Volunteer force: Midlothian recognized for gazebo project
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY firstname.lastname@example.org December 25, 2012 7:08PM
This gazebo, which sits in the Village Green, was built by volunteers and recently wan a hometown award, in Midlothian, IL on Thursday December 6, 2012. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 27, 2013 6:02AM
Midlothian’s recent volunteer effort to give new life to a vacant site in the heart of its business district earned it a Governor’s Home Town Award.
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity recognized the community effort behind creating the Charlie and Betty Hillyer Memorial Gazebo for the Village Green on 147th Street, on the former site of Cavallini’s Restaurant.
The gazebo — built with donated funds and labor — was one of 30 projects recognized throughout the state for the 30th annual awards program.
“We were trying to make our downtown an attractive area, to give people a reason to come downtown and generate pedestrian traffic,” Mayor Terry Stephens said.
More than 100 volunteers participated in the project, contributing 660 hours, $66,000 in donated materials and labor, and more than $56,500 in cash.
Stephens hopes it will become the hub of community events.
When the restaurant was demolished, the land was deeded to the village, and grass was planted to create green space. The effort to raise funds for a gazebo initially was launched in 2010 and was re-ignited in 2011 by the village’s economic development committee, which offered residents and business owners an opportunity to donate, with naming rights and memorial plaques.
“A generous donation from the Hillyer family got the ball rolling,” Stephens said.
The local carpenters union donated labor, and other businesses and residents donated concrete, electricity, landscaping and memorial trees and benches. Sidewalks, plants and a drainage system were installed, and decorative lighting was added.
The gazebo staged two concerts and an ice cream social in its first year and quickly has become the site of parades, picnics and other celebrations, officials said.
“It’s growing its own legs. People want to do more,” Stephens said. He is hoping to raise money to be able to host a series of concerts next summer.
“We’re excited about it. It’s kind of cool,” Stephens said.
Each town that earns a Governor’s Home Town Award receives a road sign for its community and a plaque recognizing its efforts.
Volunteers in the winning communities — which also included New Lenox, Oak Lawn and Richton Park — “selflessly dedicated their time and efforts to making their communities a better place to live,” Gov. Pat Quinn said.
The 30 winning projects represent the work of nearly 8,500 volunteers who donated more than 205,000 hours of time, officials said. Nearly $4.7 million in donated materials or in-kind services were provided, and almost $7.1 million in private funds was raised for these projects, according to the IDCEO.
Awards were presented in six different divisions, based on population, in six different categories: memorials and monuments, beautification and sustainability, parks and recreation, service and mentorship, history and historic preservation, and general.
Midlothian’s award was in the category for beautification and sustainability.