January is a time for renewal. Some make resolutions; some undertake big cleaning projects and others launch bold new enterprises. For example, Caroline Keeley and her cohorts at St. Bernardine’s held their first ever “Snow Ball,” a formal dance to kick off the parish’s “Gift From the Heart” fund-raising drive.

Hey, how often do we get a chance to dress up in Forest Park? I mean, besides at weddings. About 100 parishioners in tuxes and formal gowns paid $100 bucks apiece to scarf down appetizers and listen to the incredible sounds of The Steve Edwards Orchestra.

This twelve-piece orchestra featured three violins, horns and several vocalists. They kept the dance floor hopping all night long. So, it was kind of like a wedding. The dance more than met its expenses and the organizers hope the event will “snowball” into something even bigger next year.

The “Snow Ball” is part of St. Bernardine’s efforts to meet their budget and attract new members. It’s not just about money, as the “Gift From the Heart” asks for donations of time, talent and treasure.

St. Bernardine’s has deep roots in the changing community of Forest Park and the parish is hoping to attract newcomers to the church and their children to the school. Right now, 99 percent of the St. B. graduates are accepted to the high school of their choice. It’s very competitive to get into some private schools and a good elementary education is also needed for acceptance into the Proviso Math & Science Academy.

So, we have a “dynamic parish, filled with really neat people” looking for more community involvement. The church hopes to attract more non-parishioners to its events. They want St. B’s to be the place to be in Forest Park.

After all, it’s a community-based church, with shared discipline and values. As Keeley pointed out, St. B. parents keep a look out for all the kids in the neighborhood. It takes a village of parents to raise children.

While “Snow Ball” was in its planning stages, I was performing my own act of renewal: attacking the junk drawers. I’m sure every house has at least one. When I was growing up, every drawer was a junk drawer. So, you had to search each one just to find the battery for your transistor radio.

I didn’t find any batteries but I did find stacks and stacks of photographs. I separated the wheat from the “out-of-focus” chaff. And I sorted the photos, so that each kid would have their own drawer. This exercise actually paid off, when our oldest, Kelly, needed photographs of her childhood to show her 4th Graders.

Talk about renewal: my daughter has finished her education and gotten a teaching job in Downers Grove. She showed her students photographs of her early years in Forest Park: the school, softball and dance pictures.

After the junk drawers, I attacked two plastic tubs filled with old Forest Park Reviews. I dug out all the stories I’ve written since 1998. When I looked at the stack of columns and features, I had only one thought: does this guy ever shut up? Writing about Forest Park has somehow snowballed into a blizzard of paper.

John Rice

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball...