It was a noble effort that came up short.
The Mount Greenwood Chamber of Commerce and the Mt. Greenwood Lions Club hosted a “Taste of Italy” spaghetti dinner on April 27 at Mt. Greenwood Community Church to raise money to replace the vandalized “Welcome to Mount Greenwood” sign on 111th and Whipple.
The sign, which was destroyed last November, was a way to “welcome people, to say, ‘hey, you’re home,’” said Mt. Greenwood Community Church pastor Bill Crowder. “It’s a sense of belonging, of community, of family and of faith.”
That sense of community was missing at the spaghetti dinner, where only 63 people had come through the door during the first three hours of the five-hour fundraiser.
“I’m kind of disappointed, because everyone seems to enjoy the Winter Wonderland and Taste of Mt. Greenwood,” said Lions Club president Colleen Huels, referring to other community events hosted by the Chamber.
Huels organized the dinner with Darlene Myers, the executive director of the Chamber of Commerce. Organizers expected at least 250 supporters at the dinner and sought to raise $3,000 to cover manufacturing and installation costs.
“We’re going to have to work for another fundraiser,” Myers said.
According to Chamber President Jim Lange, “we contacted the [19th Ward] alderman [Matt O’Shea] numerous times asking him to support this, but he did not respond. It’s discouraging.”
An email was sent out from O’Shea’s official account to constituents with details about the fundraiser on April 25.
One sign of hope was the decision by a local grammar school, which wished to remain anonymous, to hold a dress down day to raise money for the project.
“All the kids decided to give the money to the Chamber. It was amazing,” Huels said. That donation totaled $513.
To thank the school, Myers said the chamber has decided to ask the students to submit designs for a new sign and will choose one based on specific criteria, with the winner receiving an award.
Myers said the chamber envisions a sign with bricks, similar to the "Welcome to Orland Park" sign, in contrast to the vandalized limestone sign.
The sign had been in place for seven years. According to footage from surveillance cameras, individuals who appeared inebriated destroyed the sign by rocking it back and forth before the iron rods broke and the sign separated from its base.
Workers from the Department of Streets and Sanitation and local experts examined the sign, but determined that it couldn't be fixed, Myers said.
Rita Sochor attended the spaghetti dinner with her husband Bernie.
“I was really sad when I heard [the sign] was destroyed," she said. "It was a source of pride."
Huels and Myers were enthusiastic in expressing their gratitude to the 18 businesses that sponsored the dinner, as well as the schoolchildren and other supporters of the cause. Donations and any tips about the vandalism can be directed to the Chamber of Commerce.