Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Pay it Forward

People often accuse me of being a Pollyanna. Always looking on the bright side, believing that there is still good in people, ignoring obvious problems. These are people who don’t know me. My best friend developed The Blue Island Gripers Club just for me. I think I’m the only member, even she won’t join. My long suffering husband sometimes calls me a Whiner, (yes, with a capital W). Now that you know the awful truth, I thought I’d bring you a little Christmas cheer.
Most people my age are not on Twitter. Either they never even heard of it, or they’re not interested (afraid). For those who are familiar with Twitter, you will recognize the following as a Twitter entry.

RT @stace_ this morning we had a total of 117 cars pay it forward in the @Starbucks drive thru by paying for the car behind them. kindness at its best

For those of you not familiar with Twitter, let me decipher this message. Someone who goes by the screen name stace_ apparently works at a Starbucks drive thru. One day, someone pulled up to the window and handed the cashier an extra couple of bucks, and said that they would like to pay for the car behind them, too. The next car, no doubt surprised and pleased, repeated the gift. This continued for 117 cars!
Of course, I don’t know that it’s true. I checked it out on Snopes.com, the site that dispels urban legends, and they had nothing about it one way or the other. So, for now, I’m going to assume it’s true.
The letters RT at the beginning of the message mean that someone has repeated (re-Tweeted) the message to their friends and followers. This message has been re-sent by over a hundred people, who at a conservative estimate, have 50 to 100 friends and followers of their own. Roughly, that means 5117 people have heard about and been touched by one person’s act of kindness. Imagine that!
At this Christmas season, think of how a single act of kindness on your part can touch so many people...and if you are a recipient of a kind act, pay it forward. The world could be a better place, and so could Blue Island.

Have a fabulous, pay-it-forward holiday,

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Through the Eyes of a 6th Grader

I recently received a letter from a 6th grader in Mr. Matt Hanne’s class at Veterans Memorial Middle School. In the letter she explained about the school’s positive behavior reinforcement program, and that they were looking for donations. Now, a friend and I have been working on a list entitled “Be Positive for Blue Island”, and I saw an opportunity here. So I sent a donation, along with a request of Mr. Hanne, that he have his class write down what they like about Blue Island.
Much to my surprise, a short time later I received 97 short essays from the 6th grade class of VMMS! I was thrilled, I was speechless, I had to sit down, I had to call my friend! What a litany of great things! I started reading through them and could hardly believe the positive attitude that these kids have. To quote a member of the 6th grade class, “Trouble might come our way but were still okay!”
In case you’re wondering what’s so great about Blue Island, let me recap the top five reasons why the students love it.
1. My friends and family live here. Isn’t that true for most of us?
2. The parks. I have to say that lately the Blue Island Park District has become a real gem, and I’m glad that the kids recognize it.
3. The pool at Memorial Park. Who doesn’t enjoy a swim on a hot day? Not to mention the Fishing Derby this year.
4. The schools. I know for a fact that the schools are focused on our kids, both educationally and socially.
5. The city is very walkable. Several students mentioned the fact that they can walk almost anywhere they want to go, and so can the rest of us.
One thing that was mentioned several times was that the people are nice and friendly, and that the neighborhoods were calm and peaceful. Other things that were mentioned are the library, sports of all kinds, sledding in the winter, the restaurants, the 4th of July Parade, the Boat Parade, Rock Around the Clock, and the fact that we are so close to Chicago.
Put all the essays together and it reads like a travel brochure.

“Come to Blue Island, where the people are friendly and care about you,
the food is good, and there’s lots to do”

I know that the city faces many challenges ahead, but we have a lot to work with, including our children. Isn’t it comforting to see our world through the eyes of a 6th grader, if only for a little while? Thank you, Mr. Hanne and the 6th grade class of VMMS.

