XPO workers in Illinois reject union representation

Aurora, Illinois XPO dockworkers

Teamsters Local 179 show support for Aurora, Illinois XPO dockworkers April 14 vote. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Fox Valley Labor News
Thursday, April 20, 2017

Elgin, Aurora workers turn thumbs down; Trenton drivers join Local 701

AURORA — XPO drivers in Trenton, New Jersey voted to join Teamsters Local 701 April 14, boosting momentum to a nationwide workers’ campaign for fairness at the giant transportation and logistics company.

Also voting April 14, drivers in Elgin, Illinois and dockworkers in Aurora, Illinois were not successful at this time seeking Teamster representation. The actions of XPO and its high-priced union busters has been egregious and suspect throughout the company’s campaigns and will be challenged through the National Labor Relations Board.

The 34 drivers in Trenton join the hundreds of workers nationwide who have already formed their union as Teamsters. The earlier victories were in Aurora (drivers); Miami; Laredo, Texas; Vernon, California; North Haven, Connecticut; and King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.

“The victory in Trenton and the company’s desperate actions in Illinois show that the XPO workers’ campaign is getting stronger and stronger, as freight, warehouse and port drivers fight for a more secure future,” said Ernie Soehl, Director of the Teamsters National Freight Division, who is also President of Local 701 in North Brunswick, New Jersey. “The workers help make XPO very successful and they deserve to be rewarded for their hard work.”

The drivers are seeking decent and affordable health insurance, a secure retirement, job security and a voice on the job. Port, freight and warehouse workers at XPO are coming together across the country in their fight for a more secure future.
-International Brotherhood of Teamsters

IUPAT Community Day of Action

PDC 30_color

Fox Valley Labor News
staff reports
Thursday, April 21, 2016

The International Union of Painters and Allied Trades annual Community Day of Action takes a day to give back

AURORA — International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) members across the U.S. and Canada worked on projects April 16 to better their communities as a part of their annual IUPAT Community Day of Action.

In Aurora, members of Painters District Council 30 members painted the interior of three apartment unions in the 300 block of West New York Street in Aurora.

 Community Day of Action

Members of Painters District Council 30 worked April 16 painting the interior of three apartment unions in the 300 block of West New York Street in Aurora. Photo courtesy of Painters District Council 30

Although the IUPAT has a long tradition of community service, the goal of the Community Day of Action was to come together as one union, on one day, to make a difference in the many communities in which IUPAT members live and work.

The result was a great success as thousands of volunteers renovated shelters, community centers, youth athletic fields, and low income housing, and spearheaded food drives across North America. IUPAT groups also held educational forums on immigration, and workers’ rights on the job regarding wages and benefits.

“Today was a great day,” said IUPAT General President Kenneth Rigmaiden in Baltimore after lending a hand in cleaning and painting in a local neighborhood. “I was proud to see and hear about IUPAT and community volunteers coming together and working as one across the U.S. and Canada to make a difference in our communities. There’s more work to be done, but I think we’ve made it clear we are up to the task, and we are looking forward to being an agent of change within our communities.”

Union members are more than advocates for fair wages, rights and benefits on the job. They are good neighbors in their communities. The IUPAT Community Day of Action is yet one more example of how organized labor is a positive force for working families — both union and non-union.

With hundreds of buckets of paint now empty, an abundance of windows replaced and repaired, dozens of neighborhoods and fields free of trash while sporting a new shine, and IUPAT neighbors now armed with the resources to start a new career in the Trades with full knowledge of their rights in the workplace, the members of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades and the Community Day of Action proved that powerful and lasting changes can be made in just one day when different groups unite to work together.

Aurora mayor recommends Cmd. Kristen Ziman as next police chief

Aurora Police Department Cmd. Kristen Ziman

Aurora Police Department Cmd. Kristen Ziman


Fox Valley Labor News staff reports
Friday, Jan. 8

AURORA – After an extensive process that included surveys, presentations and multiple interviews, Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner made his recommendation from among four internal candidates.

“I’m very pleased to recommend Kristen as our next chief,” Weisner said during a press conference Thursday, Jan. 7. “Becoming Aurora’s first female police chief is not the only way she has been a trailblazer and I’m confident that her considerable talent will lead the department to new heights.”

