The heart of Forest Park was beating strongly at the 7th Annual Kiwanis Ed O’Shea Awards Dinner, on Nov. 7, at the Riverside Golf Club, where 120 guests gave standing ovations to this year’s recipients: Pat Malone and Richard “Chubs” Polfus. Many were shocked to see Chubs wearing a suit. Though they usually dress casually, Malone and Polfus are a powerful team who for decades have been quietly raising money for local causes.

As proprietor of McGaffer’s for the past 40 years, Malone has made the tavern a hub for raising money and gathering toys for local kids. He has the heart of a community servant and is so humble, he kept his remarks to a few sentences. He thanked Chubs for being his “idea man.” He thanked the staff at McGaffer’s where Malone performs the most mundane tasks when needed. He also thanked his wife, who was in attendance.

Polfus was a bit more effusive in showing his appreciation for the Kiwanis award. “We do small things at the bar with local union guys,” he said. “They’re in for any project. We also get help from the softball community — no questions asked. We get help from all walks of life — V.A. guys. People give us donations for Little League, youth soccer, the police and fire departments. We have a great community. We want to see it grow and thrive!” 

His words triggered a second standing “O.” Malone and Polfus stood beaming with their awards, wondering where they could find space for the plaques on the tavern’s crowded walls.

Kiwanis also honored another Forest Park stalwart, the late Sal Ferrara. Unfortunately, the candy-making family was attending the annual meeting of the Confectionary Manufacturers Association, which always meets on the Saturday after Halloween. 

MC Jerry Lordan spoke movingly of how long ago the Ferrara family sailed from Naples to New York, the same day as the family that now owns Freddy’s Pizzeria in Cicero. He mentioned that the Ferrara family’s success allowed them to give generously to Forest Park. 

Mayor Anthony Calderone also extended accolades to the candy makers during his remarks. But his main focus was on the “Dynamic Duo” of Malone and Polfus. He noted that Malone has the longest-standing liquor license in the village. He described McGaffer’s as “a neat neighborhood place, where people come to gather. Pat is involved in every event and has a passion to contribute to the community. McGaffer’s has the most awesome toy drive I’ve ever seen.

“They bring together a tremendous number of people, like Jeremy Roenick,” Calderone added. “I’ve seen Chubs’ car filled with sports memorabilia to be auctioned for charity. They fill Pat Malone’s garage with toys. The Community Center distributes the toys to kids in Forest Park and at Ronald McDonald House. They put a smile on kids’ faces at Christmas time.” 

Kiwanis honored Carlos Ruiz as well. A senior at Proviso Math & Science Academy, Ruiz started his own nonprofit organization to develop leaders at PMSA. The 209 Key Club raised money from 100 students for the Kiwanis Eliminate Program. This is an effort to eradicate maternal/neonatal tetanus that causes excruciating pain and death for newborns. UNICEF and the U.N. have requested $110 million from Kiwanis. So far, $85 million has been raised.

The Key Club also makes lunches for homeless women living at Deborah’s Place. 

“Once a month,” Ruiz related, “we make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on a Thursday.” 

The student group has also raised $300 to create memorials for former teachers who have died. They helped Kiwanis collect donations on Peanut Day. 

“Kiwanis gives us so much support,” Ruiz testified, before accepting a $130 check for their efforts on Peanut Day. Checks were also presented to Boy Scouts, FPYSA, Little League and the Historical Society for their work on Peanut Day.

The awards banquet moved along at a steady clip, thanks to the efforts of Chairperson Mary Rueda and Bill and Veronica Gerst. Everything came off without a hitch and Lordan was gracious in his capacity as MC.  

There was a festive atmosphere throughout the banquet. The crowd was so fired-up at the end they broke into a spontaneous chorus of “God Bless America.”

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.