Winter Warming Centers Now Open in Berwyn

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A couple bundles up to face Chicago’s cold winter this year. Photo courtesy of the Chicago Tribune.

Now that the weather becomes frightful and the temperature has steadily dropped, five warming centers are open in Berwyn and are welcoming residents and the homeless to come in and escape the freezing cold.

According to the Cook County government, over thirty warming centers are now open across the city of Chicago for the winter season. Those who need a safe place to get warm from the freezing temperatures are encouraged to step inside these centers.

Chicagoans who are seeking a shelter should contact the warming center first to verify that it’s open. In Berwyn, the following public spaces in Berwyn are designated open warming centers for the 2016-2017 winter season, according to the Cook County Homeland Security and Emergency Management website:

  • Berwyn Public Library, 2701 S. Harlem Ave.
    • Hours: Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
    • Contact: (708) 788-2660. For after-hours phone calls, call (708) 795-5600 (police).
  • Berwyn Police Department, 6401 W. 31st St.
    • Hours: 24/7
    • Contact: (708) 788-2660. For after-hours phone calls, call (708) 795-5600.
  • Berwyn Recreational Center, 6501 W. 31st St.
    • Hours: Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
    • Contact: (708) 788-2010
  • Berwyn Township’s Freedom Park Office, 3701 Scolville Ave.
    • Hours: Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
    • Contact: (708) 788-1701

Deputy Director of Communications and Public Affairs at the Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Natalia Derevyanny stresses the importance of keeping warm and keeping safe this winter season.

“We just really want to encourage people to get warm as safely as possible. Especially for residents who are using space heaters, we want to encourage them to turn them off once they leave the room and if they have children or pets to be extra vigilant,” Derevyanny said.

When warming centers that are not open 24/7 close, the Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management advises the homeless to go to shelters such as P.A.D.S. in Chicago Heights, Oaklawn, and other south suburban Chicago locations.

 

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Brookfield Zoo does their part in giraffe conservation

 

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Photo courtesy of the Amy Roberts

By: Jocelyn Cano

As of Dec. 8, 2016, The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has officially declared giraffes vulnerable for extinction, with their population declining 40 percent in the last 30 years. This decline is due to loss of habitats and illegal hunting. The Brookfield Zoo is doing their part to make sure these animals stay off of the endangered list.

“We all know about the big, mega vertebrates like rhinos and the elephants,” Bill Zeigler, senior vice president of animal programs for the Chicago Zoological Society, said, “where there’s international trade in ivory and rhino horn, but you don’t look at much international trade in giraffes, so it hasn’t been on the big radar as far as the general public is aware, but the fact is they’re suffering a greater decline than the rhinos and the elephants, because of poaching for meat as well as loss of habitat.”

The Giraffe Conservation foundation has named the Reticulated Giraffe the subspecies with the greatest decline in its population of about 80 percent. This means the population has gone from about 30,000 giraffes to about 5,000. This subspecies can be found at the Brookfield Zoo.

The Brookfield Zoo has been working towards giraffe conservation for some time now, but more recently has joined efforts with the Reticulated Giraffe Project in northern Kenya to provide the program with more resources, spread awareness and continue to strive towards greater giraffe conservation.

“The last two years we’ve made a significant investment in this program,” Amy Roberts, curator of mammals for the Brookfield Zoo, said, “we’re looking to not only connect the people that come to our zoo with wildlife nature but more on a global scale.”

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Will Berwyn Reap Benefits of Trump, Price Healthcare Changes?

In 2010, the House passed the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and President Obama signed it as a law. The goals were simple: to provide more Americans with health insurance, to provide better care, and to reduce the costs of care.

But since 2010, there have been many critics of the program, mainly Republicans. Their criticisms include that the more people insurance companies cover, the more the actual rates will rise. In addition, under Obamacare, Medicaid became a state decision. Therefore, states that have not expanded Medicaid inevitably increased the number of people who are uninsured.

Repealing and replacing Obamacare has been a conservative talking point for years and it’s removal was a big piece of President-elect Trump’s campaign.

Trump has said he wants to “get rid of the lines around states to increase competition.” As it is, health insurance providers can’t just sell insurance anywhere. There are specific boundaries, although a few states have opened those boundaries, but buying insurance from another state has its own drawbacks under the current system as well.

The question remains if removing all of the boundaries around states would increase competition and foster a freer marketplace. Under Trump’s logic costs would decrease due to a more competitive market. However, Trump has said that he intends to keep pre-existing conditions, a mandate of Obamacare that forces insurance companies to cover expenses and care for individuals with pre-existing conditions.