Candace Carr
CARR home-garden-holiday

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

100 Years

Have you noticed all of the 100 year anniversaries in Blue Island lately? St. Donatus, the Blue Island Park District, Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church, St. Benedict’s. The original St. Francis Hospital was founded in 1905. The original Carnegie Library was built here in 1903. It makes me wonder what was happening in Blue Island 100 years ago that made people so pro-active about founding churches and making this community a better place to live. I think that the answer is: the city had money.
In 1909 only the wealthiest citizens would have had automobiles. In some areas, “speed” limits of 8 to 10 miles per hour were enacted for the safety of horses and pedestrians. Most people walked everywhere, and downtown Chicago was considered to be a day away, even by horse or automobile, and a trip there would require an overnight stay.
The people who lived here most likely worked here, and they spent the vast majority of their money here. I believe that was the secret to the success of Blue Island 100 years ago. You lived here, you worked here, you spent your money here. It was pretty much a closed circle, except for the merchants that brought in new product.
These days it is more like an ever-expanding outward-reaching spiral. You live here, most of us work somewhere else, and our money goes spinning out into the surrounding area, a good portion of it outside Blue Island.
For most of us, the largest monthly expense is the mortgage. Even if you mortgaged your home through a local bank or mortgage company, chances are that it has been sold, and you are now sending your check to someplace in New Jersey or elsewhere. If you watch the news, you know that mortgages are bundled and resold, over and over. That’s part of the reason we find ourselves in the nationwide financial mess that we are in. I would bet that back in 1909 people paid their mortgages to the First National Bank of Blue Island, and the money was reinvested by the bank into more mortgages and business loans.
Car loans are another big expense, and no doubt your check is being sent to the auto makers national headquarters somewhere, not in Blue Island.
I’m guessing that about 50% to 75% of your income is sent directly out of town, to either a mortgage company or a car manufacturer. That leaves little money to be spent on other things. Of the money that’s left, 68% of what you spend in Blue Island stays here, helping our local economy. That’s not much.
Let’s just say that like me you earn about $100 a week. After the mortgage and car payment you have $25 left to spend. If, like me, you make a concentrated effort to spend as much as possible in town, then you spend about $12.50 a week here. (I know that some of you saw me at Kohl’s the other day. What can I say? I admit that you can’t buy EVERYTHING in Blue Island.) So $8.50 a week of your hard earned money stays in Blue Island.
Back in 1909 probably 95% of your money would be spent here. So even if you only earned $10 a week, $9.50 stayed here; more than is retained today. No wonder our city is in the shape that it’s in. Imagine if 95% of your money was spent within the city limits. $95.00 a week! Things would be in much better shape.
Think about this the next time you’re tempted to head for Crestwood. They don’t need our money, we need our money.
Look for me on Western, with my $8.50 in my hand.

