Crossing guards keep watchful eye on children
Substitute crossing guard Marshall Zandell of Hinsdale helps Oak School students cross the street safely Tuesday after school at Oak and Ninth Streets. | Chuck Fieldman~Sun-Times Media
Steve Less is one of 21 people who work as crossing guards nearby the seven elementary schools in Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Elementary District 181. Those crossing guards are being recognized by the district for their service in conjunction with the May 1 Crossing Guard Appreciation Day in Illinois.
Along with Less, James Peck and Alan Rapp work as crossing guards at Oak. Other crossing guards at District 181 schools include Keith Bergles, Maynard Priebe, Robert Pacheco and Jessica Carlson at The Lane; Lisa Prisby, Missy Spinazola, Adelia Thoelcke and Atasi Murkerjie at Monroe; Joe Legner, Ilene Slonoff and Mary Beth Daly at Madison; Barb Hall, Cyndee Marciniak, Olga Tinakova, Mike Smith and Karen Salutrick at Elm; Becky Marshall at Walker; and Walter Welninski at Prospect.
Updated: May 28, 2012 8:13AM
Steve Less has spent the past seven years working at a job he never would have projected himself doing.
The 58-year-old Burr Ridge resident is a fixture on school days at the Hinsdale intersection of Ninth and Oak streets, which is at the northeast corner of Oak School. Less is there to help make sure the children who attend Oak get across the street safely.
“I had retired and was bored to death,” Less said. “I like working outside, and, of course, I like the kids. I never thought I’d be doing this I always wondered who would do it.”
Walter Welninski, a 72-year-old Clarendon Hills resident, became a crossing guard for the same reason.
“I did the retired thing for three years and went stir crazy,” Welninski said. “I live near Walker School and went over to see if they needed a crossing guard. They didn’t need one, but they needed one here at Prospect.”
Welninski said being around the children is what he enjoys most about his work.
“When you deal with these small kids, you can’t get full or yourself,” he said. “They keep you young.”
Welninski said there are challenges in keeping children safe when they cross the street.
“There are a lot of distracted drivers, people on telephones,” he said. “The kids don’t always pay attention because they’re busy talking. You really have to keep your head in the ball game with this job.”
While the actual scheduled work time totals only 75 minutes a day, it takes virtually an all-day commitment to work as a crossing guard. Those 75 minutes are completed in four separate shifts: 8:20-8:40 a.m., 11:25-11:40 a.m., 12:05-12:25 p.m., and 3-3:20 p.m.
“Most crossing guards aren’t working other jobs,” said Deputy Chief Mark Wodka of the Hinsdale Police Department. “The reward for them is not the paycheck, it’s being able to help. Wodka said crossing guards earn about $34 a day.
“I’ve learned to get my grocery shopping done in between the times when I’m outside working,” Less said. “The number one priority of this job always is the safety of the kids.”
And the kids, and parents, at Oak School are very pleased to have Less on their corner.
“He’s always nice,” said third-grader Molly Sheehan. “He wants us to be safe.
Molly’s mom, Jenna Sheehan, said having Less working as a crossing guard at Oak School makes her feel secure.
“It’s very important to have someone out there we can count on to get the kids across the street safely,” she said.
At Prospect, Principal Anne Kryger said she is very happy to have Welninski working at the school.
“He’s the life of the corner,” she said. “He’s warm, caring and worries about each of the students. He’s a real breath of fresh air.”