Nineteen years ago in the week after 9/11, there was a candlelight vigil in Scoville Park. The caption under our page one picture was “Light in the darkness.”

It’ll do for a headline this week as we look round for something affirming in this dark week of the official start of the coronavirus pandemic season. Me? I was hoping for Opening Day and the launch of a White Sox championship season. 

But we’ll take hopeful glimmers as they come.

Leaders at the West Cook YMCA, having the same discussion as every organization last week. Do we close? When do we close? Phillip Jimenez, president of the local Y, said that after the decision to close, to do a “deep clean,” (what exactly is a deep clean? How undeep is the usual clean?) the question was “what new way can the assets of the Y be used at this time.” And he said a colleague reported seeing a notice from a YMCA elsewhere that had re-opened and re-focused for the duration of this virus as a daycare provider exclusively for the kids of first responders and health-care workers.

So that is the path the Y is currently exploring. They may be able to pull it together. There may be obstacles they are not able to overcome. But the impulse is there and it is positive.

Jimenez has calls in to local mayors and to administrators at four local hospitals — West Sub, Rush Oak Park, Loyola and PCC. The early response, says Jimenez, is positive. Right now the plan would be to launch as early as next week with a 12-hour schedule — 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. A nurse at the front door would medically evaluate each youngster with the help of a child-care worker.

“It would be very fluid at first,” says Jimenez, allowing that it could gradually expand to 24-hour days, to match the schedules of health care and first responders. 

“They support us. We support them. This is completely aligned with our mission,” he said. 

Who pays? Jimenez says he hopes that current Y members who are not able to use the Y will let their membership fees be used as scholarships for the daycare students. He is also asking local governments and the hospitals to help pay staff. 

We’ll know more soon and will report back to you.

Last week as our reporters actively compiled word of every cancellation and closing, I asked a couple of times about the long-scheduled Annual Trustee Benefit at Dominican University. This year’s star was scheduled to be Audra McDonald. 

It came late, but eventually the school announced cancellation of the event, its biggest annual fundraiser. Money raised goes straight to scholarships. On average in recent years the money haul has reached $500,000. Hope is that the McDonald concert can be reset. 

But here’s the good news: The school reports that many of the ticket and table buyers are content to leave their money in the form of a straight-up donation. And the school is actively paying it forward as it donates $15,000 in catered food — that would be 420 portions of petite chateau of beef with carrots and green beans and quinoa — to Housing Forward. The $4,000 in flowers ordered from Westgate Flowers were delivered Monday to Gottlieb and MacNeal hospitals and several local elder homes in Oak Park. 

Finally, in this crisis we all make sacrifices. Seems the Journal is giving up village board meetings for Lent/coronavirus season. Among the items on the agenda for a Monday meeting which got cancelled were: A second extension for the Townhouses-That-Would-Not-Be-Built on South Boulevard east of Oak Park Avenue. The foundations are lovely. Been staring at them for a long time when I walk to 7-Eleven for health food.

Also, the restaurant previously known as Two Brothers Social Tap has now been empty for 17 months. If it had met Monday, the village board would have heard an argument to support lower property taxes on the site via a Cook County government program. The news is that a restaurant called Victory Italian has signed a lease to open there if the county provides a tax break — and when restaurants actually open again.

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Dan Haley

Dan was one of the three founders of Wednesday Journal in 1980. He’s still here as its four flags – Wednesday Journal, Austin Weekly News, Forest Park Review and Riverside-Brookfield Landmark – make...