DeKalb County Magazine
Local Residents Explore Paris
The Exceptional Life of Shuki Moran Tails Foster Families Helping Pets Find Loving Homes
1 | September 2017 | DeKALB COUNTY MAGAZINE
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Table of Contents Local Residents Explore Paris..................... 6
Downtown Beautification: A Community Effort ..................................11
The Exceptional Life of Shuki Moran.........14
FitWorkz Owner: Transforms Bodies & Lives ........................22
The Hillside Restaurant: A Delicious DeKalb Destination.................26
Tails Foster Families Help Pets Find Loving Homes.............................30
Publisher: Karen Pletsch Project Manager: Lisa Angel Layout & Design: Allison LaPorta Photography: Danielle Guerra & FunME Events Writer: Aimee Barrows & Stephen Haberkorn Articles and advertisements are property of Shaw Media. No portion of DC Magazine may be produced without written consent of the publisher.
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Local Residents Explore the
City Of Lights Paris
By Stephen Haberkorn
aris, France is one of the world’s leading cities in just about every category of interest to travelers: historical sites, museums, architecture, art, food, entertainment and fashion. The city is over two thousand years old and has maintained a prominent position in world history and culture during most of that time. Last year, Paris was the third-most visited city in the world, behind only Bangkok and London. For those who have the time, it is also an incredible experience to go outside of Paris and take in French history and culture through a cruise on the River Seine to the neighboring Normandy Region. Traveling on a barge with all the comfortable amenities, you can visit many picturesque and historic villages along the way to the Normandy landing beaches. In this region can be found the home and workplace of the great impressionist painter, Monet; the site of Joan of Arc’s tragic death; and the incredible offshore commune of Mont Saint-Michel. FunME Events & Excursions in DeKalb took a group on an eight-day tour from Paris to Normandy down the Seine River on a luxury barge, concluding with a day and night in the City of Light. The nice thing about traveling by barge is that your ship becomes your hotel, so you don’t have to pack and unpack when you move from one location to another. You also enjoy excellent meals on the barge. Some of the smaller barges have as few as nine cabins, which offers maximum comfort and flexibility when scheduling on-shore excursions. Most also carry bicycles that you can ride through the smaller towns after you disembark. DeKalb resident, Rebekah Weidner, spent a week in Paris this past May and shared her thoughts about the amazing city. Even though she saw
6 | September | DeKALB COUNTY MAGAZINE June 2016 | 2017 DeKALB COUNTY MAGAZINE
the major tourist attractions like the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, she especially enjoyed relaxing with friends in cafes, savoring the wonderful food and just soaking in the experience of being there. “It’s Paris and you have to go to the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. You can’t go to Paris your first time and not do those things,” said Weidner. “But taking the time to just sit and enjoy what you’re doing—enjoying the coffee, enjoying the macaroons, just sitting and taking it in—was the best part of my experience. If I return, which I plan to, I will schedule a lot more time to just relax and enjoy the food and the art, rather than trying to squeeze in all the top destinations.” Weidner was in Paris for a conference, and rather than booking a hotel, she and her friends stayed in a large apartment in the trendy Canal Saint-Martin neighborhood through Airbnb. “It was a really cool area. It was a more laid-back neighborhood,” said Weidner. “There were a lot of restaurants along the canal, boutiquey stores and cafes. I really enjoyed not being right in the middle of the action. It felt like a more authentic experience than being in a major hotel.” When it comes to seeing the sights of Paris, for people visiting the first time, Michael Embrey of FunME Events recommends starting with a hop-on, hop-off tour bus to get the lay of the land before venturing out on your own. You must plan your travel carefully in Paris, because the city is so huge you can end up spending all your time walking. Maps of the city can be deceiving, because attractions can look close when they are really far. And since the Eiffel Tower is so large, it may seem just a short distance when it’s actually several miles away. A smart way to travel around Paris is to take the water taxi. It gives you a good view of the city and goes all the way from the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower and back. You’ll also get an up-close look at Paris’s smaller version of the Statue of Liberty that stands on a narrow island on the Seine River. It was given to the City of Paris by the Parisian community in America to commemorate the Centennial of the French Revolution in 1889, and to symbolize the close relationship between the two countries. It was dedicated three years after its larger cousin in New York Harbor.
The Paris Metro subway is another great way to get around the city. The underground system is extensive (with 303 stations) and inexpensive. In 2016, it was ranked the best public transport system in the world. A nice thing about Paris for Americans is that you can usually find someone who speaks English if you need help when you are traveling around, especially at the major tourist sites. The most-recognizable attraction and iconic symbol of the city is the Eiffel Tower. It was completed for the 1889 World’s Fair and was designed and built by Gustave Eiffel and his company. Eiffel also designed and built the inner framework for the Statue of Liberty. The Eiffel Tower was originally only supposed to be a temporary structure. At 1,063 feet tall, it is the highest edifice in Paris and was the highest man-made structure in the world for 41 years, until it was surpassed by the Chrysler Building in New York City. At night it is illuminated, and for five minutes every hour on the hour it sparkles brightly. There are three observation levels and each of them requires a ticket to visit. The first and second levels can be accessed by stairs or elevator. In order to ascend to the second observation level, you have to walk up 704 stairs. The top-level platform is only accessible by elevator and the tickets must be purchased separately from the first two levels. There are usually long lines to both ascend and descend to and from all three levels of the tower. You can check on the Eiffel Tower website for peak and non-peak dates in order to estimate your wait times. The first level contains exhibitions describing the construction and history of the Eiffel Tower. There are restaurants on both the first and second levels which serve excellent food. Reservations and proper attire are required for the Jules Verne Restaurant on the second level, which has its own elevator. There is a champagne bar on the top level. Also on the top level, but closed to the public, is Gustave Eiffel’s office, which contains mannequins of Eiffel and Thomas Edison, as well as the phonograph Edison gave Eiffel when he visited. The views from all three levels of the Eiffel Tower are spectacular and are great for panoramic photographs. They also do fireworks off the top of the Eiffel Tower on Bastille Day (July 14). The Louvre is another Paris attraction that should not be missed. It is DeKALB COUNTY MAGAZINE | September 2017 | 7
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both the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s largest museum and an historic monument. Its 38,000 objects are exhibited in a beautiful palace that was the primary residence of French kings from 1546 until 1682. In the lower level of the museum, you can see the Medieval foundation walls and the empty moat from the original fortress built on the site in 1190 AD.
The most famous works of art displayed in the Louvre include the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo and Nike of Samothrace (Winged Victory). Also displayed are the French Crown Jewels and many incredible ancient artifacts from Egypt, Mesopotamia and other Middle Eastern empires.
When Weidner visited the Louvre, she was not prepared for how much there was to see, beginning with the courtyard outside the main entrance. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The statues and the details in the buildings are very ornate,â&#x20AC;? said Weidner. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Everything looks intentional in its design. You could spend hours just admiring all the statues and the architecture around you.â&#x20AC;?
