A GEM of a job: Employee of the month Kobe Stanton

By Doug Rapp

Kobe Stanton has a long commute, but for her, it’s worth it.

“I love what I do,” Stanton said of her job as a security resource officer at GEMS World Academy on East South Water St. “I can say I wake up and look forward to seeing these kids.”

Stanton heads into New Eastside from suburban Markham to keep the students safe at GEMS, a preschool-through-12 school that emphasizes a global STEM curriculum and multilingual learning.

Working security is nothing new to Stanton, 31. After attending Olive Harvey College, she was a guard at Chicago Housing Authority’s central office and the Art Institute before she started at GEMS. She’s been with the school since they opened in 2014.

“I’ve seen a lot of kids grow up,” she said. “I’ve had five years of interacting with the families and getting to know them personally.”

Stanton said she loves the international diversity of the 400-plus student body.

 “I like the environment of happiness and positivity,” she said.   

Stanton, a Country Club Hills native who grew up with nine siblings, said her duties include monitoring student pick-up and drop-off, recess, helping with the front desk and phones while “being an extra eye for teachers” when needed. 

“My favorite times are when I get to interact with the families,” she said. 

Stanton said GEMS’ security is tight but “not a lot of crazy things are going on.” She said she and the security staff of four can assist in minor medical incidents or accidents, run fire and lockdown drills, provide security camera footage if needed and patrol the 322,000-square-foot campus.

It’s not all work, though. Stanton said one of her favorite events is the annual fundraising gala. She said it’s fun to raise a toast with the families in formal wear instead of her usual security uniform. 

Looking back on her five years at GEMS, Stanton said she appreciates her rewarding work.

“I am actually thankful for everybody that walks into this building because everyone that walks in here has a positive attitude,” Stanton said. “There are a lot of people who have bigger problems than what you think you have.”

Chicago care services making house calls

By Elisa Shoenberger

Throughout Chicago there are doctors and other medical professionals who will go to residences. Instead of traveling to a doctor’s office or hospital, people can reach out to different services for non-emergency medical care in their home. 

Decades ago, it was common practice for doctors to travel to people’s homes with their recognizable black bag. Today, though the practice is not as common, doctors still bring medicines and IVs to treat patients in their own homes with many of these services even having specialists on staff, such as wound care specialists or technicians who bring along portable X-ray machines.

Locally, Chicago Express Doctors, founded by a few emergency room doctors, wanted to address the problem of crowded waiting rooms. One of the staff doctors, identified only as Dr. Allen, said the doctors thought, “Why don’t we do something more convenient?” and Chicago Express Doctors was born. Patients can call the service and have a doctor dispatched within an hour.

Another service, MD at Home, which has 9,000 unique patients each year, works largely with patients in their homes, typically with patients that have mobility or cognitive issues. MD at Home provides primary care services as well as helping coordinate other services as needed. Dovi Weill, Director of Business Development, said MD at Home is trying to solve a “gap of care” and prevent hospitalizations.  

The virtual medical service, Teledoc, allows people to speak with a licensed doctor or therapist via phone, web or mobile. Teledoc has more than 20 million members, or patients, in 130 countries.

Other medical groups provide at home nursing services as well as hospice assistance. Each service caters to different patient populations. For instance, Chicago Express Doctors works with travelers who don’t want to go to the ERs while away from home, and people with tight schedules. MD at Home works more with geriatric patients in their homes.

However, all the services are meant for non-emergency medical care. Even with former ER doctors on staff, Chicago Express Doctors advises people go to the ER when facing emergency situations.

Mercy Home Marathon Runners Run for Home

By Stephanie Racine

Mercy Home is a privately funded full-time home for displaced youths that has operated in Chicago since the 1800s. 

In 1887, Reverend Dennis Mahoney put together a plan to refuge homeless young men. Mercy Home’s 1140 W. Jackson Blvd West Loop location still exists as its headquarters. Today, Mercy Home offers comprehensive support for youth in need.

“We provide kids with safety, housing, food, therapy, job opportunities, tutoring, and career guidance 24-7 throughout the year,” said Director of Communications Mark Schmeltzer.

Running the Chicago Marathon as a Mercy Home Hero is a way to support the organization. The Chicago Marathon is set for 8 a.m. Oct. 9.

Mercy Home Heroes can be anyone. Two heroes running this year, Reggie Williams-Rolle and Patrick Zamkin, both former youths at Mercy Home, are running to support their home.

“I’ve made it my life’s mission to do everything I can to make sure that folks know about [Mercy Home]” Zamkin said.

This is Zamkin’s fourth year running the marathon. Despite a number of metal replacements following a motorcycle accident when he was 20, Zamkin is gunning for five Chicago Marathons.

