adults in our downtown. While they are spending some carefree summer time in our Village, I hope they stop in for a cold drink or slice of pizza, or come back later with friends. I talked to a couple of merchants who are happy to see the activity in and around their stores. Anything that gets our kids socializing and helping each other face-to-face in the outdoors gets a thumbs-up from me. And even better when it gets them to do it in Long Grove!

Be Our Guest, Be Our Guest…

Our Village Hall was the recent setting for the presentation of over $60,000 in grant funds from United Way of Lake County Women's Leadership Council.

Our Village Hall was the recent setting for the presentation of over $60,000 in grant funds from United Way of Lake County Women’s Leadership Council.

In one of my favorite movies, Beauty and the Beast, Lumiere delightedly sings his famous tune “Be Our Guest as he prepares the castle to welcome visitors. Recently, my official duties have included welcoming several groups of guests to our modest but beloved municipal “castle,” Village Hall. This post will highlight two of these spring visits that I’ve had the pleasure of hosting.

On May 23rd, 80 third grade students and their teachers from Country Meadows Elementary School in Long Grove made a field trip to Village Hall as a part of a unit they are studying on community and government. The students learned about our own local government, and how we fit into the layers of county, state and federal government. We discussed the types of things our staff and elected officials do for the community, and what my job of Village President entails. For show & tell I passed around my gavel and shiny, official Village President badge, which was a big hit. The kids were also highly engaged when we did some role-playing, with student volunteers sitting at the board table as Trustees to help debate and decide one of the actual issues on the Village Board agenda for the following night: Should we allow the addition of carnival rides to the downtown Long Grove Summer Fest scheduled for June 24-26? Despite some very good discussion on safety concerns, it will probably come as no surprise to learn that all of our young residents voted in favor of this proposal! I promised the students that I would share their input with the Trustees at the meeting the following night, and in fact our actual board members took the future board members’ advice as the agenda item passed. Following their time in Village Hall, the field trip continued with a tour of the Archer one-room Schoolhouse, Outhouse, Pioneer Herb Garden and Ruth Barn, with help from docents Amy Gayton and Aaron Underwood of the Long Grove Historical Society. It was a delight to host our students from Country Meadows and sharing in their enthusiasm and energy was uplifting.

Another equally dynamic and energetic group was welcomed to our Village Hall and historic buildings on June 2nd, when I hosted the quarterly meeting of the Women’s Leadership Council of United Way of Lake County. Over $60,000. in grant funds was presented to local agencies and programs with the goal of increasing early childhood literacy and kindergarten readiness in the most high risk areas of Lake County. Hearing directly from the educators about the impact these grants make in the lives of the children was meaningful, as was the giant, glittery thank you card the kids created for us! The women of WLC appreciated the charming and relaxed atmosphere of the entire evening in Long Grove, from the start at Village Hall and continuing with tours of the historic buildings until ending at Broken Earth Winery. A nice benefit of my job is being able to share with others some of my favorite places in our Village.

Members of the Women's Leadership Council of United Way of Lake County (L to R) Charlotte Richter, Angie Underwood, and Judy Kotsiopoulos.

Members of the Women’s Leadership Council of United Way of Lake County (L to R) Charlotte Richter, Angie Underwood, and Judy Kotsiopoulos attending the June 2nd meeting in Long Grove.

Stevenson Foundation: Empowering Patriot Futures

RotaryMar22-2016

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 www.StevensonFoundation.org.

 

Girl’s Leadership Tea

Enjoying High Tea with Buffalo Grove Village President Beverly Sussman (4th from left) and area Girl Scout leaders on April 14th.

Enjoying High Tea with Buffalo Grove Village President Beverly Sussman (4th from left) and area Girl Scout leaders on April 14th.

As a female in the predominantly male field of politics, I think it is important to do what we can as women and mothers to encourage leadership in young women. My neighbor and colleague Beverly Sussman, Village President of Buffalo Grove shares this sentiment, and recently the two of us teamed up to host a Leadership Tea for local Girl Scouts. Last Thursday, fifteen girls from Long Grove, Buffalo Grove, and Arlington Heights joined us at Gerri’s Tea Room in Long Grove to enjoy a three course High Tea complete with finger sandwiches, pastries, and freshly baked scones with cream. As we were supping on our English Breakfast & Earl Grey blend, Gerri (who grew up in Ireland) provided us with some history on teatime customs and etiquette.

As we learned, the tradition of sharing tea is really more about the conversation than the food (although those scones were scrumptious!) To that end, Beverly and I engaged the girls in some conversation about our jobs as Village Presidents, and how our different leadership roles throughout life have lead us to the positions that we now hold. We talked about how women have unique contributions to make to this world, and encouraged the girls to rely on those strengths, say yes to opportunities in life, and not be afraid to “reach for the stars.” The idea was to enjoy a relaxing ladies afternoon together and hopefully provide some inspiration for the future.

The Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana also blogged about this event. Click here to read more.

LLG_TEA1

Gerri Gwarnicki (in green dress at right) explains the proper way to drink from a china tea cup.