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When wandering through the many rooms at the Louvre, there is an abundance of beautiful things to look at, and usually not enough time to do so.â&#x20AC;&#x153;Every room has a lot to take inâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;the ceilings, the walls, the floors and the actual art. So it was overwhelming,â&#x20AC;? said Weidner. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t spend a lot of time there, but it was definitely worth seeing.â&#x20AC;? Both Weidner and Embrey recommend mapping out your route through the Louvre in advance to make sure you see what most interests you. Weidner also recommended trying to go at an offpeak time when there are less people, if possible. Another must-see in Paris is the Champs-Ă&#x2030;lysĂŠesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; possibly the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most famous street. The wide avenue that runs for about a mile through the heart of the city is lined by many theatres, cafes and upscale stores. It serves as the site of the annual Bastille Day military parade and the finishing stretch of the Tour de France bicycle race. The avenue is bordered on one end by the Arc de Triomphe, the huge Roman-style arch that was commissioned by Emperor Napoleon in 1806 to honor those who died in French Wars. At the other end of the Champs-Ă&#x2030;lysĂŠes is the Place de la Concorde, the largest plaza in Paris, where many famous French figures such as Marie Antoinette and Maximilien Robespierre were publicly executed via guillotine. Next to the Place de la Concorde sits the famed Tuileries Garden. One of the most famous churches in the world is the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. Begun in 1163,
the massive gothic cathedral took over a century to complete. Its most distinctive features are its tall towers and spire, flying buttresses, gargoyle statues, large stained-glass windows, and religious relics. “That was a cool experience,” said Weider. “I enjoyed the close-up view of the gargoyles and taking beautiful panoramic photos of Paris with the gargoyles overlooking the city. That was something I thought was worth waiting for.” Other lesser-known, but magnificent sites to visit in Paris include Sacre-Coeur Basilica, Sainte-Chapelle, Les Invalides, Palais Garnier, Conciergerie, Musee de l’Orangerie, Musee Rodin, Musee Picasso, Musee de Cluny, and Musee d’Orsay. In most cities, these churches, museums and architectural wonders would garner top billing, but in Paris they are secondary destinations for many tourists. With Paris being the home and ultimately the place of death for so many influential historical figures, there are many burial sites in the city that are also popular tourist destinations. Père Lachaise is probably the most-visited cemetery in the world. Established in 1804, it is the largest cemetery in Paris. In addition to the many ornate grave markers, it contains the final resting spots for Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Frederic Chopin, Moliere, Marcel Proust, Marcel Marceau, Richard Wright, Gertrude Stein and many other famous people. Another popular cemetery in Paris is Montparnasse. The remains of those entombed there include Jean Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Samuel Beckett, Charles Baudelaire, Guy de Maupassant and Emile Durkheim. Many of the most-honored citizens of Paris are interred within the classical domed building called the Pantheon. Among those you can pay your respects to there are Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Marie Curie, Louis Braille, and Alexandre Dumas. The Emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, is entombed at Les Invalides, under the golden dome. For legendary entertainment, Michael Embrey and his tour group took in a performance at the world-famous Moulin Rouge on the final night of their trip. The Moulin Rouge cabaret in the Montmartre District opened in 1889 and was the birthplace of the can-can dance. They do 2-3 shows a day and they are usually sold out. “You feel like you’re experiencing something unique and different, like you’re going back in time when you walk in the place,” said Embrey. “When you see the costumes it just blows your
mind…It’s like Broadway meets Vegas.” About twelve miles from the center of Paris is another popular tourist attraction: the Palace of Versailles. The massive and extremely ornate palace with its expansive gardens and famous Hall of Mirrors was the primary residence of the kings of France from 1682 until the French Revolution in 1789. Embrey said that seeing the Palace of Versailles was a highlight for his group. “Pictures don’t do it justice. It was just amazing. It was over-the-top opulent,” said Embrey. “I only spent three hours there, but I could have spent two days.” The gardens themselves are magnificent and you could spend hours just walking around looking at all the statues and beautiful fountains. You can also visit Marie Antoinette’s residence there. “I’m definitely glad I went,” said Weidner. “I had no idea how huge it was.” For Embrey, having been to Paris many times, he finds himself traveling on the side streets a lot and watching artists paint. Many of them can reproduce famous works with amazing accuracy. You can purchase replicas and original portraits from the artists. Embrey also likes to hang out at the sidewalk cafes and enjoy some wine, cheese, or a salad; stop into little boutiques where you can still get clothing custom made; or visit hotels where famous authors stayed. “Those are what I find more interesting now,” said Embrey. Many of Weidner’s most-memorable times in Paris revolved around food. One of the things she really enjoyed was going to a little café around the corner from where she stayed every morning and having a café au lait and a crescent. One night, she went with her friends to a restaurant near the Louvre and tried several different French specialties like escargot, duck a la orange, and crème brulee, along with wine and champagne. “We just decided we were going to order whatever we wanted from the menu. It was reasonably priced, not too expensive,” explained Weidner. “Again, that was one of my favorite experiences—just sitting and enjoying the food and the view of the city.” Weidner and a friend also got a recommendation from some locals about the best place to get crepes in Paris: La Crêperie de Josselin. They had a huge menu of anything you could imagine inside a crepe, both savory and sweet. Their favorite crepe was filled DeKALB COUNTY MAGAZINE | September 2017 | 9
with Nutella. “We both took a bite and started reacting,” said Weidner, “The ladies next to us were laughing at us being Americans and enjoying these crepes way too much.” For the FunME Events & Excursions group, after boarding their luxury barge in Paris they headed toward Vernon-Les Andelys while dining together for dinner. In the morning, the travelers could either visit Claude Monet’s home and beautiful gardens in Giverny or see Chateau de Bizy (Bizy Castle), nicknamed “Normandy’s Versailles.” In Les Andelys, they were also able to see Chateau Gaillard, a medieval castle built by King Richard the Lionheart in 1196. When Monet built his house, he created his own visual environment for his paintings in his flower
and water gardens. It was there that he painted his famous Water Lilies series. Their next stop was Caudebec-en-Caux. At Caudebec, they went sightseeing in town, visiting a large 15th-century gothic church. From there, they could either tour charming, traditional thatched cottages or an ancient abbey.
the list for any world traveler. From the cultural and historical sites in the amazing city of Paris, to the beautiful countryside of the Normandy region, to the somber Normandy landing beach memorials—whether your passion is history, art, architecture, food, nature or all the above—there is a lot to enthrall your senses and enlighten your mind.
From Caudebec they boarded a motor coach to the Normandy landing beaches excursion. They visited Omaha Beach, including the Pointe du Hoc Memorial and the American Cemetery. A Normandy vineyards wine tasting tour was also available as an alternative.
Besides the Paris-to-Normandy tour, FunME Events & Excursions also does long weekend trips to Paris for clients who that want to do something romantic. You can get more information at their website (funmeevents.com) or by calling (815) 756-1263.
There is so much to see and experience in Northwest France that it should be very high on
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Beautification A Community Effort
By: Stephen Haberkorn
You may have noticed the beautiful flowers in the planters around Downtown DeKalb over the years, but you probably had no idea how many different community groups and local businesses are involved in planting and caring for those flowers. Passionate part-time city employee, Judy Schneider, coordinates the Downtown DeKalb flower program and it has grown and flourished under her care. In 2004, Schneider was hired by the City of DeKalb Public Works – Street Division. Her responsibilities entailed keeping the Downtown Central Business (CBD) clean and taking care of the flowers. “I love creating beauty,” said Schneider, “I applied for this position because I really care about Downtown DeKalb. I thought it would be fun, and it has been.”
Mark Espy, Superintendent for the City of DeKalb Street Division, said that when Schneider was first hired her position was more of a maintenance role, but that was expanded over the past thirteen years because of her passion for flowers and plantings. “Over the last decade, she’s brought our planting program to a new level,” said Espy. “She’s brought the community a little deeper into what used to be just a smalltime planting program.” At one time, the City of DeKalb had a deal with Ozzie’s Greenhouse to supply the flowers for the downtown planters and to decide what flowers to put into the pots. When Schneider came in, she started deciding what would go in the pots and the city purchased their plants from the DeKalb Greenhouse. She said that deciding what goes into the pots is the fun part of her job. The number of pots has grown over the years and she currently plans about 60-70 pots and beds.
DeKALB COUNTY MAGAZINE | September 2017 | 11
The DeKalb County Master Gardeners, which is a program through the University of Illinois Extension, has been helping plant the flowers in the Downtown DeKalb area for over fifteen years. All of the master gardeners are volunteers. Randy Moseley of DeKalb heads up the group of around 15-20 master gardeners who meet on a Saturday morning in May and plant all of their pots that day. “It’s all organized ahead of time and that’s a tribute to Randy and Judy,” said Sheryl Nakonechny, one of the master gardeners. “It’s expertly done and we’re done in a couple of hours.” Moseley said that even though planting the flowers and taking care of them is the city’s responsibility, they enjoy knowing that they had a part in making it happen. Schneider has also gotten DeKalb High School students involved in the planting program. She said it’s a great way to get them vested in the downtown area and how it looks. The kids from Future Farmers of America (FFA) and the DeKalb Horticulture program used to plant the flowers around the flagpole at city hall, but she expanded upon that. In April, the high school kids help Schneider clear away the dead plants, mostly in the Van Buer Plaza. One year they even turned over all the soil in the pots, which is intensive work. Sarah Peterson, who is an agriculture teacher and FFA advisor for the high school, usually brings 6-8 students for the work and it’s a field trip for them.
12 | September 2017 | DeKALB COUNTY MAGAZINE
The high school students also grow plants in their greenhouse every year that they sell. When their sale is over, they come in May and plant the leftover plants mostly in Van Buer Plaza. The high school kids also plant six pots that are close to the library and a couple other locations. “They have taken areas that were really poor sites and they have planted annuals in those areas,” said Schneider. “By the middle of summer they’re really beautiful.” In April, usually the week after the high school students help clear some of the dead plants from the pots, groups of volunteers from Northern Illinois University’s NIU Cares Day come and clear away the rest of the previous year’s plantings. Schneider pares them with master gardeners to make sure they don’t rip out any of the living plants. In 2012, the Citizens’ Community Enhancement Commission (CCEC) had brought in about thirty large square planters through the Communiversity in Bloom initiative with NIU, the City of DeKalb and Proven Winners. For the last two years, the Kishwaukee College Horticulture program has planted flowers in those pots. They plant them in March and watch them grow until the city workers pick them up in May and place the planters back on the streets. “This year, they’ve been absolutely beautiful. They just did a super job,” said Schneider. Newly involved this year is the DeKalb County Community Gardens. Some youths with special needs run the Walnut Grove Vocation Farm and Greenhouse and Schneider ordered about half of the plants for the downtown pots from Walnut Grove. In addition, they gave them
responsibility over three pots by City Hall. Their pots also include vegetables, which make them different than any others in the downtown area. “These kids can feel good that they helped plant them,” said Schneider. For all the pots assigned to the various groups, such as DeKalb High School, Kishwaukee College, and the DeKalb Community Gardens, you will see the group’s logo on the pots for which they are responsible. The City has twenty-four hanging planters in the downtown area that they pay Yaeger’s to plant. As with Kishwaukee college, Yeager’s starts growing their flowers in March and the city workers pick them up in May and hang them. Schneider also buys about half of her plants from Derby Line Greenhouse in Genoa, because they are relatively inexpensive. Finally, at the end of the year, the Garden Center at Walmart donates their leftover perennials that also get planted in the CBD area. One idea that Schneider hopes to implement in the future is having flower beds sponsored by businesses. Lauren Woods, owner of Cracker Jax, is one of several downtown business owners who have expressed their gratitude for the city’s flower pots. “I think they’re so beautiful. They’re works of art. I even put pictures of them up on Instagram, showing people how beautiful our downtown is,” said Woods, “It says that downtown is cared for.”
