‘Chicago Tonight’ in your neighborhood: Des Plaines | Chicago News

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Des Plaines is a Chicago suburb known for its forest reserves and as the headquarters of several large corporations. It is a diverse city, with a growing population of over 58,000 people, located just north of O’Hare Airport.

Interactive map: More from our series of community reports

The city has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases, prompting schools in the area to hold pop-up vaccination clinics.

“Over the past few weeks, (the rate has) gone up a bit. We are right about 3.92% for our postal codes, ”said Paul Hertel, superintendent of school district 62 des Plaines. “As we speak, I think we have 8 positive cases and around 32 children who are in quarantine.

Algonquin Middle School has partnered with the Illinois Department of Public Health to host a series of COVID-19 vaccination clinics.

“Between the Pfizer vaccine clearances and Johnson and Johnson, and the state mandates – and the fact that they exist, and people have received the vaccine without a lot of side effects – these hesitant people are coming in,” District 62 nurse Donna Zenger said.

The college is one of dozens of schools in the region that have resumed operations and welcomed students into the classroom. Administrators here say they are taking every precaution to ensure the safety of students and staff.

“Over 99% of our children have come back,” Hertel said. “We have put in place some great mitigation measures. Our biggest challenge was in our dining rooms, maintaining that six foot distance. We were able to do this, but in some of our schools we use our gymnasium during lunch hour.

Algonquin Middle School has partnered with the Illinois Department of Public Health to host a series of COVID-19 vaccination clinics. (WTTW News)

At the Plains Chamber of Commerce, CEO Andrea Biwer has been at the forefront of helping businesses stay afloat.

“When the pandemic hit businesses, we were looking for information. We have tried to answer as many questions as possible. If we didn’t have the answer, we found someone who did, ”Biwer said. “We also launched a series of videos to help promote awareness of businesses moving along the curb. “

One of those companies was American Wild Burger.

“There was a time when we couldn’t find hand sanitizer, we couldn’t find masks. There was a local chamber member (who) sewed masks for our staff, ”said co-owner Sylvia Talavera. “In a time when everyone was isolating themselves and staying away from everyone else, we were just trying to stay connected. “

Talavera’s husband and brother-in-law opened the restaurant eight years ago. Despite the tough times, the Talavera family wanted to give back and started the free lunch on Fridays.

“It’s a family of seven children. Because of this, my husband has a huge heart, and so does my brother-in-law, ”said Talavera. “They know what it’s like to struggle sometimes when you’re a big family like that. They wanted to do whatever they could to help. They were raised to always help people.

Sylvia Talavera's husband and brother-in-law opened the American Wild Burger eight years ago.  Despite the tough times, the Talavera family wanted to give back and started the free lunch on Fridays.  (WTTW News)Sylvia Talavera’s husband and brother-in-law opened the American Wild Burger eight years ago. Despite the tough times, the Talavera family wanted to give back and started the free lunch on Fridays. (WTTW News)

Self-Help Closet and Food Pantry has worked with companies like American Wild Burger to host the Red Barrel Program, an initiative providing free food donations to those in need.

“Before the pandemic, we had about 400 hundred Des Plaines households on our books,” said Self Help executive director Debbie Walusiak. “That number has grown to around 675 households. “

The volunteer run pantry has been around for 50 years. Walusiak, a longtime resident of Des Plaines, says the need for food is increasing.

“Most of the stories I heard were about people who lost their jobs or had to take care of a sick family member,” Walusiak said. “Throughout the pandemic, the theme was’ I never thought I would be here. “”

The pantry also offers clothing and personal care products and is open to the neighborhood twice a week. Walusiak says their mission is to work with the community to help residents get through the pandemic.

Self-Help Closet and Food Pantry has worked with companies like American Wild Burger to host the Red Barrel Program, an initiative providing free food donations to those in need.  (WTTW News)Self-Help Closet and Food Pantry has worked with companies like American Wild Burger to host the Red Barrel Program, an initiative providing free food donations to those in need. (WTTW News)

Another focal point in the community is the Maryville Academy, which has served the children and families of Des Plaines for over a century.

“Maryville was founded in 1883, so we’ve worked with children and families for a very long time. Although the years have passed and the names of our programs have changed, our commitment to children and families has remained, ”said Nina Aliprandi, Associate Executive Director of Maryville Academy.

While Maryville in person had to be adapted to COVID, Alipran she is “very proud to tell you that Maryville has never closed its doors. Throughout the pandemic, we have continued to thrive. “

Video: Watch our full interview with Nina Aliprandi


The Chamber’s Biwer hopes to put Des Plaines back on the map as the city finds new ways to reinvent itself and help businesses survive.

“The business community (is concerned) about the unknown of the future, but is also hiring qualified people for their vacancies,” Biwer said. The Chamber is developing a program allowing companies to advertise their vacant positions.

New apartment complexes are being built in the city center and authorities hope to attract new residents to the area. One of the attractions they operate is the renovated Des Plaines Theater, a historic venue that has remained vacant for many years. After being bought by the city and rehabilitated, it is expected to reopen on October 1.

“We expect this to be a major magnet attracting people from across the region,” said Des Plaines Mayor Andrew Goczkowksi, who hopes it can help bring new energy to the city center. from the city. “I see it’s a prosperous neighborhood where there are a lot of people who live in these buildings here that they build, go to restaurants, eat out, go to our new store that has opened. It will all be because of magnetic things like the theater here. “

Video: Watch our full interview with Plains Mayor Andrew Goczkowksi


Community Report Series

“Chicago Tonight” Expands Community Reporting. We take to the streets to speak with your neighbors, local businesses, agencies and leaders about COVID-19, the economy, racial justice, education and more. Find out where we’ve been and what we’ve learned using the map below. Or select a community using the drop-down menu. Points in Red represent our COVID-19 Across Chicago series; blue marks our “Chicago Tonight” series in Your Neighborhood.



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