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Thank you for your Dec. 26 stories about the significant events of 2012. It's always enjoyable and informative to look back at, and reflect on, the accomplishments, quirky events and expectations-not-realized over the past 12 months.
While reading and recollecting, I was reminded of Oak Park Township's 2012 year — an unusual year in my time with the township.
After 12 years of searching, a new 8,800-square-foot location was found, citizen-approved in March 2011, renovated in 17 months, and opened in August — all without referendum and higher taxes. Now almost 2,500 Oak Park and River Forest senior citizens are better served each year with meals, transportation, socialization and many other readily accessible support services that help them maintain active, independent lives.
On Nov. 13, the Village of Oak Park's Historic Preservation Commission gave the new facility its 2012 Award for Rehabilitation and Adaptive Use. Partly for his work with this project, architect and Township Trustee Eric Davis received the Township Officials of Illinois (TOI) 2012 Trustees' Division Award for Excellence in Public Services at the TOI November Springfield meeting. At the same meeting, Senior Services Director Desiree Scully-Simpkins received the statewide Senior Citizen Services Committees 2012 award as Senior Services Director of the Year.
After almost two years of effort to adjust funding requirements and improve communications, all 11 Oak Park and River Forest taxing units signed on in the summer to another new two-year Intergovernmental Agreement supporting the highly successful Township Youth Interventionist program. This means that a model 14-year collaboration, often favorably noted in the Wednesday Journal, will continue through 2014.
A new Youth Services substance abuse prevention program called FACE-IT, which requires both parent and youth participation, completed a successful trial year in June. It is now an assignment given by both Oak Park and River Forest village adjudication judges for substance use ordinance violations. The IMPACT parent group, whose successes on youth issues was noted in your Dec. 26 articles, also works closely with Youth Services and the interventionists as a source of information and consultation.
Township General Assistance provides modest financial help to unemployed, typically single, Oak Parker residents who have very little in assets and income. In 2012, the program established job readiness training with Walk In Ministry to assist clients in their search for work, and a special relationship was set up with PADS to assist Oak-Park-based homeless residents looking for work. General Assistance, now with a client base of over 100, is another example of Oak Park's big heart for those in need.
One of the township services most recognized by Oak Park property taxpayers was also recognized this year. Township Assessor Ali ElSaffar received the Township Officials of Illinois (TOI) 2012 Assessors' Division Award for Excellence in Public Service.
Of all of the above, the new facility across Oak Park Avenue from the Wednesday Journal offices should give the Oak Park and River Forest community particular pleasure — seeing our older citizens, many of them much-loved parents and grandparents, enjoying the hospitality and social support of a generous community.
Thanks, again, for your great reporting of the past year, and Happy 2013 New Year!
As an elected citizen representative in township governance, I have found it to be a rather fortunate innovation in Oak Park government — separating critical social service tax funding and leadership from other service needs, especially in times of a challenged economy and funding cuts (e.g., VOP budget down 20% in recent years). My observation is that citizens see the township as delivering steady, efficient, well-regarded services through a dedicated, professional staff.
David Boulanger is the Oak Park Township supervisor.