13 | June 2016 | DeKALB COUNTY MAGAZINE
DeKALB COUNTY MAGAZINE | September 2017 | 13
Exceptional L ife of the
vent planner Shuki Moran said that when you design an event you need to concentrate on the background, because that’s what people are going to spend most of their time looking at and what they will remember. The backdrop behind why Shuki Moran moved his home and his very successful event production business from Los Angeles to Geneva, Illinois is made up of several exceptional events that could be titled, “A tale of two weddings and a Christmas party.” The event planner who designed and produced probably the most-publicized wedding ever in the Fox Valley area came from humble beginnings, built his business working for the Hollywood Elite, and now focuses on planning fundraisers for local nonprofit organizations, as well as creating unique weddings and other private events for private clients. On August 31, 2014, Jenny McCarthy and Donnie Wahlberg were married at the Baker Hotel in Downtown St. Charles. This was the kind of event that is common in New York or Los Angeles, but raised lots of eyebrows in the quiet community along the Fox River. Almost exactly one year later, another extravagant, Hollywood-style wedding took place a couple miles away from the Baker Hotel at the Oscar Swan Country Inn Bed & Breakfast in Geneva. Shuki Moran exchanged vows with his partner of twenty-five years, Dale Sporrer. The Moroccan-themed celebration featured belly dancers, a fire show, and live camels. To understand how those two nuptials ended up taking place in Kane County, you have to go back to the Middle East fifty-eight years ago. Shuki (pronounced “Shoe-key”) Moran was born in Tel Aviv, Israel. He served for three years in the Israeli army as an event planner,
14 | September 2017 | DeKALB COUNTY MAGAZINE
bringing entertainment to soldiers on the front lines. After completing his military obligation, he worked as boy scout leader and ran a shelter for homeless and abused children. His father owned a clothing store in Tel Aviv and Shuki became a fashion designer for a women’s clothing line called “Madness.” According to his bio on the Exceptional Events by Shuki Moran website, he furthered his knowledge of everything that went into event design and production through planning his own clothing launch parties. When he was thirty, Moran immigrated to Los Angeles. At that time, Moran was managing a carpet cleaning business, “because that’s what all the Israelis did.” His now husband, Dale Sporrer was a restaurant and catering manager and eventually managed one of the biggest catering companies in Los Angeles. One day, a waiter cancelled on Sporrer at the last minute and he called his partner for help. After some reluctance, Moran filled in at the Hollywood rooftop party for 150 celebrities. It was the start of his career. Shuki began working for the catering business regularly. Then the manager of another large catering company asked him to work for her. He became a manager and oversaw high-end events for people like the pop singer, Madonna. After working for that company for ten years he realized that he was being paid top of the line salary and the only way he could make more was to start his own business. So, he quit his job with the caterer and started Exceptional Events by Shuki Moran in 2006. About six months after opening his business, Moran found out that famous comedic actor, Jim Carrey, was planning to host a big holiday party. Sporrer suggested that he interview Shuki for the job of producing the event. During the interview, Carrey asked Moran why he should trust him, as his new business had not done an event like this before. Moran responded, “When you did your first movie, did they ask you if you’d done something like this before? It’s the same thing.” Carrey was impressed with Moran’s chutzpah, but questioned what would happen if he didn’t like his work. Shuki responded, “I’ll make a deal with you: you hire me, and if you don’t like it, don’t pay me.” Carrey told Moran that if he were willing to take that big of a risk he would think about it. The comedian was supposed to interview another event planner, Colin Cowie, for the job of organizing the holiday party. Cowie was one of the biggest event planners in the United States at the time and later did lots
of work for Oprah Winfrey. “When I went to the interview, I knew I had no chance because Colin was coming right after me and I was nobody,” said Moran. However, while driving from the interview Moran got a phone call from Carrey’s office telling him he got the job. After the interview with Moran, Carrey had canceled his meeting with Colin Cowie. On December 18, 2006 in Los Angeles, Jim Carrey, his girlfriend at the time, Jenny McCarthy, and almost 500 guests celebrated the season with a holiday party to benefit the Los Angeles Fire Department’s Spark of Love toy drive. Among those who attended were Ron Howard, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, Cuba Gooding Jr., Morgan Freeman, and Billy Corgan. The event was a big success and 1,000 toys were collected for needy children. After that, Moran was hired by more celebrities and Jenny McCarthy became a regular client. Fast forward to 2012 and McCarthy called Dale Sporrer to offer him a position as her house manager, private chef, and caregiver for her son. Sporrer knew that McCarthy’s home was near his and he was excited about having a shorter commute. Then McCarthy explained that she was moving back to her home state of Illinois and settling in Geneva. Sporrer did not know anything about Geneva, but McCarthy said that she and her son needed him and that was enough to convince him to move. By that point, Exceptional Events by Shuki Moran was thriving and Shuki was doing several events per week for high-profile clients in the Los Angeles area. But because Shuki and Dale had been together for twenty years, he moved to Geneva along with his partner. In 2014, McCarthy moved to New Jersey to be closer to her tapings of The View and her new love, Donnie Wahlberg. Dale and Shuki again followed McCarthy across the country after just a year and a half in Geneva. Once in New Jersey, McCarthy became engaged to Wahlberg and Shuki started looking at venues in New York to have the wedding. But McCarthy always loved the Midwest and decided to have the wedding in Geneva, instead. She told Shuki to go to Geneva and find her a venue, and he selected the historic Hotel Baker in nearby St. Charles. Moran had still been doing all of his business in Los Angeles and he didn’t know any vendors in the area, so he told McCarthy that he was going to bring his vendors from Los Angeles for the wedding. She insisted, however, that he use only local vendors so all of the business would stay in the Fox DeKALB COUNTY MAGAZINE | September 2017 | 15
Valley. He was worried he wouldn’t be able to get all that he wanted for the wedding in a small town, though. “Slowly, I realized that I actually have amazing vendors here—amazing florists, photographer, videographer,” said Moran. “We have everything here, honestly.” When McCarthy announced a year later that they were moving back to Geneva, Shuki was fine with it. “I was like, ‘Ok, I love Geneva,’” said Moran. He decided that since they were planning to stay there he would move his business to the area as well. That occurred in 2015. Some people thought he was completely crazy when they found out he was moving from Los Angeles to Geneva, IL. “I’ll be honest with you. The first time I moved here, I thought I was crazy, too, because of the weather” said Moran. He had never seen snow before moving to Geneva the first time. He has settled in now, buying a duplex in St. Charles. He said he’d eventually like to buy a house in Geneva. “I don’t see myself moving out of here, honestly,” Moran proclaimed. “I’m done with Los Angeles for sure. I have tons of friends here and tons of clients, so why would I move?” He still does events in Los Angeles, but only for celebrities, agents or longtime clients. He doesn’t do small parties there anymore. He charges a lot more in Los Angeles to do events than he does in Geneva. “People are willing to spend more money there,” said Moran. “If you do a wedding there, it’s $200,000-250,000. Here, it’s $60,000-80,000 for fancy ones. The regular ones want $30,000 – 40,000.” “Working with people here…yes, I’m making less money,” Moran said, “But the benefit of working with really nice people, people who appreciate what you do, there is no price for that. I just love to work here. I don’t think people appreciate what they have here, honestly.”
He said that guests often call to thank and congratulate him after events he does here, and that doesn’t happen anywhere else. Moran said the only thing he has missed in Illinois is having a warehouse full of props, where you can go and rent whatever you want. They have many of them in California because of Hollywood being there. “Here, I have to build everything from scratch, which has made my life much harder,” said Moran, “But it’s still much more fun.” Since moving his business to Geneva, Moran has focused more on planning fundraisers for non-profit organizations. His friend had a big event in Geneva for LivingWell that he did, and after that he got a call from CASA Kane County to do a fundraiser for them and things got rolling after that, he said. Lori Hansen, Philanthropy Coordinator for the Northwestern Medicine Foundation, raises funds for the LivingWell Cancer Resource Center in Geneva. Since being able to hire Shuki to plan their special events she has seen things kicked up to a new level. Their Winter Gala is held every February at the home of Ed and Karen French. One of the challenges they face is keeping it fresh year after year when it is being held in the same place. But Shuki has been able to utilize his design skills to make the house into a French Cabaret and a Moroccan palace. Next year’s theme is disco, and they are planning to light up the floor. “Everything is colorful and exciting,” said Hansen. “People just love to come every year to see how he’s going to help change the house into whatever theme it is.” One of the things Moran does really well, besides transforming the look of the house, is getting entertainment coordinated with the theme. When they did a Moulin Rouge theme a couple years ago, they had a stage with can-can dancers and a French singer. According to Hansen, LivingWell has benefitted by having people come back year after year and really wanting to give. “I love him with all my heart. He’s full of energy. Full of ideas. Always positive. He has the biggest heart,” exclaimed Hansen. “It’s super, super wonderful to work with him.
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In fact, I wish I could work with him all year round for the other events, because he just adds that much flavor and fun to what we’re doing.” Exceptional Events by Shuki Moran has also done fundraisers for the Tuskegee Next Foundation and the Pauly D Foundation, in addition to Generation Rescue, Jenny McCarthy’s Autism Organization. He did a fundraiser for Michael Phelps last May at the Arcada Theater with ALE Solutions. Gianna Dellegrazie of St. Charles, CoFounder of the Paul D Foundation, is also grateful to work with Moran. Dellegrazie and her husband, Paul, began the nonprofit organization in 2014 after their fouryear-old son, Pauly, died in a drowning accident. Their focus is educating people about water safety and drowning prevention.
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Shuki planned their first major gala last year at the Q-Center in St. Charles. The theme of the event was Cirque du Soleil. They had different acts going on
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throughout the evening that were amazing, according to Dellegrazie. “He had everything timed out perfectly,” said Dellegrazie. “I didn’t worry about a thing. There was action going on from the time people got there and then people did not want to leave.” “Shuki is the best. He wants to raise money for the foundation and he wants to make it so unique and classy,” said Dellegrazie. “He woke up the town of St. Charles and Geneva. Everybody wants to go to his events, now.” “The non-profit organizations I work with are making the difference,” said Moran. “The only thing I do is make the fundraiser more fun. Usually people just come for a sit-down dinner, they have an auction, and they take their money. I think that’s why people like to go to my fundraisers, because they know it’s going to be more than just a fundraiser. It will be entertainment.” He said that his goal with the events is to bring the big city to the small town. “We have the people. We have the money. We don’t have to go to Chicago any more to have fun. We can do it right here,” Moran said. Exceptional Events usually does one non-profit fundraiser or major event every month.“If someone calls me from Chicago with a good party that is worth it, I’ll go there,” said Moran. “Otherwise, I really like the small-town vibe. You feel like you work in a community. I have a group of sponsors that work with me. And they’ve become my friends now.” What sets his events apart from the ones he does in California or even Chicago is that here he has the support of the private businesses. He said that all the restaurants, bakeries, and other local businesses support their fundraisers by donating giveaway items. Hotels will also donate rooms to
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help an event.“You don’t have that in the big city,” Moran explained. “We’re trying to make everybody involved in the event, because when a restaurant donates to a fundraiser, then the town is like, ‘Oh, wow, they’re supporting the fundraiser,’ so the people go and support them. The fundraiser benefits and the local businesses benefit.” Moran is selective about which groups he works with. He always does research before agreeing to plan an event to make sure it’s a worthy cause and that the money is going to the right people. “It’s different when you do a fundraiser from a regular event,” said Moran. “When you are asking people to pay, I want it to be a good cause that I believe in.” One cause that is near to his heart is helping the homeless. After his events, he drops off the leftover food at the local shelter in St. Charles. He is hoping to work with the Hesed House homeless shelter in Aurora in the future. Since there are a lot of kids staying at the shelter, his dream is to do a holiday party with gifts for the kids. “For some reason, homeless people always touch me,” said Moran. “It drives me crazy to see people homeless.” In addition to the monthly fundraisers, Exceptional Events by Shuki Moran also does weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs, and other private events. Kristine Griffin of Geneva found out about Shuki from her massage therapist when she was stressed about planning a graduation party for her twins, renovating her home, and planning her own wedding. She ended up hiring Moran to plan her twins’ graduation party and her wedding. Her wedding took place on July 1, 2017 in her back yard.“ It looked like it was something out of Town and Country,” said Griffin. “It was
a wedding that was so different than any other wedding in the area.” Moran feels that it’s important to be original when planning an event to make sure that it fits the client rather than just following trends. “I usually don’t follow what other people do. A trend is one guy did it and everybody copied. That’s not for me. I think you create your own trend,” said Moran. “What’s in is what my client wants or what I think would be ‘Wow’ for them.” Griffin was impressed with how organized Shuki was. She said he showed up to their first meeting with a binder and requested every contact, every email, and every wish they had for the wedding in order to get as much information as he could. After taking some time to process all the information, he came back with his ideas and his vision. “From the way the band was staged, to the pool, to the lighting, he just doesn’t miss anything,” raved Griffin. “He’s so detailed that he will even ask you what you want his staff to wear.” In addition to participating in every tasting to which the couple went and going to Griffin’s bridal fitting, Moran showed up at their house many times to negotiate with vendors so they could get a fair price. “He negotiates better than any realtor can negotiate for you, as far as maximizing what you get for your dollar,” said Griffin. “He follows up with these vendors and holds onto their checks until they deliver. He expects them to go beyond what they would normally do because of the scale. You may end up paying what you feel is a lot of money to have him as a coordinator, but it’s worth every dime.”
Griffin said that Shuki’s expertise working with celebrities in L.A. and doing charity events is apparent when you see him in action. “He pulled off a wedding that in my wildest dreams I did not think would be so beautiful,” said Griffin. “People were talking about it for days.” She said the best word to describe Moran is passionate—about what he does and about everyone around him. “He gets so excited. The day of the wedding I have photos of him wearing his suit, and he is smiling like this proud mother. It is infectious,” said Griffin. Moran hasn’t done any events in DeKalb County, yet, but he’s open to it. He said he doesn’t charge for his first meeting, where you tell him what you want and he gives you an estimate of his budget. “If you go for it, we’ll move along. If not, then no big deal.” For now, he is enjoying the small-town life. When he was in Los Angeles, he used to do 3-4 events per week and that was pretty much all he did. Now, he has reduced his schedule to one major fundraiser or big event and one smaller private event per month. That enables him to travel more and spend more time with the people he cares about. “In my business, when everybody’s off for the weekend that’s when I’m working,” said Moran. “If I work every weekend, I will never see my friends. If I limit it to one or two, at least I have two weekends here to enjoy my friends. And I have a lot of friends.” Finally, he said that his goal is to enjoy life and do good for the community at the same time. So far, that seems to be working out really well for both Shuki and the local communities.
DeKALB COUNTY MAGAZINE | September 2017 | 19
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FitWorkz Owner Transforms Bodies & Lives
By: Stephen Haberkorn
Ray Binkowski knows what it’s like to train for professional athletic competitions. He also knows what it’s like to wake up one morning and realize that you’re fat and you can’t stop gaining weight. The fact that Binkowski, the owner of FitWorkz gym in DeKalb, can relate to both elite athletes and couch potatoes is one of the secrets to his success. He’s been a competitive bodybuilder, has been featured in and written for fitness magazines and has trained professional athletes. But because he used to be overweight and struggled for years to slim down, he is able to understand and help the average person who desires to get into shape but is not having success. As a student at Northern Illinois University back in the 90’s pursuing his degree in mechanical engineering, Binkowski didn’t realize he had a weight problem. Every year he had to buy an entire new wardrobe and put his old clothes into storage containers because they no longer fit. But it wasn’t until he had to start interviewing for jobs and couldn’t button the pants on his suit that he knew he needed to do something different. “That was my watershed moment,” said Binkowski. “That’s when I realized I was developing a weight problem. It wasn’t even a health issue for me at that time. It wasn’t a vanity issue. It was, ‘You don’t have money to buy another suit and you have to get into these pants so something’s got to change.’” As an engineer with a type-A personality, Binkowski started recording every calorie he consumed and every calorie he worked off in his spiral notebook, but he wasn’t getting the results he expected. After failing to shed the pounds on his own, he went to see a dietician. But what he got was the typical advice: “Eat less and work out more.”
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When Binkowski insisted he’d already been doing that, the dietician’s response was that he must be cheating. “I asked him, ‘Have you ever been overweight?’ and his answer was ‘No.’ I said, ‘You don’t know what it took for me to come in here and ask for help. You don’t know what it feels like to be trying what you’re saying, to have it not work, and question if I’m just going to be fat.’” Binkowski ended up trying different things for several years before figuring out what worked for him. Eventually, he was so successful that his Triangle fraternity brothers noticed the changes and encouraged him to enter the Greek Physique bodybuilding competition. “I was an anomaly,” said Binkowski. “We were geeks. We weren’t athletes. Most didn’t go to the weight room, didn’t exercise and didn’t eat right. There was lots of Mountain Dew and video games.” Since the Triangle fraternity could only accept math, science and engineering majors and most of their members were older, non-traditional students, they didn’t really fit the Greek mold. They hoped that Binkowski could get them some recognition on campus by flipping the classic nerd vs. jock script. He ended up taking second place and began a ten-year bodybuilding career. Through that whole process, he lost over sixty pounds and has kept it off for almost twenty years. As an additional benefit, Binkowski said that when he lost weight he stopped getting sick. He continued working as an engineer and then went into sales engineering and sales management. In 2001, he started a fitness training business on the side, training people at night and on weekends and writing for different magazines. Even when he was doing engineering sales, when clients found out how much weight he’d lost, the conversation always seemed to go to fitness and what he did to improve himself. “I would very deliberately have to guide them back to what I was there to talk about, like interior parts,” said Binkowski. In 2007, Binkowski left his successful career in engineering and bought the Wright Athletic Club. He changed the name to FitWorkz, since he already owned the internet domain, FitWorkz.com. In 2009, he moved the gym to its current location at 1690 Sycamore Road in DeKalb. He last entered a body building contest in 2010, but remains involved in bodybuilding through FitWorkz’ promotion of two body building competitions at the Egyptian Theatre: The OCB Spring Naturals in April and the OCB Midwest States in November.
