by Ernst Lamothe Jr,
Director of Communications for Thornton Township
THORNTON TOWNSHIP, Ill. (March 24, 2020) – This has definitely been a unique time in our country. Even though the coronavirus started making news nationwide months ago, it vaulted to the forefront of many Americans’ minds during the past few weeks. Thornton Township assembled each manager from our various departments to decide which essential services would be maintained and which would be suspended at this time with the number of coronavirus confirmed cases growing. We struggled with that because we’ve always had an open door policy, and we wanted to keep as many programs as possible running.
But we also needed to make sure our residents were safe, especially since we serve many older adults in the community. Once the schools and businesses decided to close, we had to be diligent in making sure that we are not putting any of our residents or our staff at risk, while continuing to provide services for people so they wouldn’t fall through the cracks. Township government is so essential, and this crisis has proven that.
Outsiders who don’t understand our impact have said that township government is an extra layer of government. We actually see that differently. We see that extra layer as a safety net for the community. We offer services and programs that residents wouldn’t be able to utilize without us—free food, counseling, health screenings, and transportation to medical facilities and grocery stores.
Adjusted, but available
One of the most important elements we provide for families is food. Supervisor Frank M. Zuccarelli decided to continue our Wednesday township food pantry pick-up for families. (We serve more than 1,000 families per month.) Thornton Township families who have registered with our program can come as early as 9:00am on Wednesdays at 15340 Page Avenue in Harvey. In addition, we will continue our senior lunch program and have turned it into a carry-out service. Seniors can come from 11:00am to 12:30pm Tuesday through Thursday to our Calumet City site (1420 Huntington Drive) or our Riverdale site (14323 S. Halsted). The price of the meals will remain at $1.50.
Other programs that will still be available include our senior lawn care program which will begin in the late spring. And as of now, we are still helping clients in our assessor’s office.
On hold for now
At our Senior Centers in Calumet City (1420 Huntington Drive) and Riverdale (14323 S. Halsted), we have suspended all exercise and dance activities, card games, income tax services, weekly movie, bingo activities, and group senior counseling. Our General Assistance Program (333 162nd St., South Holland) has suspended taking incoming clients for CEDA Energy, PIPP ComEd Hardship, LIHEAP, and weatherization programs.
Our Youth and Family Services (14323 S. Halsted, Riverdale) have suspended all after-school childcare services.
Our Special Services Department (333 162nd St., South Holland) has suspended our regular dances and regularly scheduled activities.
These were not easy decisions for us. Our coronavirus task force and Supervisor Zuccarelli wrestled with wanting to keep as many programs as possible open because we always strive to help the community and be a vessel for people in need. However our concerns for the community’s health had to be our number one priority.
Still open for business
I want to emphasize one point: All our township buildings are still open, and people can stop in whenever necessary. Also, we continue to operate our senior transportation program.
The Township family
One difficult part of this process for us is that our Township employees and our community clients are our families. Many of us have worked with residents and each other for decades. With the incredible culture we have created, it’s difficult to be unable to hug, kiss, and shake hands! We are used to being able to give our client hugs when we see them in need—we’ve always been a strong shoulder for them to cry on and a friendly face to deliver news of help.
All we know right now is that we will get through this together. The coronavirus is something that doesn’t discriminate. It affects all genders, all political and religious affiliations, the wealthy and underserved, all cultures, East Coast, West Coast, South, or Midwest. We need to work together and stay united.
We are hopeful that this current crisis will help us realize what we already knew all along—we have more similarities than differences.
Stay safe, stay calm, stay united, and don’t lose your sense of love and laughter through this difficult time.