Born and raised in Aurora, Commander Ziman has worked her way through the ranks during her nearly 25 year career with the Aurora Police Department, beginning as a police cadet in 1991.

“I am both excited and grateful beyond belief to serve the men and women of the Aurora Police Department and the citizens of this community” she said. “I do not take this responsibility lightly and will work tirelessly and energetically to build upon the legacy of this professional organization.”

A graduate of West Aurora High School, Ziman served three years as an Aurora Police cadet before becoming a sworn officer in 1994. She worked in patrol, field training, community policing and investigations as a domestic violence detective before being promoted to sergeant in 2003. She was promoted to lieutenant in 2008 and to commander in 2010.

Commander Ziman earned her Associate’s Degree from Waubonsee Community College, Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Aurora University and Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice Management from Boston University. In addition, she is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and completed the Kellogg Women’s Senior Leadership Program at Northwestern University, Senior Executives in State and Local Government at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and the Senior Management Institute for Police.

Commander Ziman lives in Aurora with her spouse, Chris, and their children Megan, Jimmy, Bailey and Jacob.

Mayor Weisner’s recommendation will be considered by the City Council Tuesday, Jan. 12. If approved, she will begin as the new Aurora Police Chief immediately, making her the first female chief in the department’s history and the 28th chief in the history of the department.

Ziman has been “the first” in a number of positions throughout her career and has worked diligently to mentor other women in law enforcement locally and nationally. She is the Past President of the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives (NAWLEE).

“The short term goal is to build a Command Staff of individuals who will bring talent, expertise, and diversity of thought to the position. Once we have the decision-makers in place, we are going move immediately to action by identifying systems and processes that need to be created or improved upon”, Ziman said. “The long term goals are to be even more engaged with the citizens we serve and to continue to work tirelessly to make this community a safe place to live, work and play. In doing so, we will continue our efforts to reduce crime while protecting with vigilance and serving with compassion.”

The recommendation for Chief will be considered by the City Council Tuesday, Jan. 12 at a Special Committee of the Whole Meeting at 5 p.m., followed immediately by a meet and greet for the public on the fifth floor of City Hall, 44 E. Downer Place. At 6 p.m,. the City Council will convene for their regularly scheduled meeting, where they will vote on the Mayor’s recommendation for Chief of Police.
-City of Aurora/Aurora Police Department

Indian Trail bridge is (finally) open!

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley
labornews.com

AURORA — The City celebrated the end of five-year journey of planning, permitting engineering and constructing the Indian Trail bridge with a ribbon cutting ceremony Oct. 16, which included the mayor, dignitaries and the public.

“Indian Trail really is an artery in our community . . . that is a critical, critical street,” Mayor Tom Weisner explained.

Eighty percent of the $9.5 million project was funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation Highway Bridge Program fund. The remaining 20 percent was paid for using local motor fuel tax funds.

Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner, center, along with officials, celebrate the Oct. 16 opening of the Indian Trail bridge. Originally constructed in 1963, the bridge was in much needed repair. More than 21,000 vehicles travel across the bridge each day. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner, center, along with officials, celebrate the Oct. 16 opening of the Indian Trail bridge. Originally constructed in 1963, the bridge was in much needed repair. More than 21,000 vehicles travel across the bridge each day. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner said in 1963, when the Indian Trail bridge was first being constructed, he rode his bike past the bridge construction on his way to Marmion Academy, then located on Lake Street. The bridge opened to traffic Oct. 16.   Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner said in 1963, when the Indian Trail bridge was first being constructed, he rode his bike past the bridge construction on his way to Marmion Academy, then located on Lake Street. The bridge opened to traffic Oct. 16. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Aurora’s Director of Public Works Ken Schroth said there were 40,000 man hours needed to construct the bridge, and nearly 10,000 hours of design engineering an supervision.

He explained millions of dollars were saved after the bridges existing piers, and majority of its steel were reused. Despite weather-related delays, the project was completed on time through the efforts of D Construction.

The bridge now has wider sidewalks, outside lanes to help facilitate bicycle traffic and LED lighting.

In the past 10 years, the City of Aurora has rebuilt 10 bridges. Weisner said nationally, out of every nine bridges in the nation is considered structurally deficient. Even if that is the national statistic, Weisner said that number won’t be seen in Aurora. “Not on our watch,” he added. “You cannot ignore infrastructure. If you do that, you do it at great cost to the community, and to the future of your community.”