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Even though he had owned an engineering business with sales in China, South Korea and India, his passion always seemed to come back to helping people lose weight and get fit. “The engineer personality trait is ‘Mr. Fix it.’ We’re problem solvers,” explained Binkowski. “But instead of trying to build a better mousetrap, I like to do that with the human body.” Over the years, Binkowski has become somewhat of a nutrition guru. He wrote a book called Eat By Color that was published in 2011; however, he had it copyrighted in 2003 and had been using the principles with clients for many years. He came up with the idea for Eat by Color when he was working with some young Marines in 2003 who were on their way back from Iraq on a float. He emailed them instructions on training and nutrition and one of them replied that he didn’t understand anything Ray sent and asked him to “dumb it down” and send it back. Binkowski thought to himself, “This guy has a college degree. He’s a lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. He’s been to war. He’s in charge of millions of dollars of Uncle Sam’s hardware and priceless human lives and he doesn’t get it. So how many other people am I saying, ‘Do this…Do this…Do this,’ and it’s going over their head?” So he color-coded the food groups and started teaching better eating habits like children’s paint by numbers. He claims that it has worked with thousands of clients. “There’s no counting calories, no counting points,” explained Binkowski. “It just teaches simple ways to make better food choices that anybody can do. There is no complicated cook book with ingredients you’ve never heard of.” Marilee Struthers of DeKalb had never been a member of a gym, but came in to FitWorkz about four years ago to speak with Binkowski about getting into better shape. She began working with him on her nutrition using Eat By Color. She also started working with a personal trainer to learn how to use the equipment in the gym. “I’d never been overweight, but maybe had put on a few pounds I didn’t like,” said Struthers. “I know there are a lot of things out there, but Ray’s book is good because he doesn’t cut out any specific food groups at all.” Struthers said she doesn’t like dieting, but just eating healthy—which is what Eat By Color is all about. She also liked that Binkowski was not someone who had always been fit and at a good weight, but that he, himself, had to change his lifestyle and eating habits, and that he continues to be a great example by staying fit despite being a very busy husband and father. “He also worked with me,” said Struthers. “He didn’t just give you a book and send you on your way. He was always available at the gym, talk or email. Since I had never been a member of a gym before, having someone to work along with you was what helped me get started.”
Fitworkz has members of every age they appeal to. Marlyn Brovelli is a 70-year-old retiree who lives in DeKalb. Her husband had been going to FitWorkz since it was the Wright Athletic Club and had been suggesting she give it a try, but she kept resisting for some reason. She finally met with Ray to make sure she was physically able to do all of the workouts and then joined a fitness group that meets for an hour three times a week. She is now in her sixth year of working out at FitWorkz. “It has made a world of difference,” said Brovelli. “It’s actually changed my life. I have muscles for the first time and I have more energy.”
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Her group is composed of other retirees, including many former teachers and professors.“But everybody is young at heart and besides working hard, we have a lot of fun,” said Brovelli. “Ray and the trainers are so nice. They’re really happy to work with us and it’s just a really good atmosphere.” Brovelli had never worked out at a gym before, but she had walked and kept active around the house and never really had a weight issue. She thought she was fine until she started to go to FitWorkz and realized she wasn’t strong, even though she looked ok. She has also noticed an increase in her flexibility since she started working out. One important benefit to her improved physical fitness has been her ability to be more active with her two grandchildren. Besides the physical benefits, Brovelli has also noticed emotional and social benefits as well.“Not only does it physically change you, but it does mentally also. It just gives me kind of a high. It’s kept me feeling inside like I’m a much younger person,” explained Brovelli. “And I really like the social aspect, because I tend to be kind of a stay-athome person and I don’t get out in the community a lot. So it’s given me a lot of new friends and experiences. Everybody’s very friendly and we’re a close group. I feel like those are my good friends.” Dillett said that he had been to many of the larger fitness chains and felt like he was just a number, but he doesn’t get that sense at FitWorkz. “Their personal training staff is the best,” said Dillett. “Every trainer there is super personable and seriously down to earth. Your goals are pretty much their goals. And that’s what I love about going there is that I know I will always get someone who is keyed in on what I want.” Binkowski continues to try to educate everyone on health and fitness. He has written two other books: Exercise Galore: The Beginner’s Guide To Weight Training and Get Fit and Live Healthy: A Collection of Keys To Your Success From a Gym Owner and Trainor. The Exercise Galore book is best used online, where it has links to Youtube videos demonstrating the exercises. Using technology such as their apps and their Youtube channel, he and his staff train people all across the country, some of whom they’ve never met. The FitWorkz Youtube channel has over 1400 free videos that anyone can access. Binkowski has used a variety of media sources to promote his nutrition and fitness teachings.
In addition to his magazine articles and Youtube videos, he has appeared on numerous television and radio programs. He had his own radio show on WLBK with T.D. Ryan called “Get Fit and Live Healthy,” and produced many “Get Fit and Live Healthy” podcasts. He appeared on WGN TV to talk about Eat By Color. He did a 30-minute program with news anchor, Jeannie Hayes, on WREX in Rockford. He was a guest on “Healthy with Hart” with Kathy Hart from the Eric and Kathy morning show on 101.9 The Mix out of Chicago. He was also on the radio with Doug McDuff in Rockford. Currently, Binkowski produces videos twice a month with Hy-Vee’s dietician, Lisa Brandt, and also does free cooking workshops monthly. Binkowski has been a Certified Personal Trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), a Certified Fitness Trainer through the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), a Certified Nautilus Trainer and a Level III Master Trainer with Athletic Republic. Through their Athletic Republic franchise, FitWorkz has trained over a thousand local athletes, around one hundred collegiate athletes and seven professional athletes, according to Binkowski. “The guy who broke the 40-yard dash record at the NFL Combine trains at an Athletic Republic in California,” said Binkowski. “The same training, same equipment and same programming he used we have right here in DeKalb.” Former NIU wide receiver, P.J. Fleck, was Binkowski’s first client who competed professionally in a sport. Fleck used to send him checks from the San Francisco 49ers front office when he was playing in the NFL and Binkowski has one of those envelopes on the wall in his office. But Binkowski’s real passion is helping out-of-shape or uncoordinated kids become more successful in sports. He said he stopped playing organized sports in the 7th grade when he was too fat to make the football team. “I bought an Athletic Republic franchise not because I wanted to train professional athletes, but because I wanted to train the fat kids like me who couldn’t make weight for football,” said Binkowski. He points out that kids enjoy being active and playing games and claims that he can teach them to be better in sports. Binkowski advises finding out what games kids are interested in and enjoy playing, giving them opportunities, encouraging them to do their best, and then using science to train kids to be competitive by recognizing mechanical mistakes in their movement patterns. “We can teach speed. We can take 1-2 tenths of a second off a 40-yard time… We can say that with great confidence,” Binkowski said. “Kids who appear to be terribly uncoordinated or appear to be slow, we can teach them the tools to
be competitive. Nobody likes to play a game they can’t win, but if we can give them the tools to be competitive they’ll keep playing.” And in addition to eating better, maintaining an active lifestyle is another way of preventing many of the health problems that have increasingly plagued our society. “We’re the first generation that’s not going to outlive our parents since World War II. One in three born after 2000 will be obese and it’s probably worse than that,” Binkowski claims. “Incidence of Type II Diabetes, which is preventable, is on the rise. We need to find a way for people to alter their lifestyle.” Binkowski says that the problem with the fitness industry today is that despite an explosion in the number of gyms and a reduction in the cost of gym memberships, people are not getting the help they need to be successful. At most gyms, you can hire a trainer, but if they don’t see you 2-3 days a week with consistency it won’t help and you’ll waste your money, said Binkowski. “Most people get a gym membership and never go,” Binkowski said. “The ones that do, don’t know what they’re doing. They feel uncomfortable. They feel intimidated. Most importantly, if you look around at a sampling of the American population, even though the number of fitness centers has tripled from 40,000 to 120,000 since 2010, where are the thin people? We’re failing.” According to Binkowski, FitWorkz’ clients tend to be older, like 35-40, and have had the typical experience of trying to lose weight and failing. They have kids. They have trouble sleeping. Or they might be a single parent going back to school juggling a lot and they really want help. “They come here and ask for help with their training because they believe we care,” said Binkowski. “I don’t want to sell memberships to everybody in town. If people feel we care, at least they realize we’re making an honest attempt. If it were just about chasing dollars, I’d go back to engineering.” As a hybrid training gym, FitWorkz offers their members affordable access to training with nutrition accountability. FitWorkz is also currently the largest 24hour facility in the county. They went to 24 hours in October of 2016. “We live in a now society,” said Binkowski, “If I want to buy a book, I can have it right now on my Kindle. I don’t have to wait for the store to open. People want to exercise whenever they can. It’s hard enough for them to make exercise a priority.” Also, says Binkowski, some people have work and family schedules that only enable them to work out regularly when the average gym is closed. What perhaps most sets FitWorkz apart from other gyms, though, is the ability for members to receive help in a non-threatening environment. Binkowski believes that people will work out as long as they don’t see it as work. “If we make it a game and disguise it as fun then they will do it,” said Binkowski.
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Hillside Restaurant The
A Delicious DeKalb Destination
The Hillside Restaurant in Downtown DeKalb has been called a staple, an anchor, a tradition, a landmark, and an icon by members of the DeKalb County community. They have been serving homemade comfort food and seasonal items in a warm and cozy setting for over fifty years, while building a loyal following along the way. The dining establishment in the quaint, ivy-covered building at 121 N. Second
Street is the oldest restaurant in DeKalb and claims to have served over two million patrons since opening in 1955. Located across from the historic Egyptian Theatre, the restaurant gets its name from the slight incline you may not even notice as you enter the building. The Hillside has been owned and managed by two different local families during its 62-year existence. It began when Nancy Fraser and her mother, Helen, bought the building that previously housed the Doughnut Cottage and was connected to a small cobbler’s shop. It was originally more of a diner, serving sandwiches and fried chicken to customers seated at a small counter along one wall. During the 1960’s, they expanded and renovated the building to make it into a more formal restaurant. In 1967, Nancy Fraser married Jim Sisler, who was a cook at the Hillside, and the couple took over the restaurant. The management team later included Nancy’s daughter, Lisa Braun. It was around this time that the Sislers hired a local high school student named Mary, who would eventually become the owner. After graduating from high school, Mary commuted from DeKalb to the Art Institute in Chicago, where she studied art, painting and drawing. She later attended Northern Illinois University as a graduate student while waiting tables at the Hillside.