Recently, the Trump administration tapped Tom Price for Health Secretary, a man who has vehemently opposed Obamacare since its inception. Given his policies and his stance on several issues, two weeks ago the New York Times called Price “a radical choice.”

But what we all really want to know is how is this going to affect our own communities?

We need to start by looking at the statistics. According to IllinoisHealthMatters.org, the number of uninsured residents living in Berwyn, Cicero, and parts of the Oak Park townships is 37,392. In addition, according to Loyola Medicine’s Community Health Profile, 30 percent of residents in Berwyn and Cicero are under the age of 18 and less than 10 percent are over the age of 65.

The most interesting statistic in the Community Health Profile is a chart that shows “years of potential life lost.” The predetermined end age point on this chart is 75-years old, so any end age point prior to 75 is considered a year lost. West Suburban Cook County comes in at 19.1 years lost and Suburban Cook County is at 18.7 years lost.

At first glance, this chart doesn’t offer any indication that would connect years lost to healthcare. But another chart follows the first. This second chart depicts the leading causes of death and the top five are as follows: heart disease, cancer, stroke, COPD, and pneumonia. The rates of mortality due to heart disease, cancer, and stroke in West Suburban Cook County are higher than the state average.

The reasonable conclusion that we can draw from this is that the residents of Berwyn, Cicero, and other parts of Cook County are not getting the healthcare they need and the healthcare that they deserve.

I think the question that we all need to ask ourselves is, has Obamacare failed us? Wouldn’t it be a wise choice to at least give Trump’s plan a try given the clear shortcomings depicted in the Community Health Profile?

The Berwyn Health Department did not return repeated requests for comment.

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Lucky Berwyn Resident Wins $11 Million in Illinois Lotto

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One lucky Berwyn resident “struck it rich”, winning the Illinois Lottery on October 29.

The winning ticket was purchased at a BP gas station in Berwyn located at 3845 S. Harlem Ave.

According to a recent Chicago Tribune article, the gas station is to receive a pie-of-the-pie, pocketing 1 percent of the grand prize amount.

BP will be receiving a nice slice, walking away with $110,000 just for selling the winning ticket.

The winning numbers were: 8, 12, 30, 31, 51 and 52.

Having the winning ticket, the winner must sign the back of the ticket to claim their prize. Also, the winner must find their way to one of the five Illinois Lottery offices: Chicago, Des Plaines, Rockford, Springfield or in Fairview Heights.

According to NBC, the ticket winner “has not come forward” though it is possible that they don’t want their identity discovered or publicized in the media.

Manager of the BP gas station Shibu Joseph stated that the plan for their share of the money is to pay the taxes on prize first, then “Give a small share to employees as gifts.”

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When asked about the BP owners’ reaction, Joseph replied, “The owners were very excited, they were very happy” also he explained the gas station got more attention, “We’ve been getting a lot more customers since the win.”

He also announced that Berwyn had even more to celebrate, another Lotto winner. “Just last week, we had another winner, winning $50,000.”

The manager revealed that he knew he had the winning ticket, “I knew I had to winning ticket and called the owners right away.”

Also stating that he couldn’t release the name of the winner, replying with an “I can’t tell you the name of the ticket winner. I don’t know.”

On October 14, another Berwyn resident went home with $250,000 for holding a winning The Money Gram ticket.

Cathy Galindo won the $250,000 after purchasing the ticket at a Shell gas station located at 5201 W. Addison St. in Chicago, according to an Illinois Lottery press release two months ago.

Winning instantly, Galindo was filled with excitement and shock. “It’s hard to believe this is real!” she said.

“Every once in a while, I take a chance and try a lottery ticket.” Galindo plans to buy a new house and spread the money among her family members.

The Shell that sold the winning ticket will also receive a cut, gaining $2,500 for selling the ticket.

Berwyn residents have been on a lucky strike these last few months. We will just have to wait and see who the luck strikes next.

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16th Street Theater Celebrating 10 Years

Lights, Camera, Action. Director Ann Filmer enters stage right to the applause of the crowd. A spotlight shines on Filmer as she adjusts her microphone and prepares to speak. This moment marks the beginning of the history making tenth season of 16th Street Theater, a new personal achievement that Filmer will always cherish.

It all began in 2007 as a simple dream, and with help from Joe Vallez, executive director of the North Berwyn Park District, Filmer’s dream became a reality and the 16th Street Theater was opened in the basement of the Berwyn Cultural Center.