“It gives my orthopedic surgeon fits,” Zamkin said.

Zamkin was dropped off at Mercy Home on his 15th birthday. He said the support he got from the home helped him move forward. He works as a financial advisor after 10 years at the Chicago Board of Trade. 

“You got these guys in your corner. There’s nothing you can’t do,” Zamkin said.

Williams-Rolle is preparing for his first marathon. Training has been difficult, he said, but he’s excited to be giving back to Mercy Home.

“It’s just been a matter of being able to give back in any way that I can because I understand the importance of Mercy Home,” Williams-Rolle said.

Williams-Rolle was at Mercy Home for his final two years of High School. He graduated from St. Ignatius and got his Bachelor’s in Political Science from Emory University. He works in HR and is working on his Master’s Degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology.

Both runners are looking forward to the point in the marathon that passes by Mercy Home at mile 16.

“It’s at the perfect time because you’ll be at that point in the race where it is a little exhausting,” Williams-Rolle said.

“What a boost, seeing my family out there, all the employees, and the kids, they’re really out there rooting for you.” Zamkin said.

Mercy Home invites everyone to join their cheering section on Jackson Blvd. between Aberdeen and Racine.

For more information about Mercy Home, visit their website mercyhome.org.

Doorperson of the month, Jesus Rosario, The Chandler Condominiums, 450 E. Waterside Dr.

By Jesse Wright

Jesus Rosario, doorperson at the Chandler Condominiums, is newer to the building than some of the other door staff.

“I’ve been at this building for a year and a half,” he said.

But, Rosario said he loves the building and the neighborhood. Before the Chandler, he was a bike delivery guy for Jimmy John’s on Mag Mile. Delivering a sandwich is how he got his first look inside the Chandler.

“I figured being on this side of things would be more for me,” Rosario said. “It beats being on a bike for hours. Honestly it’s been a great year and a half so far. I feel comfortable.”

Rosario, 22, lives with his mother and two younger siblings. An older brother, a Marine, is stationed in Washington, D.C.

“He’s done events where he’s in the same building as the president, which is amazing,” Rosario said.

Rosario’s duties may not involve the president, but he said he enjoys the job.

“I’ve been working since I was 16,” he said. “First, I was a dish washer, then a delivery guy and now a doorperson. I figured I’d move up.”

Rosario said he’s enjoyed getting to know the Chandler’s 34 floors. The residents, he added, inspire him.

“It makes a good impression on me,” he said. “It’s inspired me to do something with myself and maybe live in a place like this one day.”

Rosario handles the usual stuff—packages, guests, resident needs—with a smile.

“A lot of what I end up doing is making sure everyone who walks through the door feels welcome,” he said. “I not only represent myself, but I represent the building and its residents.”

When he’s not at work, Rosario said he enjoys playing basketball, watching films or driving.

“I love driving,” he said. “I recently got a newer car and I look for any excuse to drive that.”

To nominate your favorite doorperson, email info@neweastsidecommunity.com with the door person’s name and why you think they should be the doorperson of the month. Each winner will receive a $25 gift card to Mariano’s.

Residents complain of bicyclists, skaters on city sidewalks

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

New Eastside residents at the September CAPS meeting complained of bikes and skateboard riders on city sidewalks.

“It seems as if there are more bicycles and skateboards on the sidewalk,” a resident said. “I’ve almost been run over a number of times. People may not be aware they’re not supposed to be on the sidewalk.”

Skateboards are banned on the sidewalk and streets and while bikes can be ridden on city streets, they’re prohibited from sidewalks. Police Sergeant Anthony Dombrowski said riders could be reported to 911 if they are caught in the act. Meanwhile, one man said cars and delivery trucks parked illegally in striped areas present a danger for pedestrians and cyclists.

Dombrowski suggested residents check out the city’s Vision Zero initiative. This is a broad plan to make the city’s streets safer for pedestrians and riders. The project is aimed to give better access to pedestrians and bicyclists.

“It is, I think, a worthwhile project,” Dombrowski said. “It’s why we have increased protected bike lanes because of vision zero. The goal is to have no fatalities, which is why they call it vision zero. But it takes time to build up the infrastructure.”

He said the city is improving it slowly and while the plan might frustrate some motorists, he said cars aren’t going to go away entirely.

Residents also complained about dangerous motorbike drivers. Dombrowski agreed they are a problem.

“The motorcycles are a real problem,” he said. “They’re worse than cars.” 

Dombrowski said motorcycles can speed away from cars, meaning the drivers are hard to catch safely.

Overall, Dombrowski said crime is down in the neighborhood, although he was reluctant to call it a trend.