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characteristic traits they had both come to love. Gavin Wilson explained that when the Hillside Restaurant first opened, all restaurants were doing home cooking, where you had to make the food, hold it in a steam table and serve it cafeteria style. But over the years, a lot of restaurants, and especially the chains, started packaging prepared foods like you would buy at the grocery store and then just heating them up. Using that method, cooks only need to be semi-trained. However, the Hillside still uses the homemade style the same way they did in the beginning. They still start with recipes and make their food from scratch. Even their sauces and desserts are still homemade. Their permanent menu items include chicken alfredo, baked beef lasagna, and chocolate cake. They also feature traditional comfort foods like meatloaf, turkey pot pie, and liver and onions. “We used to advertise, ‘Food like your Mom used to make,’” said Gavin Wilson, “but we’ve been here so long now we have to say, ‘Food like your grandma used to make,’ because nobody cooks anymore.” In 1982, a music composition student at NIU named Gavin Wilson started working at the Hillside as a dishwasher and eventually a cook. He would end up falling in love with both the restaurant and Mary. Like the previous owners before them, after having met at the restaurant, Gavin and Mary Wilson were married in 1987. For two years, they managed the restaurant together, before purchasing it from the Sislers in 1989.Mary Wilson said she never imagined that she would be the owner of the Hillside Restaurant. “I’m living the American dream,” said Mary Wilson. “I feel very fortunate to go into business when I did and have a mentor like Nancy Sisler.” In 2005 a Daily Chronicle article commemorating the restaurant’s 50th anniversary, Gavin Wilson stated that even though he had a degree in music and Mary had a degree in art, purchasing the restaurant was an easy decision. “I wanted to be an artist, but not a starving one,” Gavin Wilson quipped. Despite running the restaurant and also working as an insurance/financial representative, Gavin Wilson still manages to display his musical talents while performing with the municipal band and appearing in Stagecoach Theater productions. Besides the Sislers and the Wilsons, many other couples have come together at the Hillside. The Wilson’s son, Holden, also met his wife at the restaurant. To date, 53 people have proposed to their future spouses at the Hillside Restaurant (that they know of)—usually at one particular table. “There’s a sentimental, romantic attachment that people have to the Hillside Restaurant,” explained Mary Wilson. In addition to providing a romantic setting for couples, the Hillside has also been visited by many politicians and celebrities over the years. In addition to local government officials, the restaurant has served prominent national figures such as Senator and Presidential Candidate, Ted Kennedy, and former Speaker of the House, Denny Hastert. Cindy Crawford used to eat there a lot (usually incognito) and many actors have dined there, such as Jessica Lange, Jason Robards, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and William B. Davis, who portrayed the Cigarette Smoking Man on the X-Files TV show.
Homemade and Seasonal Food
“I’ve seen some real changes throughout the years, but one thing I loved about the Hillside was they always maintained this homespun, homemade, from scratch, seasonal feeling and menu,” said Mary Wilson. After buying the restaurant, the Wilsons wanted to continue those
The other distinctive feature of the Hillside’s food is their seasonal menu that changes six times a year. And they are always updating it—trying new dishes and getting rid of things that don’t work, but also keeping the old, “famous” items that continue to be well-received. “We have the availability to be as trendy as we want. It just has to be homemade,” said Gavin Wilson. Even though the menu changes with the season and is constantly being updated, they do maintain a German slant. They started doing Octoberfest over 30 years ago as a seasonal celebration, but people got mad when those items came off the menu. As a result, they incorporated a lot of them onto their regular menu and ended up becoming known for it. Their most popular German foods include sauerbraten, jaeger schnitzel, and butternut bisque. According to Gavin, the butternut bisque is the single most popular item in the restaurant. When it is in season, they go to Yaeger’s Farm Market and get 15-20 huge cases of butternut squash. There is nothing they can do when spring comes and there is no more squash; however, because they have to use fresh squash. Because the Hillside makes everything from scratch with fresh ingredients, it dictates that they have a seasonal menu. They are constantly rotating in new items, so if people come every few months they may find something on the menu that they’ve never tried before. “When January and February are over, people get withdrawal for their butternut bisque, but it’s time for rhubarb pie,” said Gavin Wilson. In fact, every year people get upset when a season ends, because their favorite item is gone and is replaced by something else. Items like rhubarb pie, fried green tomatoes, and green tomato salsa that are seasonal get taken off the menu and then come back again every year. “More than ever, when people go to a place they want something fresh,” said Gavin Wilson. “A lot of the chains are even revisiting that idea, but we’ve always done it. You can’t do rhubarb pie in the winter, unless you’re buying a frozen pie and sticking it in the oven.” They primarily use Yaeger’s Farm Market’s produce, but they’ve used several other local farm markets to source their ingredients over the years. They’ve also bought items at Inboden’s. When they used to be able to get corn from DeKalb Ag, Gavin once took an empty extendedcab cargo van there and loaded it with sweet corn, because they had a catering job for 1600 people. Their staff spent twelve hours shucking corn from the van until it was empty. “It’s always good to have an establishment that shops locally,” said DeKalb DeKALB COUNTY MAGAZINE | September 2017 | 27
farmer and Hillside customer, Aaron Butler. “It’s an economic engine of the community to have locally-owned businesses that are sourcing their stuff from local producers.” With Mary Wilson’s artistic background, she enjoys the creative aspect of the seasonal challenge and coming up with ideas for new menu items. She is constantly reading in order to keep up with current trends in food. Gavin’s specialty, on the other hand, is executing those ideas. “Give me something that needs to be done and I’ll figure out a way,” said Gavin Wilson. And if they don’t know of a way to get a certain item they want, they just make it up themselves. Consequently, the Hillside has a lot of unique items. “I always think of us kind of as a food boutique, because you’re not going to get some things anywhere else that you can get here,” said Mary Wilson. As people’s eating habits have changed, they have introduced vegan and gluten-free items to their menu. They also started offering craft beers to their bottled beer selection. One thing that hasn’t changed is the Hillside Restaurant’s signature desserts. Their chocolate cake, brownies, and pie crust were blue ribbon winners at the Sandwich Fair a few years in a row.“We’re fairly well known for our chocolate cake, especially. It’s even better than Portillo’s,” said Gavin Wilson. They feature homemade pies, particularly on farmers market days. In the summer and fall you can get a three-pound pie that you can take home at a reduced cost.“Their chocolate cake and pies are amazing,” said Tim Struthers of DeKalb, who’s been dining at the Hillside Restaurant for around forty years.
Warm and Cozy Setting
Other than the food, another endearing characteristic of the Hillside is the restaurant’s warm and cozy atmosphere, which has also been described as quaint, comfortable, charming, soothing, and romantic. One of its distinctive features is the wood paneling that was installed in the building way back in the 1920’s. Perhaps no other element of the décor could as perfectly illustrate the restaurant’s longevity and commitment to tradition. Mary Wilson joked that if she removed the paneling and painted the walls white as she has thought of doing, she would be “tarred and feathered and rolled down [Route] 38 in a barrel full of nails.” The ambiance is further enhanced by antique furniture and decorations, splashes of Andrew Wyeth paintings on the walls, vines framing the views looking out from the windows, and candles burning on the tables in the evening. During the holidays, seasonal decorations enhance the festiveness. And in warmer weather, diners can enjoy their meals on the outside patio. Many, if not most of the furnishings have the added benefit of being purchased locally as well. Jan Holland, who has been dining at the Hillside for over fifty years, used to work at a shop called the Flower Mill in Downtown DeKalb back in the 70’s and 80’s. She remembers selling the pine furniture, mirrors and other decorations to the Hillside Restaurant’s owners. Consequently, she feels even more of a connection to the place.
Though the Hillside Restaurant is open every day of the year, they have become known as a great destination to celebrate holidays and special occasions. Mary Wilson likens it to Bing Crosby’s place in the movie, Holiday Inn. People return year after year for special days like birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and Mother’s Day. This past year, three alums who were customers when they were students at NIU, brought their graduating college children to the restaurant to celebrate. Aaron Butler said that he and his family frequent the Hillside all the time to celebrate special occasions whenever they have relatives in town.
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When Tim and Marilee Struthers had their first child 29 years ago, they celebrated by going to the Hillside using a gift certificate they received through Kishwaukee Hospital. “We celebrate almost all of our Mother’s Days and Father’s Days and those kinds of holidays at the Hillside in our family,” said Tim Struthers. On Thanksgiving, patrons love the fact that they do a traditional roast turkey dinner with all the trimmings. “It’s mobbed, and 90% of what we sell is turkey so it’s a really easy menu-planning day,” said Gavin Wilson. “It’s the only day of the year we don’t have to worry about not knowing what they’re going to order.” Gavin and Mary even do their part to make holidays extra special for their regular customers. “I actually remember one year on Valentine’s Day they came over and asked if they could take our picture,” remembers Jan Holland. “They had heartshaped balloons right there behind us. The next thing we know, we were on their website.” Another year, the couple was at the Hillside celebrating Jan’s birthday, which falls the day after Christmas. Gavin Wilson, fully decked out in his white coat and big white chef’s hat, got some instruments and formed an impromptu marching band. With Gavin playing the accordion, they marched around the Christmas tree while serenading Jan with a memorable rendition of “Happy Birthday.”