Ten years and 48 plays later, Filmer’s vision continues as strong as ever.

“When Joe Vallez of North Berwyn Park District and I met in 2007 about starting a theater, I felt strongly that every community should have a theater that reflects stories of its residents,” Filmer said. “And now for 10 years we are doing what we set out to do: to be a professional theater for the community; telling the stories of all and for all in our neighborhood.”

Filmer, along with the rest of the cast and staff of 16th Street Theater, kicked off this historical season on Saturday, Dec. 3, celebrating their 10 year anniversary with a warm-up event at the Wire, a music venue and bar on Roosevelt Rd. in Berwyn. The theater presented excerpts from the upcoming 2017 season to a crowd of roughly 250 people, along with two musical guests, Luna Blues Machine and Matthew Scharpf’s Strangers and Saints, which welcomed guests as they entered the venue.

J.D. Caudill, who was the assistant director of two plays with 16th Street the past two years, was present at Wire and said, “I feel ‘home’ at 16th Street.”

“It feels like a safe place to explore hard themes that other theaters don’t pursue,” Caudill said.

An example of a play that 16th Street performed in 2015 that explored a hard theme is Merchild, a story of a trans-child faced with figuring out his gender identity.

“It was a very risky show, and being a transgender myself, I know firsthand that it is very hard to relate to us,” Caudill said. “The audience enjoys the difficult themes that 16th Street pursues. The amazing audience participation is a testament to how Berwyn has accepted 16th Street Theater.”

The hard themes that 16th Street pursues are a staple of its identity, and the audience feedback and participation is one of the aspects of her job that Filmer is most proud of.

“I am most proud of our audiences and our talk-backs after the plays.  I love to hear different perspectives, and how a play impacts people,” Filmer said. “When actors perform here, they are blown away with how engaged our audiences are.  It is a different feeling experiencing a play at 16th Street. It really is like no other theater.”

The wonderful audience of 16th Street Theater is not the only thing that Filmer is proud of. Throughout the past 10 years the theater has garnered several awards and has been recognized nationally.

“I don’t think anyone 10 years ago would have expected Berwyn to have our own nationally recognized theater,” Filmer said. “16th Street has twice been awarded a National Theatre Grant from American Theatre Wing –the group who runs the Tony Awards– we are one of only five theaters across the country to get this award twice. “

According to Filmer, 16th Street was also named Best Emerging Theatre in Chicago in 2013. The theater has built an incredible reputation as a small, but mighty theater that develops new plays.

“People from all over Chicagoland come to Berwyn to see a play. That fills me with pride,” Filmer said.

The theater has a slate of new plays for its tenth season that includes Blizzard ’67 by Jon Steinhagen, Into the Beautiful North by Karen Zacarias and Muthaland by Minita Gandhi. Along with these three plays, 16th Street will also present Pop-Up Performances of plays from their past nine years throughout Berwyn – in churches, at schools, and other venues

Filmer is very excited for this season and urges those that have yet to attend a play at 16th Street, especially Berwyn residents, to come out and see a live play.

“Tickets cost only $18 for Berwyn residents, we do that purposefully so people with limited incomes can still come and enjoy a play,” Filmer said. “If you have never been before, 2017 would be a great time to try us out. Pick up the phone and give us a call, we welcome all who walk through our door.  We know you will have a great time, there is nothing like live theater.”

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Drug Dealing in Berwyn Raises Questions about Public Safety

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Photo courtesy of Berwyn.com

By Melinda Czifrak

Leaving one’s child at school shouldn’t be cause for fear. Unfortunately for Guadalupe Garcia, a mother of two, fear has become as much a part of her life as a daily cup of coffee after drug activity was reported a block away from her children’s school.

“We moved to Berwyn over five years ago,” Garcia said. “Back then, the city felt like the perfect place to raise a family.”

Recently, however, Garcia’s feelings toward Berwyn started to change.
“How can I stay at home and not worry when I keep reading about narcotics dealing so close to my children’s school?” Continue reading

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‘Know Your Rights’ Forum this Saturday for Berwyn Immigrant Community

By Jocelyn Cano

President-elect Donald Trump’s often harsh rhetoric on immigration has some Berwyn leaders worried, and they’re taking action to make sure residents are protected.

They’ve put together a “Know Your Rights” forum for Berwyn residents this Saturday, Dec. 17 from 9:30 a.m.­­­–1 p.m. at Sokol Tabor Hall at 1602 Clarence Ave.

Elizabeth O. Jiménez, the first Latina to serve on the Board of Education for Berwyn’s South School District 100, and Cynthia Gutierrez, who is running for Berwyn city treasurer, have been the main force behind making this event happen.