“The only way to get good data is to have a long trendline,” he said.

Dombrowski said most of the reported thefts are from visitors, not from residents.“For the residents, it’s extremely low,” he said.

Chicago’s downtown offers spooky history

By Elisa Shoenberger

Downtown Chicago has a rich history of ghost stories and and many popular landmarks have spooky tales associated with them.

A famous site is the Iroquois Theater, now the James M. Nederlander Theatre, 24 W. Randolph. Hundreds of moviegoers, mostly women and children, perished in a horrible fire during a Christmas musical in 1903.

Many people died in an alley behind the theater when the panicked crowd ran out the upper-level fire escape doors and fell to their death because fire escapes had not been installed. 

There have been reported sightings of ghosts in the alley as well as the theater.

One reported haunting is inside the theater. Adam Selzer, a local historian, said theater workers report a backstage toilet that flushed by itself and the sound of a little girl giggling. 

However, Selzer explains, people assume that all the ghosts behind the Nederlander theater are from the Iroquois Theater Fire.

“Plenty of other people got killed there,” he said. The street, known as “Hairtrigger Block,” was filled with gambling halls.

Selzer has led ghost tours all over Chicago. This fall he’s running haunted river cruises as well as tours of Lincoln Park Zoo. 

Selzer said he does his research “to get the history right.” While studying haunted places, he’s found the stories can change as they are passed along.“

“Like a game of telephone,” he said.

Selzer said some stories involving Congress Plaza Hotel are more legend than history. However, he said, the location’s proximity to the Auditorium Theater offers some “gruesome” history. Many opera singers who stayed in the hotel ended their lives there.

Selzer said he once heard a gunshot in the hallway behind the Congress ballroom while leading a tour. They never found the cause.

Other haunted places include the site of the S.S. Eastland Disaster on the Chicago River at Clark St. and Wacker Dr., where 844 people perished when the boat capsized in 1915, and the site of Fort Dearborn at Wacker Dr. and Michigan Ave. where soldiers died in the Battle of Fort Dearborn.

Lyric names new musical director as Davis announces retirement

(Published Sept. 12, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

On Thursday the Lyric Opera announced Enrique Mazzola as Lyric’s next music director.

Mazzola will be the third director for the theater and he will take over from Sir Andrew Davis when Davis wraps up the 2021/2022 season in the spring of 2022. 

Davis has directed at the Lyric for 20 years, and he will return for guest spots on certain operas. 

“My love for the company has not diminished one jot or tittle since I first came here in 1987,” Davis said. “The Lyric is my family my wife feels exactly the same way and I shall have a wonderful two years finishing my official stint. Anthony, I thank you for everything.”

Davis was referring to Anthony Freud, the general director of the opera who praised Davis as he welcomed Mazzola. 

“It’s been a greater honor than I can say for me to be able to work so closely with Andrew during my time here,” said Freud. 

Mazzola has conducted operas at the Lyric, first in 2016 then in 2018 and Freud praised his attention to detail and his pacing. 

“These were extremely happy experiences for the company for our audiences and I hope for him,” Freud said. 

Mazzola said he did enjoy his work at the Lyric and he looks forward to moving to Chicago.

“I want to become a Chicagoan as far as possible,” he said. “I’m Italian but I will try. … I want to be near you all. … I think that from today in a way and from Sept. 21, my place is here and I want to listen to Chicago and stay in Chicago.”

He said fell in love with the city at first sight. 

“Each time I left my heart here,” he said. 

This year’s theater season kicks off Sept. 28 with a production of “The Barber of Seville.” For more information and tickets, visit lyricopera.org.

Chicago Architecture Center announces new neighborhoods, buildings to be featured in annual open house

(Published Sept. 10, 2019)

The Chicago Architecture Center (CAC) announced on Sept. 10 the full roster of neighborhoods and sites participating in Open House Chicago 2019—now in its ninth year and one of the largest architecture festivals in the world. This free two-day public event, taking place over the weekend of Oct. 19 and 20. It offers behind-the-scenes access to almost 350 sites in 37 neighborhoods, many rarely open to the public, including repurposed mansions, stunning skyscrapers, opulent theaters, exclusive private clubs, industrial facilities, cutting-edge offices and breathtaking sacred spaces. 

The new offerings in 2019 include a trail of dozens of theater venues and related sites, literally from A (Adventure Stage Chicago) to Z (Zap Props), celebrating the City’s 2019 Year of Chicago Theatre; an expansion into the Northwest side with the addition of Irving Park, Portage Park, and Jefferson Park joining communities highlighted in previous years of Open House Chicago; and an open invitation to visit the CAC at 111 E. Wacker Dr. throughout Open House Chicago weekend, free of charge, for an informative overview of Chicago’s rich architectural legacy.  