Officials, including Reps. Linda Chapa-LaVia and Stephanie Kifowit, Sen. Linda Holmes, and Rep. Bill Foster collectively thanked the taxpayers of Aurora, who, through their tax dollars, funded the motor fuel tax.

“Without the tax dollars [taxpayers] pay into the coffer of the state of Illinois, we would not be standing on this amazing, beautiful bridge. The taxpayers make the blood pump within the hearts that exist in this community,” Chapa LaVia explained.

Unions can help the vision of Aurora’s future

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley
labornews.com

AURORA — Aurora is billed as the second most populous city in Illinois, but Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia doesn’t think the city looks like it houses almost 200,000 people.

“We have no skyscrapers. We have no convention centers. We’re on our way, but we’re not there yet,” she explained.

With the help of organized labor, Chapa LaVia wants to “build up” Aurora. “We can get it done. We can live somewhere we’re proud of,” she added, during a recent Labor Breakfast Fundraiser Sept. 18 for her bid as Aurora Mayor, held at the Painters District Council 30. She announced her mayoral bid June 22 to friends and supporters during a press conference at the Copley Theater in Aurora.

With the help of organized labor, Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia wants to ‘build up’ Aurora. She announced her bid as mayor of Aurora in June. She would like to see Aurora with skyscrapers and convention centers. Jennifer Rice, staff photographer

With the help of organized labor, Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia wants to ‘build up’ Aurora. She announced her bid as mayor of Aurora in June. She would like to see Aurora with skyscrapers and convention centers. Jennifer Rice, staff photographer

linda chapa la via_4

This SEIU 73 member said his union is happy to support Rep. Linda Chapa La Via. “I’m proud to have a high-ranking Latina enter this race,” he explained. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

PDC 30 Director of Membership Services Brian Dahl said Chapa LaVia has been a strong voice for labor in Springfield for organized labor. “We appreciate everything she does for labor. Her votes have been very strong for organize labor. She’s looking to take that to the city of Aurora.” Dahl added labor is backing and supporting her in her mayoral bid.

 Members of organized labor listened to Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia during a labor breakfast fundraiser Sept. 18. In planning for her upcoming mayoral bid for the city of Aurora, she discussed her vision of Aurora and stressed she needs the help of unions to see her vision through. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Members of organized labor listened to Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia during a labor breakfast fundraiser Sept. 18. In planning for her upcoming mayoral bid for the city of Aurora, she discussed her vision of Aurora and stressed she needs the help of unions to see her vision through. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Chapa LaVia is comfortable with maintaining her position as state representative, along with planning her upcoming mayoral bid — a format Republican candidates Chris Lauzen and Jim Oberweis have finessed over the years.

“Why is it different for Linda Chapa La Via to run this way?” she questioned attendants of her fundraiser. “Republicans will answer, ‘because she’s a Democrat.’ I don’t want it all — I just want to move families forward,” she explained.

Chapa LaVia’s father was a UAW member, working for Catapillar. “He had a fifth grade education, but the unions gave him a shot,” she said. “I have a lot of respect for unions. I want to lift you up on my shoulders, wherever I need to take you,” she told union members.

 AFSCME Local 3298 member Anna Ishmael told attendants she looks forward to working with Rep. Linda Chapa La Via. Local 3298 represents the Professional, Technical and Clerical Employees in the city of Aurora. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

AFSCME Local 3298 member Anna Ishmael told attendants she looks forward to working with Rep. Linda Chapa La Via. Local 3298 represents the Professional, Technical and Clerical Employees in the city of Aurora. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Midwest training facility ramping up for students

United Association/Local 597 Midwest Training Facility

At the United Association/Local 597 Midwest Training Facility, students learn the skills needed to take them to the next level and secure a job in the pipe welding industry. Photo courtesy of “SMAW” by Mgschuler via Wikipedia

United Association/Local 597 Midwest Training Facility

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, April 16, 2015
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley
labornews.com

AURORA — Since October 2014, the United Association Local 597 Midwest Training Facility has been in the state of a “soft opening,” bringing in hand fulls of welding students on a weekly basis, teaching them on state-of-the-art equipment, and polishing their skills, but now, the facility is ready to take on an influx of students.