“As a teacher and a school board member I feel obligated to ease the community and our student’s anxiety,” Jiménez said, “[Cynthia and I] started going to different workshops that other communities similar to ours were doing in reference to immigration rights and DACA students. We thought that we needed to respond to our community [and] the fears of our community.” Continue reading

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Berwyn Man to Honor Veterans and Keep the Memory of Pearl Harbor Alive

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By Rachael Stewart

Wednesday, Dec. 7 marks the 75th anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, and Tony Ward of Berwyn has decided to give the surviving veterans of the attack “one last hoorah” to thank them for their service to their country.

At 7 a.m. Wednesday, veterans of the Pearl Harbor attack will board a bus at Berwyn City Hall and head to Navy Pier where at 7:50 a.m. they will place a wreath to float in Lake Michigan to honor those who perished in the bombing.

After returning to Berwyn there will be a public service at 11 a.m. at Berwyn City Hall. The American flag will be lowered to half-staff, a bugler will play and a volley will be fired. Ward will honor each veteran individually with a certificate of honor for their service. Continue reading

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Canadian Visa Change for Mexican Citizens Gives Hope to Undocumented Student

By Natalie Rodriguez

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Rosario Hernandez

Former Berwyn local, Rosario Hernandez, lived in limbo since she was 7 years old. She lived as a Mexican undocumented immigrant. All of that has changed. She now has legal status and new hope as an immigrant.

Canada made that change possible.

Canada has made life easier for Mexican citizens. As of Dec. 1, 2016, Mexican citizens are able to visit Canada without a visa.

“The lifting of the visa requirement for Mexican citizens will strengthen Canada-Mexico ties and build momentum to expand trade, investment and tourism, strengthening people-to-people ties that will provide lasting benefits for both countries,” according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

Hernandez moved to the small city of Saskatoon in the province of Saskatchewan in July. She believes that the lifting of the visa  requirement has been beneficial. Continue reading

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County Wage Changes Affect Berwyn

By Jonathan De Leon

An increase in the minimum wage for Cook County workers has employees in Berwyn happy and business leaders shaken.

Almost half a million workers in suburbs and unincorporated areas would be affected.  Every July the minimum wage will increase progressively from $8.25 now to $13 in 2020. Starting July 1, 2017, the wage will increase to $10 an hour and then by $1 each year after. Continue reading

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Morton Students Unhappy with Change

By Natalie Rodriguez

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Morton College Library

A library remodeling project has created conflict at Morton College.

After a September announcement that the college would build a new student center that would take over study space on the second floor of the Morton College library, both students and faculty resisted.

Liliana Carrizales, a first-year nursing student at Morton, uses the study area along with other nursing students.

“I do find myself using it so I hope they don’t take it away,” she said. “And most of the students are really concerned.” Continue reading

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Morton High School AP Program Building Off Success

Morton East High School gave Esmeralda Mariscal an opportunity to grow academically and get a jump on college by taking Advanced Placement courses, and the Cicero teen ran with it.

“I took AP courses because I wanted a challenge, but also because the idea of being able to get college credit if I did well on the AP exams really appealed to me. I think that they did fairly well in preparing me for college, especially in relation with the work load and in getting a sense of just how important time management was going to be,” Mariscal said.

Mariscal was just one of the students who helped the J. Sterling Morton High School District 201 to be named a College Board Advanced Placement District of the Year among medium-sized school districts.

The district was given this national award for expanding access to AP classes  while simultaneously  increasing AP Exam scores of three or higher (three or higher is eligible for college credit) over a three-year period.  Continue reading

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City Helps Residents Test for Lead

By Melinda Czifrak

More than a year after testing showed lead in Berwyn residents’ water, the city is continuing to waive tap fees for people concerned about lead in the water.

According to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, lead can enter drinking water when service pipes that contain lead corrode, particularly where the water has “high acidity or low mineral content that corrodes pipes and fixtures.” Corrosion is a dissolving or wearing away of metal caused by a chemical reaction between water and plumbing.

In other words, the lead is not in the water, but in pipes and fixtures. Continue reading

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Berwyn’s Buona Beef Celebrates 35 Years

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The hometown favorite, Buona Beef is celebrating 35 delicious years in business. The famous Italian Beef restaurant serves up more than just its signature Italian Beef. It is home to a long list of other delicious foods like pizza, salads, burgers, hotdogs, sandwiches, panini’s, soups and desserts.