“The ninth annual Open House Chicago is our gift to this city. We’re excited for all Chicagoans to ‘choose their own adventure’ and explore new communities and experience the rich diversity that lies within the 37 neighborhoods included in OHC 2019,” said Lynn Osmond, president and CEO of the CAC. “We’re also inviting people to discover the new  galleries at the Chicago Architecture Center for free on October 19 and 20. Chicago’s intrepid urban explorers who love our annual celebration of Chicago neighborhoods will discover that same authentic Chicago experience in our Chicago Gallery, home to the famous Chicago Model and skyscraper exhibits.”

Also new in 2019, Open House Chicago expands its presence on the Northwest Side with the addition of sites in the Irving Park, Portage Park, and Jefferson Park neighborhoods.  Highlights in the area include Irving Park’s Irish American Heritage Center, a former public school with a restored auditorium, private club room and Celtic art throughout; Jefferson Park’s Copernicus Center in the former Gateway Theater, an atmospheric 1930s movie palace transformed into a vibrant concert and theatrical venue; and Eris Brewery & Cider House, the award-winning adaptive reuse of an imposing former Masonic temple as home to a producer of distinctive ciders and beers.

For a complete list of participating sites, visit openhousechicago.org. Most Open House Chicago sites are free and do not require a reservation, but participants are encouraged to sign up to receive event e-newsletters and last-minute announcements. Get the latest news and fun facts about Open House Chicago by following the Chicago Architecture Center on Twitter (@chiarchitecture) and Facebook (facebook.com/chiarchitecture). In addition to free access, Open House Chicago offers activities at various sites all weekend long, including cultural performances, family festivals and more. Information about these programs will be added to the website later in September.

Select Open House Chicago sites require advance registration (usually due to security or capacity constraints) and will not accept drop-in visitors. TodayTix will charge a modest processing fee for most RSVP-only site bookings. Registration for these sites and lotteries opens on Sept. 10, and full information is available on the Open House Chicago website. 

Cirrus work to start this week

(Published Sept. 5, 2019)

According to Cirrus spokespeople, as work continues on the Lakeshore East Cirrus sales gallery site (the parcel between The Shoreham and The Lancaster),work will start this week in the existing parkway to make a clear area for the trailer delivery.  While some parkway landscaping will be disturbed, significant new landscaping will be provided in the park adjacent to the sales gallery.

During this activity, there will be traffic controls in place to maintain access through the roadway, but there may be interment delays.  Pedestrian access will be routed to the opposite side of the roadway. 

Teatro ZinZanni brings European-style Cabaret to Chicago


(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Elisa Shoenberger

Love, Chaos and Dinner.

That’s the tagline for Chicago’s newest cabaret show, Teatro ZinZanni. This dinner and a show aims to deliver on all three.  A variety of performances include circus acts, clowning performances and song and dance numbers through a multi-course dinner, catered by the Goddess and the Grocer.

Founded in 1998 by Norman Langill, Teatro ZinZanni is inspired by the European cabarets. Langill said he wanted to “create an intimate relationship with the artists.” Teatro ZinZanni currently has shows running in Seattle and San Francisco. 

The show takes place on the 14th floor of the Cambria Hotel, 32 W. Randolph St., in a space discovered in 2017 when the hotel was doing renovations. Langill had been looking for the right place in Chicago for ten years and when the former Masonic temple was found, “it was a natural,” for the show. Langill said. Now the space is renovated to become the “Spiegeltent ZaZou” described by ZinZanni press as a “Belgium mirror tent filled with unique, historic touches.”

The three-hour show has a show within a show feeling as the antics of its performers and wait staff start before the show officially begins. Performers wander around dressed as wait staff and cooks and interact with the customers between the official acts and during the dinner courses. 

“The food and the waitstaff have to be integrated in the experience. They are the support cast for the evening,” Langill said. “It has to be integrated and seamlessly connected to the show so there is only one experience you are having, not two.”

The “hosts” of Teatro ZinZanni are The Caesar, played by Frank Ferrante, and sultry singer Madame ZinZanni, performed by Rizo. They are accompanied by a live band with music reminiscent of Édith Piaf and jazz classics. “Lady Rizo is a force of nature.” 

Rachel Karabenick, a circus performer who attended the show, remarked. “Her voice, her poise, her humor—everything about her performance was simply stunning. I’d say she is one of the best performers I have ever seen live.”

The cabaret presents performers from around the world along with local artists from Chicago. Samuel and Sylvia are local performers known as Duo Rose who perform on doubles trapeze. 

The show will continue through the end of September and a new show “Decadent Delights” with a diner theme will begin in October.

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