Catering and Special Events
The Hillside’s catering business began with Jim Sisler catering Gavin and Mary Wilson’s wedding reception in 1987. Since then, they have continued to expand their catering service. They provide both full service in house and off premise catering. A lot of those couples who had their first date and/or proposed at the restaurant had their wedding receptions catered by the Hillside. In some cases, the restaurant has catered their children’s weddings as well. The Japanese house of representatives came to the Hillside when they were in town and ate from a specially-designed menu. In fact, Mary and Gavin are very good at researching and producing special meals for groups and do them all the time. They have done Swedish and Irish catered meals, for example. They often host themed meals for the Northern Illinois Travel Society based around foods from specific countries. In 1996, A Thousand Acres, a film based upon a best-selling book about an Iowa farming family, was filmed in the area. “It was supposed to take place in Iowa, but they discovered that Illinois looked more like Iowa on film than Iowa did,” said Gavin Wilson. The film’s producers called the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce and said they needed food that didn’t look like it came from a restaurant. “That was probably fate, because that’s what we were known for: home-made food,” said Gavin Wilson. They didn’t shoot any of the scenes in the restaurant, but some of the actors from the movie came in to the restaurant to eat. The cast included Michelle Pfeiffer, Jessica Lange, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Keith Carradine, Jason Robards, and Colin Firth.
Family and Locally Owned
After taking over from the Sislers, the Wilson family have poured their lives into providing a friendly and welcoming environment at the Hillside. “Our customers are very important to us,” said Gavin Wilson. “We have seen them gather with friends and family for decades, and have grown to understand what they need in order to feel taken care of. When they’re with us, they’re like family.” Their success stems from the fact that Gavin and Mary are both extremely hard and conscientious workers by nature. For years they have striven to maintain a level of quality and service that has set them apart from other restaurants. Gavin and Mary can be found working at the restaurant seven days a week, pretty much non-stop. “We don’t really know any other way…It would be easier to talk about how much time we spend away from the restaurant,” said Gavin Wilson. “It’s definitely a labor of love,” added Mary Wilson. DeKALB COUNTY MAGAZINE | September 2017 | 29
Tails Foster Families
Helping Pets Find Loving Homes
By: Stephen Haberkorn
One of the best places to find your new puppy in DeKalb County is Tails Humane Society. They bring in thousands of dogs and cats from all across the country, that would otherwise be euthanized, because of the demand here for adoptive animals and the selfless work of over fifty foster families. Tails began in 1999 and initially operated out of an old farm house. They started their fostering program as a way to rescue puppies and kittens, since they must be quarantined for two weeks because of health hazards before they can enter a shelter. The animals that are fostered stay in individuals’ homes until they are ready for adoption. “It initially started out very, very small,” said Verna Holland, former Foster and Transport Coordinator at Tails. “As we’ve grown, we’ve realized we can get not just puppies, but adult dogs into foster, and that allows us to rescue more.” Now that Tails has a large facility on Barber Greene Road in DeKalb with lots of volunteers and staff they are able to do much more, but it is still the work of their foster families that allows them to save the amount of animals that they do. Out of 2400 animals taken in by Tails in 2016, 1725 spent time with foster families. At any one time, Tails may have over 150 animals living in foster homes. “Our foster homes literally are saving lives,” said Michelle Groeper, Tails’ Executive Director for the past three years. “There are some of these animals that are at open admission shelters that just don’t have any resources. And these animals very likely will be euthanized if we’re not able to take them; some of them are within hours of euthanasia unless we pick them up.” Those dogs and cats (primarily, although Tails does rescue other pets like rabbits and rats) are transferred in from animal control facilities both around the State of Illinois and across the country. Animal control facilities are legally obligated to take in every dog and cat that walks through their doors, but they have limited space. Some of the animal rescue operations may have only five runs, with all of them being outdoors. That is where shelters like Tails step in. An animal control facility or open admission rescue shelter will give Tails a call. Tails will then work to arrange transport for the animals. They have volunteers who don’t mind driving great distances and the transferring organization will often meet them half way.
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For example, earlier this year, two Tails volunteers drove to meet a transport from Mississippi about halfway in order to save some animals who would have been euthanized either that evening or the next day if they weren’t there to take them. Although most of the cats and large dogs that Tails takes in are from DeKalb County, 1060 animals last year were transferred from other organizations. “Our local animals and our local community is our priority. We will not not take in an animal that is in need in DeKalb County simply because we feel we need to transport in other animals,” said Groeper. “But that said, it’s hard to find puppies and small dogs in the State of Illinois, especially Northern Illinois. There is a large demand and there’s not a lot of supply.” Tails has partnered with some great rescue organizations down south, where there are few spay/neuter laws and animals are more frequently abused or neglected. “It’s just a different mentality,” Groeper said. “Dogs and cats are not really viewed as family members; they’re just viewed as disposable animals.” Tails hears some horrible stories of how these animals down south came to their originating shelters. According to Groeper, there are sometimes threats to kill the animals on the front doorstep of the shelters if they are not taken in. One organization that Tails has been working with for a long time to rescue companion animals is the Humane Society of Cherokee County, Oklahoma. Their Transport Coordinator, Alexis Colvard, travels around their county finding mama dogs, puppies, abused animals, abandoned animals and other animals that people are no longer able to take care of, and transports them to shelters around the Chicago area. “We don’t have the spay/neuter laws that we need,” explained Colvard. “We don’t have the up-to-date shot laws that we need. We don’t have the animal cruelty laws that we need. People in the country or people farther down south don’t have the regulations that people up north have. That’s why we have the overpopulation that we have.” While Colvard is grateful to be able to transport animals from their county to organizations that are able to save them, she wishes people cared enough about the domestic animals in her area to get them spayed and neutered and to take proper care of them. She says that they have a spay/neuter clinic in their county that will sterilize a dog for as little as $20 and she is always giving people information to try to encourage them to spay and neuter their dogs and cats.
Colvard’s predecessor, Lou Hayes, started going to Colorado to transport animals about ten years ago and through that met other animal rescue groups. That is how they came in contact with Tails and other shelters in the Chicago area. Over the ten years that they’ve been running their transfer program, the Cherokee County Humane Society has transported over two thousand dogs to shelters up north. In the first four months of 2017, they have already transported 287 dogs. “Like kids, these dogs don’t have a voice and I am the voice for these animals,” said Colvard. “You can’t just pay somebody to do this job; they have to have the passion and the heart for these animals. I understand people have quotas and numbers they have to meet at the shelters we go to, but to me it’s not about the numbers that I’m transporting; it’s about the quality of care they are getting where I’m taking them. I’ve gotten them out of horrible situations and I want them to go into healthy, happy homes or foster homes or shelters.” When Colvard has dogs and cats that need homes, she sends a list and pictures of the animals to the Foster and Transport Coordinator at Tails. They set up a transport date while the Tails foster community secures homes for all of the animals. When the actual transfer is made, Colvard will “play doggie Tetris” in order to get as many animals as possible on her vehicle while still making sure they are safe and comfortable. She often drives all night to meet a Tails volunteer at a middle point for delivery. Colvard said that the people at Tails are always available when she needs to talk to them to explain a certain case and they are always willing to give advice on how to handle situations. “The people at Tails are amazing,” said Colvard. “They are always open-armed. They’re all very loving. They always have foster people willing and waiting for me when I get there to accept our dogs into their homes, even if they are sometimes challenging animals. They’ve never told me no on an animal that I’ve wanted to get out of a horrible situation.” Colvard said she gets emotional when she drops off animals to the people at Tails, because she knows they will be going to awesome homes. It helps Tails when they get more time to find shelter space or foster homes for animals they receive from other organizations, but DeKALB COUNTY MAGAZINE | September 2017 | 31
sometimes situations are more urgent. Holland said that while the Oklahoma facility gives them relatively more notice, animals rescue groups in Tunica, Mississippi and Memphis, Tennessee usually contact Tails with emergency situations. Holland said Tunica is a really good humane society that they have worked with a lot and they will contact her when they have an overload and have animals that need to be transferred within a week. Tails will have to juggle things around to get those animals in, but they often find a way. Tails also works with many local animal control groups that do transfers such as Kankakee County, DuPage County, Kane County and Winnebago County. They take in a lot of difficult small dogs from DuPage County and have recently taken in a lot of cats from Winnebago County. Tails is a limited admission facility, which means that they don’t euthanize for cage space or time. They make a commitment to the animals when they admit them into their adoption process. They will treat animals with health conditions such as heartworm and Parvovirus and they have a couple dog trainers on staff who will work with animals with behavioral issues. When pets come into the shelter they are spayed or neutered, which is required by law for animal shelters in Illinois. All dogs under six months old must stay in foster care for at least two weeks as an incubation period to check for specific diseases and medical issues. During this time, they get started with their vaccinations and de-worming (if necessary) and they do fecal testing on them to make sure they are ready for adoption. Puppies need to be at least eight weeks old before they can be brought into the shelter. Parvovirus (Parvo) is a big concern for the puppies is a big concern, because they can die from it. Keeping the puppies separated protects the puppies and the animals in the shelter as well. That is primarily why foster homes exist. Parvo is difficult to treat and time consuming. Some fosters know how to treat it and then they keep them in their home. Otherwise, the puppies come back to the shelter and go home with one of their staff members who know how to treat Parvo. Tails will also often take in a heartworm-positive pregnant mom dog, which means that she’s in the foster home until she delivers, eight more
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weeks after that, and then she starts her heart worm treatment—which is painful, expensive and takes at least another two months. So that animal can be in Tails’ care for a total of five months. Groeper said that Tails is one of the few shelters up north that will take heartwormpositive dogs because of the time and expense involved, but that they make the commitment to the animals because it’s the right thing to do. “They’re the most difficult ones for some fosters to bring back to the shelter,” said Holland. “Heartworm dogs end up more often staying with the foster homes until they’re adopted, because the foster gets attached to them and doesn’t want them to go through having to be in the shelter.” Tails also has an accidental litter program aimed at stopping the cycle of overpopulation. If someone has a cat with kittens that they were planning to give away, Tails will spay/neuter the mother for a nominal fee or at no cost, depending on the income of the owner, if they relinquish the kittens to the shelter. They will then spay or neuter the entire litter in order to stop the cycle of kittens. They will do that with puppies as well, but many people in this area already spay/neuter their dogs.