Candace Carr
CARR home-garden-holiday

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Blue Island certainly is a diverse community. Not only in the ways have we commonly thought of diversity either. Most of us think of Blue Island as Black, White, and Hispanic, but we go far beyond that. Chinese, Arabic, Egyptian, the list goes on and on. I met a woman from East Africa in traditional African clothing one day while walking to work. A woman originally from Mongolia stopped in the store.
The diversity of religion is evident, too. Catholics, Methodists, Lutherans, Baptists, Evangelicals are everywhere. A Muslim man was spotted on a prayer rug early one morning. I’m sure that there are atheists here, too. It’s hard to tell because they don’t have churches or public displays of non-worship, but I’m sure they’re here.
We embrace all of this; at least most of us do. What worries me is our lack of shopping diversity (you had to know that this was coming). I first noticed this years ago when I had what I refer to know as a “real job”. I had purchased a summer top from Kohl’s and wore it to work the very next day. Within a week, I realized that two other women had the same top, but in different colors. Now, I have never been one to panic if I was seen in the same outfit as someone else, but this was the beginning of my awareness of bigboxitis.
Bigboxitis is a disease which compels us to run to the nearest big box store whenever we detect a need in our lives. We become unresponsive to mistreatment and lack of service. It makes us slaves to price and convenience instead of value. As for the summer tops, within a month they were all misshapen blobs of faded fabric.
The monetary price we pay for bigboxitis seems small, and that is why it is so addictive. The personal price is far greater. Despite the fact that these places appear to be time saving and convenient, how many of us feel more time deprived than ever? Do you feel more connected to the community or less connected than you did five years ago? Shopping in town increases the chance that we will see a neighbor. Knowing the business owners makes us feel connected. Stopping to chat makes us feel that we know what’s going on in the community. Spending our money here supports the entire community, not just the business owners. It brings in jobs and tax revenue.
We are born with our ethnicity. It cannot be changed. We are born into our religions, we can change that if we choose. But, regardless of our innate diversity, we should patronize independent businesses or soon we will all be dressed in the Croft & Barrow uniform of sameness.
Just as in other aspects of our lives, we have a diverse group of programs we can subscribe to in supporting local business. You can go with my $5.00 a day plan, you can check out the 3/50 Project, you can pledge to 10PercentShift.org. They are all good ideas, and any of them, together or separately, will make a big difference to Blue Island.

Candace Carr
CARR home-garden-holiday

P.S. As far as I’m concerned, Hellman’s is the only “real” mayonnaise. Now that the Jewel is closed, you can find it at Family Dollar Stores, 2418 Vermont Street.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Invest in Blue Island!

It was a curious thing that happened. A woman came in and said, “I’ve got to start shopping Blue Island, and I’m starting here!” We talked for quite a while, and I asked if she lived here. “Oh no, I live in Oak Lawn, but I can see that more and more businesses are gone, and I would hate to see the entire business district close up.”
She told me that she and her husband have a business in Blue Island, and also own a few apartment buildings here. Supporting the businesses in Blue Island was a way to protect their investments. A city with an empty business district would surely see a drop in its property values. Who wants to live in a city with a shuttered and boarded up main street?
This leads me to wonder about the home-owners in this city. Are they concerned about the impact that the business district has on their property values? Do they realize that for every dollar they spend outside Blue Island the value of their home is decreased ever so slightly?
I don’t know how the math works on this, but let’s just say for the sake of argument that for every $100.00 you spend outside Blue Island, the value of your home is diminished by $1.00. In the not-too-distant past, this would not have been a big deal. Home prices were rising so rapidly, that it made little difference. As we know, things are very different now. I wonder if my house is worth what we paid for it 30 years ago. So now it becomes a big deal.
Every time you leave Blue Island to buy a greeting card, groceries, gas, clothing, tools, you name it, you are lowering the value of your property. I know that many things are not available here, but many things are available within the city limits. It’s time, as home-owners and residents, that we recognize the value-added proposition of a vibrant downtown. The more we shop on Western Avenue, the more successful the businesses become. The more successful the businesses become, the more new business is drawn to the area.
It is an idea so simple. Invest in your own property, invest in Blue Island, by doing as much shopping here as you are able to. The businesses that we are lacking will follow. Pick a business and spend your $5.00 today!

Candace Carr
CARR home-garden-holiday

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Closing of the Jewel Food Store