Recently, the Aurora training center has been ramping up its efforts to get the word out — nationwide — on what UA Marketing Representative Chad Dawson calls, “the best kept secret in the Midwest.”

“We’re reaching out to everybody we can — people in the nonunion sector, students from welding schools, unions, anyone we can reach out to, to tell them about this opportunity. We’re offering to bring them in, evaluate their skills, and then better their already existing skills. We’ll certify them, make them a member in a local union somewhere across the country, preferably where they live, or where there’s a high demand for work,” Dawson explained.

United Association/Local 597 Midwest Training Facility

At the Aurora United Association Local 597 Midwest Training Facility, students get the highest quality of training to keep their skills up-to-date. No other organization serves the training needs of the piping industry. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Pipe welders are in high demand, especially in heavy industrial.

In December, both Rep. Bill Foster and UA International Representative Mark Buss toured the facility for the first time. Buss said all you have to do is look at the current, nation-wide domestic energy boom to see that pipe welders are in high demand. “Opportunities out there are just tremendous,” he said, pointing to the Northeast in the Utica and Marcellus shales area in New York; the Gulf Coast, such as Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi, and North Dakota.

Dawson said the majority of the vehicles in the training facility’s parking lot are from out-of-state.

Students currently undergoing training are expanding their welding skills, learning from leading industry professionals, and getting it all for FREE, which can be difficult to believe.

United Association/Local 597 Midwest Training Facility

Welding instructor Monte Kimes shows Rep. Bill Foster the main computer control panel where adjustments can be made to make sure exact airflow is maintained, based on the number of welders in operation. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Even though a student doesn’t have to pay, it doesn’t mean that he won’t be giving of themselves. Students are required to train four days a week at 10 hour days, and train Saturday and Sunday at 8 hour days. They also are responsible for their own housing, food and entertainment. Local 597 member William Hite Jr. said, “If [students] are under the hood for that many hours, it means they are out of here sooner and working.”

The training center houses 75 weld booths. Instructors also teach the hybrid welding program. At night, HVACR is being taught.
Upon arrival, students are given an evaluation, which will determine where their skill set is at. Hite said the goal is for students to achieve as many certificates as they can.

United Association/Local 597 Midwest Training Facility

From left, welding instructor Monte Kimes, UA International Representative Mark Buss, Rep. Bill Foster, UA Marketing Representative Chad Dawson and Local 597 Business Representative Scott Roscoe. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

The cost of a for-profit welding school can cost between $18,000 and $30,000 and skills learned can be subpar. “The students that went to for-profit schools are not up to our standards, Dawson said. “The are employed with contractors who never let them better their skills, and they get stuck. At this training facility, we want to catch them before they get stuck in that position and actually show them how to weld pipe on a standard that they never knew they could achieve.”

Three full-time instructors handle any skill set a student has.

“We’re here to welcome the most talented individuals we can come up with,” welding instructor Monte Kimes said. “The opportunity is here, for anybody willing to work hard and has the aptitude for welding.”

Critical minimum wage ballot question for Illinois voters

Illinois' minimum wage referendum

Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner, second from left, shakes hands with Sen. Dick Durbin as Rep. Bill Foster, second from right, looks on. With a minimum wage referendum on the Illinois ballot this November, all the men recently met in Aurora to discuss raising the minimum wage. Pat Barcas/staff photographer

Pat

By Pat Barcas
Staff Writer
Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at: pat@foxvalley
labornews.com

AURORA — U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, and U.S. Rep. Bill Foster hosted a discussion Oct. 8 at Foster’s Aurora office, encouraging a national minimum wage increase to $10 per hour.

Mayor Tom Weisner, and two local minimum wage workers struggling to make ends meet financially, joined them at the press conference. There is a minimum wage referendum on the ballot in Illinois this November.

“It’s unacceptable in America, that you can get up and go to work every day, and still be living in poverty. That’s why we believe, we ought to raise the minimum wage in this country,” said Durbin.

Illinois is currently at $8.25 per hour, above the national average of $7.25 per hour.

“That’s not enough, we’ve got to move this up to at least $10 per hour,” said Durbin. “We’re encouraging voters to stick with it. Down at the bottom of the ballot, this is one of the critical questions.”

Durbin said his challenger this fall, Jim Oberweis, has one of the most “bizarre ideas in history about minimum wage.”