When people begin fostering animals at Tails they take them through an orientation where they discuss the reasons for fostering, what Tails supplies, how to limit the foster animals’ exposure to other pets, and various medical conditions. Once they agree to follow all of the guidelines they typically start them with something a little easier to see how they do.
The hardest part for some people getting started is thinking that they can’t foster because they will want to adopt them all. “The reality is if you keep them you can’t save another one,” said Holland. “Once you get through your first group getting adopted you realize this is great because you’re seeing them get into homes. They all get adopted. Even the difficult ones.” According to Holland, it’s difficult to know how well a foster family is going to do until they actually begin fostering. They want people to be honest about what they need so that they can find an animal that will fit into their lifestyle.
Bottle-fed kittens, for example, need round-theclock attention so that might not be possible for some people, unless they can bring a basket of kittens to work with them. After a while, people usually figure out what types of foster situations they prefer: cats, adult dogs, pregnant dogs, a mom dog with puppies, orphan puppies, orphan kittens, etc. Sometimes, people will end up switching “teams” from dogs to cats or vice versa. Litters can be as large as 9-14 puppies, but if there is a mom dog it makes the job easier, because she does most of the work until the puppies are old enough to be on their own. “It’s so much easier to foster a litter of puppies than people think it is,” said Holland. “I teach you how to set up a run in your basement or in a spare room and once you have that run it’s a matter of putting down the paper and the shreds. You roll it up at night and throw it away and put down a new layer of shreds.” Groeper says that Tails goes through thousands
of pieces of newspaper a day and they can always use newspaper donations. Coincidentally, Tails is located just down the street from the Daily Chronicle which gives them their overstock of paper. Foster families come in all types and sizes: single adults, couples with children, older couples, single parents, even college students. “I’ve had some really good college student fosters,” said Holland. “They’re wise enough to realize it’s not a good time for them to get a pet, but they foster. And they foster until they graduate and then I lose them.” Nancy Rigler has been involved with Tails since its beginnings as a volunteer. A few years ago she started helping out with their Facebook page. She goes in to Tails at least once a week and spends time with some of the cats and dogs. Then she posts profiles of the animals that are available for adoption on the Tails Facebook page. She also communicates with the fosters to get information about their dogs and cats’ personalities.
“I think it makes Tails more visible in the community,” said Rigler. “A lot of folks think a shelter just has rejected or defective animals.” Rigler says that by seeing and reading about the pets available through Tails on Facebook, people realize that the shelter has all different kinds of animals, including purebreds and puppies, who through no fault of their own are in need of a home. Often times, these loving companions are homeless simply because of an owner’s life change—someone goes through a divorce or someone moves away and can’t take their animal with them, such as military people who get sent overseas. And sometimes animals have puppies that need to be adopted. “Tails always has wonderful, adorable puppies in great need of homes,” said Rigler. Groeper said that their Facebook page is extremely active and the vast majority of foster inquiries and a lot of their adopters come from Facebook.
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When people see posts about dogs and cats on the Tails Facebook page, they often share them with friends. When someone requests to see an animal, the foster will bring it in. In this way, many animals will be able to go right from the foster home to an adoptive home without having to stay at the shelter. “Our shelter is a very good shelter, but it is no replacement for an actual home,” said Groeper. “Puppies don’t care, but going into a shelter is very hard on adult dogs and cats.” For Rigler, she is happy to be able to help animals by doing her part. “Without a foster home, a lot of these animals wouldn’t be alive. There are just so many wonderful dogs and cats out there that are being euthanized in different areas or living horrible existences. If I can do my part to help change that for them, why not? It benefits us all,” said Rigler. Besides making the Facebook posts, Rigler also fosters dogs herself. She began fostering with Dalmatian Rescue of Illinois and now fosters dogs through Tails. She estimates that between Dalmatian Rescue and Tails she has fostered around fifty dogs over the years. She and her husband, Patrick Burke, have three dogs of their own (all rescued animals) and they travel quite a bit. Therefore, they can only take in one foster dog at a time and don’t foster as many as a lot of the other foster families. Besides knowing that they are saving lives, Rigler also sees many benefits to her family of fostering dogs. Having fosters coming in and out of their house helps keep her own dogs socialized and happier. It gives her youngest dog, especially, someone to play with. And Rigler’s dogs enrich her life in many ways. She and her husband are in their 60’s and they walk their dogs over two miles every day, so it keeps them active and gets them out into nature. She says that being around dogs also helps them to focus on the little things in life, such as a good smell. And in addition to being cute and entertaining, her dogs give them unconditional love. “They are always there to listen to you and be a support, and when times are tough they’re there to console,” said Rigler.
Christine Sturtz of DeKalb learned about the foster program through seeing information about it at Tails when she visited the shelter. She lives with her three children and they have two dogs and two cats of their own. She has been fostering dogs for a little over a year. She had a difficult time giving up her first foster dog, a pit bull named Stella, and her oldest daughter ended up adopting her. Stella was about three months old when she took her in to their home. She had been starved and beaten and was afraid to be touched. Sturtz fosters both dogs and cats, depending on the need at the moment. She has fostered close to a hundred animals so far, including a lot of puppies, which have usually come 6-8 at a time. “It’s so much fun, because I have six grandkids who are here continually. They think it’s like the pet store here at my house,” Sturtz said. Sturtz’ home provides the perfect training ground for foster animals. The puppies get socialized by being around little kids and they can also see how well older dogs do being around other dogs, cats, and kids. “Everything you want to know if a dog can handle you find out here,” said Sturtz. Sturtz absolutely loves fostering dogs and cats. Unfortunately, many of the pets have been abused before she gets them and she enjoys seeing the transformation the animals make after spending time in her home. “It’s amazing. They go from being very scared and secluded, to by the time they’re ready to go back to Tails they’ve turned into a totally different dog,” Sturtz said. Jon and Jocelyn Sullivan from DeKalb became a Tails foster family a little over a year ago because of a devastating loss. “Our dog, Ellie, who we adopted from Tails had passed away unexpectedly and we were heartbroken,” said Jocelyn Sullivan. “We were not ready to bring in another member to the family but thought a nice way to enjoy the sound of paws in our home again would be through fostering. We inquired about how to be a foster and learned so
DeKALB COUNTY MAGAZINE | September 2017 | 35
much about the work that Tails does to rescue dogs and other animals. So we signed up and have loved the experience.” Sullivan shared that it has been rewarding knowing that they are helping to save dogs and giving them a new chance at life. Their four children have also been hands-on in caring for the dogs that have stayed with them. The Tails foster families have become a fun and supportive community. They have a private Facebook page just for fosters. Within the closed group, people ask questions and get help with issues they may be having, and they also share funny stories and happy moments. When someone needs to go out of town, sometimes another foster family will help out with their animals while they are gone. Members of the group also get together at times. Tails is always looking for more fosters. The more foster families they have the more animals they can rescue, because they do have a large adoption base. And sometimes their foster families need to take breaks. “I don’t think people really realize the impact they can have on rescuing animals,” said Holland. “It’s much simpler than one might think and it’s very rewarding to all involved. And you’re never out on a limb, because there’s always somebody out there to support you.”
Tails raises about half of their budget through program and service fees like adoption fees, dog training, and their spay/neuter clinic. The other half they have to raise through events like their annual Mutt Strut 5K and Tropical Tails dinner and auction, as well as soliciting donations and grants.
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They don’t receive any government funding or ongoing donations from national organizations like the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) or the HSUS (Humane Society of the United States). “If you dial the 800 number with the Sarah McLachlan music playing in the background, we don’t receive that money,” said Groeper. “But they do a very good job of education, support and legislation to try to change spay/ neuter laws in areas that don’t have them.” Tails has about 125 regular volunteers who provide 800-1000 hours of service every month. Volunteers help with all of the tasks required to keep the shelter running. Some of them have been volunteering every week for a decade. “We could not do what we do without our volunteers,” said Groeper. They have about twenty-four employees, seven of whom are full-time. The bulk of their employees’ time is spent on direct animal care. “I am very proud to say that the majority of our managers have been here for over ten years, which is unusual in non-profit, much less in animal welfare,” Groeper said. “This can be a stressful industry. We’re talking about lives and animals. Some of them can be very sick. Not every animal makes it. The bad days may not be very fun, but we have a lot more good days than bad here.” If you are interested in fostering animals, contact Loren Jones via email at firstname.lastname@example.org If you would like to volunteer at Tails, contact Nicole Vierthaler at email@example.com or 815-758-2457 ext. 103 Donations can be mailed to Tails at 2250 Barber Greene Road; DeKalb, IL 60115 or made securely online at ww.tailshumanesociety.org/donate/
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