By now, everyone must know that the Jewel Food Store is closing. I actually hinted at this in a previous column entitled The Perfect Storm back in November of 2008 when I wrote “I have heard of three long standing Blue Island businesses that are relocating. They are not closing, but they are moving out of our city to greener pastures.” At the time, I did not feel it was my place to reveal who the businesses were, and at the time everyone was vehemently denying that the Jewel would close. Many people I knew had asked at the Jewel if they were closing and everyone in unison said “NO!” Even one of the managers said “If we were closing, I would know it, and I haven’t heard anything.” Must have been a big surprise to all concerned.
The thing that saddens me the most about all this is the loss of jobs and revenue to the city. Imagine the sales tax that is/was collected at the Jewel on a monthly, weekly, and even daily basis. Imagine the loss of jobs. Oh sure, Jewel says that everyone will be offered positions at other Jewels in the area, but there are some people who will be unable to take those positions. Then there is the question of “How will we know?” How will we know that all of these people have been rehired at other stores? Will they be rehired for the same hours? For the same positions? With the same seniority? How will we know for sure? Our city of Blue Island can ill afford to lose any of this.
I also recently heard that because Jewel owns the property, they may refuse to sell to another grocery store. Why should they? It is a competitive world out there, and if they can keep a competitor from opening in their place, then they probably will. Where does that leave us? There have been rumors about Walt’s, or Pete’s Market, or any number of other small chains being interested in the spot. But if Jewel does not sell to them, to protect their own interests, then Blue Island is left without a major grocery store.
Oh sure, we can drive to 119th Street and shop the Jewel there, or we can go to County Fair, but that will cost us extra in sales tax and that sales tax will not be returned to Blue Island. We will just be pumping more money out of our already beleaguered city.
Some people have blamed the mayor. Some people have accused him of keeping this information quiet until after the election. It’s really a moot point. This information was out there. A lot of people knew, and for various reasons, avoided making it public. Would it have looked bad to announce it before the election? Sure it would. Would it have changed your vote? (If you voted.) Probably not. The truth is, the mayor cannot stop a business from closing. If any given business decides to close its doors, the mayor by himself cannot reverse that decision.
It is only we, all of us, as a whole, that can determine the fate of our city. If we do not wholeheartedly support the businesses that remain, we can expect more to close.
Look for me with $5.00 in my hand, doing what I can.

Candace Carr
CARR home-garden-holiday

Friday, June 19, 2009

Let George Do It!

In George Boise’s last Reflections column, I noticed that he’s kind of taken over my job, encouraging people to spend their money in Blue Island. I think he did a much better job than I usually do, on top of it. People all over were asking me, “Did you read George’s column? It was hysterical! I never laughed so hard!” In general, I don’t think people laugh when they read my column, unless they’re laughing at me.
So this time, I’ve decided to take over George’s column, and talk about believing and faith. You see, no idea is ever going to work if you don’t have faith in it, and no plan is ever going to work if you don’t believe that your participation in it will make a difference.
Faith is defined as ‘the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.’ When I first came up with the $5.00 a day theory, I had complete confidence that it could and would work. I had faith! I believed wholeheartedly in a vision of Blue Island that was hoped for, but as yet unseen. I really thought that people would be willing to support this idea, because they too wanted to believe in a better city. I have to admit that later on, from time to time, my faith would falter. Was anyone listening? Did I still believe it could happen?
Faith is also demonstrated by continuing against the odds. I believed that even if it was just me, I could make a difference. I’ve turned down some pretty good deals, just so I could practice what I’ve been preaching. I’ve also caved in a few times, just so I could save a little money. What better test of faith than making a few mistakes here and there? I think George would refer to this as sin. If you get up, brush yourself off, ask for forgiveness, and try again, this is redemption. How am I doing, George?
In the meantime, I’ve heard some wild stories. People driving back to Blue Island on the fumes of a near empty gas tank, just to buy their gas here. People considering giving up their Costco memberships because Orland doesn’t need our tax money as much as Blue Island does. Even myself, looking for a new doctor, here in Blue Island, so that if I end up in the hospital, my insurance dollars will be supporting Metro South.
In a church, the following plea would be called an altar call, but in this column I’m just asking you examine your spending habits. If you think you’re too busy, if you think it’s going to take up too much of your time to help your own city by shopping here, if you are thinking “Let George do it” let me remind you that he already did, and he wrote about it, too. Belief is demonstrated by actions. It’s time for each of us to step up and support our business people, show a little faith in the vision of successful Blue Island, and spend our tax dollars here.

Candace Carr
CARR home-garden-holiday