Taking pride in what he does

His name is Harvey and you've probably seen him around

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By David Pierini

Staff Photographer

If there are obstacles in Harvey Finkelstein's life, they are swept aside when his hands work a broom.

Parts of Oak Park are a little tidier thanks to Finkelstein, 59, who asks local business owners for odd jobs like sweeping, taking out garbage or cleaning bathrooms.

He earns a little pocket money, but mostly a sense of pride and a feeling of belonging to a community.

"I like to work and people know I'm a good guy," said Finkelstein, who lives with schizo-affective disorder. "It makes me more independent and it makes my mood go up."

Finkelstein can't remember when he started seeking the work, but he has lived in Oak Park for the last 15 years. He lives in an apartment with one other person with a disability plus live-in caretakers.

He has struggled for years with his illness, but the work in large part has been the best medicine. He has managed to stay out of the hospital for more than a year.

Finkelstein's week centers around his jobs. Each morning, he is at Valero gas station on Wesley and Madison. There he sweeps, cleans the bathroom and takes out the garbage.

"Most people here, they know him," said Adel Alqaisieh, who works at the station. "He's friendly to the people. He's cool."

Finkelstein also works his way up Oak Park Avenue, sweeping for Re/Max in the Village, a flower shop and First Baptist Church, where he also attends Sunday services.

Mike White, one of his caretakers, met Finkelstein 28 years ago and has worked with him through two different agencies.

"He takes his work very seriously," White said. "He generates this work on his own. It's a very important value to him. He would feel like a bum if he wasn't working.


Email: david@oakpark.com

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Pat Holland from Milwaukee  

Posted: March 28th, 2013 9:30 AM

Besides working and looking to be of service wherever he goes, our family knows what a great dancer Harvey is. Just ask him about his visit to Victors in Milwaukee. He 'WOWED' the crowd and made everbody happy. Harvey does that!

Dan Kaemmerer from Milwaukee, WI  

Posted: March 27th, 2013 9:27 PM

We are so grateful to have Harvey in our lives. He is a "great soul" whose cheerfulness is infectious! We love him!

Lisa Kaemmerer from Milwaukee  

Posted: March 27th, 2013 2:35 PM

Harvey has a very special place in my heart. He is an example of what all people should try to live up to. He is one of the most caring, open-hearted, genuine people that I have been so blessed to get to know. I am proud to call him my family! Hooray for Mr. Finkelstein...all my love. -Lisa K

mary c. from Oak Park  

Posted: January 16th, 2013 7:54 PM

Hooray for Harvey. There are so many other people with disabilities whose lives would be enriched by the opportunity to work. We all need a sense of purpose and pride - in whatever form that takes. There need to be more opportunities for persons with mental illness to feel valued. These are our parents, brother, sisters, children and friends!


Posted: January 16th, 2013 12:23 PM

Beautiful story. Wonderful Photos.

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