Sabadosa: Traveling patriotic bench honors veterans
By Regina Sabadosa Citizen Journalistfirstname.lastname@example.org December 13, 2012 1:06PM
Artist Deb Scinto’s bench, titled “Welcoming Home Our Heroes,” is on display at Chicago Ridge Village Hall. | Supplied Photo
Updated: January 17, 2013 6:15AM
What started as a small, inspired idea has become not only a work of art but a symbol of honor and thanks to a very special group — our veterans.
Deb Scinto, of Chicago Ridge, had heard about Tinley Park’s 2011 Benches on the Avenue project through a local Tinley artist. She said she felt passionate about its patriotic theme, “America the Beautiful,” and immediately began planning how she could incorporate her other passion — photography — into designing a bench worthy of display.
Scinto is the board secretary and chapter photographer for the Chapter 7 American Veterans Motorcycle Riders Association. She also volunteers with several other groups that work together to benefit soldiers and other veterans.
By entering the bench competition, Scinto said she wanted to honor not only veterans but also all the volunteers “with hearts of gold.” Her labor of love seems to have fulfilled all of this.
Scinto’s bench is titled “Welcoming Home Our Heroes.”
The front part of the bench bears the caption, “All Gave Some, Some Gave All.” These words were taken directly from one of the patches she wears on her leather riding vest. This also is where the idea of the eagle emerged, “with its arms spread so wide, welcoming you into the comfort of its wings,” Scinto said.
Below the bench seat are actual photographs Scinto shot of some of the “welcome home” events where volunteers were on hand to greet returning soldiers.
Scinto told me the photos under the left wing are from a recent Honor Flight Chicago in which World War II veterans were welcomed home, and the photos under the right wing honor fallen heroes who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
The flower boxes hooked to each side of the bench represent each branch of service: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and National Guard.
To create her bench, Scinto enlisted the help of her dad, Lenny Scinto, also of Chicago Ridge; and Ron “Cowboy” Iacono, of Alsip, a fellow member of her veterans chapter.
Iacono is a woodworker and originally was just going to cut out the eagle Scinto had drawn up. Then the plan expanded to make it a 3-D design from all sides.
Just as work started on the bench, Scinto needed emergency shoulder surgery, so she had to rely heavily on her dad and Iacono to be able to meet their deadline.
“With one arm, a lot of determination, and with the help of Ron and my dad, we set out to complete what I started,” Scinto said. “In the end, my eagle had now turned into an elaborate work of art with over 350 individual feathers and pieces.”
Scinto said getting the individual feathers cut out, shaped and sanded took an enormous amount of time. Her friends Tim and Maribeth Mackowiak, of Worth, stepped up to help, especially during Scinto’s surgery and rehab.
For the shaping and sanding of the individual feathers, additional AVMRA chapter members assisted. They included Mike Jackson, Tom Gelin, Rick Williams and Shellie Fox. Also, Scinto’s son, Ryan Grigg, along with other friends Melanie Colangelo, Jimmy Craver and Sue Miller, pitched in to help.
Sponsorship for the bench came from the Summit VFW Post 6863/AVMRA Chapter 7, along with Summit Mayor Joseph Strzelczyk, the Illinois Motorcycle Freedom Run, Wounded Warriors Run and the Chicagoland Toys for Tots.
The bench originally was displayed at 172nd Street and Oak Park Avenue in Tinley Park. Although it was designed with the intention of being located at the Summit VFW on a permanent basis, it has become more of a “traveling” bench.
Each time the bench comes off display, repairs are needed, mostly due to weathering from the outside elements, before again going back out. Scinto said she especially wants to thank her dad and the Mackowiaks for doing much of those repairs.
On the back of the bench is a dedication to all the groups who welcome home and honor veterans and military personnel on a regular basis. In addition to AVMRA are Patriot Guard Riders, Warrior Watch Riders, Soldiers Guardian Angels, Honor Flight Chicago, Motorcycle Freedom Run, Operation: Moms Cookies, Inc., and Welcome You Home.
Scinto’s bench earned the Best Family Project award, something she said fits well as the project truly was a family endeavor.
The bench is in the lobby at Chicago Ridge Village Hall and was placed there just prior to Veterans Day. It will remain there through April before traveling once again, perhaps to another VFW or American Legion.
Be sure to check it out!