White Sox mascot Southpaw visits clients of Park Lawn Services in Oak Lawn during a recent service event involving the White Sox Volunteer Corps. | Jessie Molloy/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 5, 2014 2:12AM
The White Sox Volunteer Corps scored big on a recent Saturday when it sent 75 volunteers to help build equipment for and visit clients at Park Lawn Services in Oak Lawn.
The corps started in 2009 in response to President Barack Obama’s national call to service. It consists of about 5,000 White Sox fans and employees who offer their time to local service projects throughout the year.
“We just sent out an email to the fan base and asked for volunteers,” said Christine O’Reilly, the White Sox’s senior director of community relations and a volunteer at the Park Lawn event. “About two weeks before every service opportunity, an email is sent out to the volunteers and they RSVP and let us know they’re interested in helping.”
“They do about 30 to 40 projects every year,” five-year volunteer and Alsip resident Stacy Tsihlopoulos said. “It’s really fantastic. We do a variety of projects each year so it never gets repetitive and you get to help out and learn new things right in your own back yard.”
At Park Lawn, the volunteers were putting their carpentry skills to work, building bean bag boards, benches and flower boxes for use around Park Lawn’s facilities.
Park Lawn Services is a nonprofit that works to assist individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live as independently as possible by providing job-training programs, assisted-living facilities and enrichment programs.
The White Sox volunteers were united with Park Lawn through the help of Chicago Cares, an organization that works to mobilize groups of volunteers and connect them with causes that need help. Chicago Cares also supplied all of the construction materials for the day at Park Lawn.
“We have a long-standing partnership with the White Sox,” said Jenne Myers, the executive director of Chicago Cares. “They told us they wanted to get out and work near their fan base in the south suburbs and we thought Park Lawn was a great fit because of the Sox’s goal of working with people with disabilities.”
In addition to the construction work, the White Sox and Chicago Cares volunteers set up and ran a small, private carnival for Park Lawn’s clients and their families. The event included games, prizes and a visit from Southpaw, the White Sox mascot.
“What we love about the project here is we get to interact with the clients,” said O’Reilly, who grew up in Chicago’s Mount Greenwood community and majored in special education in college. “Today’s event was very special for me. We sometimes do bigger, construction kind of projects where nobody can come in and see it while we’re working. Doing the fun fair with the construction, though, we get to see the people who are impacted by our work and it’s just great.”
The White Sox Volunteer Corps already has made plans to come back to Park Lawn next spring to help with their annual Tag Day fundraiser.
“The corps has really become like a community of friends,” O’Reilly said. “It’s a great opportunity to be around the fans and give back in the company of friends.”
According to O’Reilly, the corps is always looking for more volunteers.
For more information about the White Sox Volunteer Corps, visit chicago.whitesox.mlb.com and click on the “community” tab. To learn more about the opportunities provided by Park Lawn Services, visit www.parklawn.com.