The top three Buona Beef locations near you are Oak Park, Hillside and the original located at 6745 Roosevelt Road in Berwyn.

The deliciousness doesn’t stop there, Buona Beef is popping up in various locations all across Illinois, having 18 locations already according to the business’ website, buona.com.

Through a simple google search, other hotspots for the restaurant include Beverly, Montgomery, Bolingbrook, Glendale Heights, Lombard, Orland Park, Hoffman Estates and Rosemont. Continue reading

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Public Art in Berwyn is Changing

By Melissa Rohman

Public painting in Berwyn is changing as the amount of general and gang graffiti is decreasing and authorized public art is increasing.

Gang graffiti has decreased over the past five years because of the Berwyn Police Department’s proactive Tactical Unit and police work regarding gang activity in the city, according to Berwyn’s Acting Police Chief Michael Cimaglia.

Division Commander Joe Santangelo is in charge of graffiti removal; graffiti is searched and removed Monday through Friday and on the weekends, designated graffiti removers are called in. Most graffiti ] that has been found in the city is gang “tagging” with an identifying symbol or nickname to mark one or more specific areas.

“It’s generally reported in alleys on garages, however we have located it on street signs and playground equipment in parks,” Cimaglia said. Continue reading

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The Funding Standstill is Over for Berwyn Park District

By Emily Lapinski

After a four-month delay, the Berwyn Park District is back on track and moving forward with plans to expand and improve the park system.

Berwyn parks lost close to $400,000 in grants earlier this year due to budget cuts made by Gov. Bruce Rauner. The grant suspension put a delay on two major projects. The first was an $87,500 grant for land acquisition for a new park and the second was a $306,600 grant for renovation and redevelopment of existing parks, specifically their water drainage systems.

“The first thing that we can take away from this is that you always hear people talking about going for grants but you have to keep in mind that grants can dry up, be suspended or even cancelled out,” said Jeffery Janda, executive director of the Berwyn Park District. “As a result, the project or program you are moving forward with suddenly comes to a standstill.” Continue reading

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Berwyn Bars and Restaurants Bask in Cubs Championship Run

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By Marty Carlino

Tickets for World Series games at Wrigley Field topped $3,000, but fans at Fitzgerald’s got the bleachers, the atmosphere and a very big screen for the price of a beer.

After a 71-year drought, the Chicago Cubs returned to play in Major League Baseball’s fall classic, the World Series. Cubs fans throughout the state of Illinois have come out in large crowds to support their team at their favorite establishments.

In Berwyn, bars and restaurants throughout the city have cherished the Cubs successful postseason run. Several have even pulled out all the stops to accommodate Cubs fans and large crowds.

One of Berwyn’s most popular establishments, Fitzgerald’s, typically a music venue, set up a unique atmosphere for fans to take in the Cubs playoff games. Continue reading

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District 201 Schools Rally for Funding

By Rich Bodee

On the morning of Oct. 6, before school even began at both Morton East and West high schools, students, parents, and faculty rallied in support of three things: K-12 and college education funding, a call to end standardized testing, and education funding equality.

“The rallies were sponsored by the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS), which is a national coalition between labor unions, mainly the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association,” Robert Bartlett, a teacher at Morton West said. Continue reading

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Has the Big Hurt Struck Out?

 

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By Jonathan De Leon

Two years ago, The Big Hurt Brewhouse opened in September of 2014 on the corner of Cermak and Oak Park with boosters claiming it was the next great sports mecca and tourist attraction.

Now it stands quiet, with the sign “closed for remodeling” taped on the doors outside.

Neither restaurant management nor owner Frank Thomas, Chicago White Sox legend, could be reached.

Berwyn officials had no answers as well about the sudden closing. Continue reading

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World’s Largest Laundromat Makes a World of Difference on the Planet

By Rachael Stewart

When someone says laundry, what comes to mind? Do you think of flat screen televisions, vending machines, free coffee and food, video games, a bird sanctuary, and a children’s’ play area?

For those who do their laundry at World’s Largest Laundromat in Berwyn, that is all a reality. If that were not enough, this laundromat has decided to take its service and customer satisfaction to the next level by focusing on going green, and I don’t mean like the Incredible Hulk.

Owner Tom Benson decided to make a change in how his laundromat was run in 2001 when the price of natural gas had drastically increased. Benson says that he wanted to find a more economical way to power the building so he turned to solar power. In 2001, he had 22 solar panels installed on the roof of the building to create energy. The business now has 36 solar panels installed working to heat the water for the wash cycles. Continue reading

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