“He says it will be against the law to give an increase in minimum wage to anyone under the age of 26. Who would that include? Students, single moms raising kids, a lot of women, and it would include returning veterans under the age of 26. What is he thinking?” questioned Durbin. “He’s completely out of touch with the reality that people are facing today.”

Two constituents currently working minimum wage jobs joined the press conference to explain how a hike would help them in their day to day lives.

Joliet, Ill. resident Donna Dyxin

Joliet resident Donna Dyxin shares her story of financial setbacks with Sen. Dick Durbin. She earns $8.46 an hour. Pat Barcas/staff photographer

Jesse Garner of Aurora is a student who works at Home Depot and has to commute to Sugar Grove. Donna Dyxin of Joliet said she and her husband were laid off, and now struggle to support her four children.

She said she suffered financial setbacks right when getting ready to retire. Her house has been in a no default foreclosure for the last six years.

“To say that money has been tight in the recent years is an understatement,” she said. “We have tried many ways to make ends meet. I now work retail for $8.46 an hour. I call it my slave labor job.”

She said she works as many hours as possible, only up to 39 and three quarters.

“Otherwise, I would be considered full time,” she said. “A raise to even $10 would be a big boost for us. It would at least mean an extra $65 per week. That money would help us pay some of our medical costs before we get to retirement.”

Weisner said the minimum wage increase is critically important to Aurora and to the entire nation.

“I am reminded of some words from Abraham Lincoln. He talked about the idea of ‘you work the fields, you harvest the crops, but you bring the fruits of your labor to someone else.’ That is fundamentally wrong. In order for democracy to thrive, it has to recognize the inherent dignity of work,” said Weisner.

Area veterans treated to sweet music, dinner

Dinner held for vets by Aurora Veterans Advisory Council
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
Chuck and Kathy Granholm enjoy the sweet sounds of the Aurora Lamplighters Barbershop Chorus during a dinner held by the Aurora Veterans Advisory Council.

By Pat Barcas
Staff writer
Thursday, July 10, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at pat@foxvalleylabornews.com

AURORA — With more than 26,000 veterans in the Aurora area alone, it’s no wonder the city is known as veteran-friendly.

With that massive veteran population in mind, the various area military organizations decided to come together July 3 at a meet and greet dinner to streamline their operations and make sure they are working side by side efficiently.

The dinner was sponsored by the Aurora Veterans Advisory Council (VAC), Fifth Third Bank, and Dolan and Murphy, and hosted by the Knights of Columbus No. 14825 at St. Rita of Cascia parish in Aurora. The Aurora Lamplighters Barbershop Chorus provided entertainment after the Knights presented the colors.

“This is a great way to get veterans together in the Aurora area and for everyone to understand the missions of the different organizations,” said Mike Eckburg, post commander at Aurora American Legion Post #84. “The amount of veterans in the area, that’s a big outreach that we’ve got to get. We’re focusing on the younger generation and all the vets returning now. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”

Dinner held for vets by Aurora Veterans Advisory Council
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
Members of the Knights of Columbus No. 14825 honor aurora-area veterans with a dinner.

Joe Toma, chairman of the Aurora Veterans Advisory Council said the organization is ready and willing to help veterans, they just need to know the Council is there.

“We serve as a conduit for the city to all veterans. We reach out to the individual, the family, whoever needs the help,” he said. “We have 15 people on the Council to help, anything we can do to help a veteran. We are trying to get involved with the other groups in Aurora, and hopefully in the future we’ll be showing people what we do on a larger scale.”

The VAC, which was formed in 1998, was expanded in 2012 to have 15 members. It consists of eight members in good standing of an active veteran’s organization in the Aurora community, five members who are non-affiliated veterans who have been honorably discharged from the military, and two seats filled by immediate family members of a living or deceased veteran. The Advisory Council is composed of Aurora residents from all branches of the military.

Toma read the mission statement of the VAC: “We are advocates for all veterans of all generations and all conflicts. We shall ensure our citizens, our city and our nation remember the sacrifices of those gone and those who remain. We shall work on their behalf to enlighten the city of veteran situations and likewise inform the citizens about the city’s efforts for veterans.”

Boys II Men provide sense

Aurora's Boys II Men
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
Hector Velazquez, a senior at Aurora University and Boys II Men member, said he owes his success to Clayton Muhammad.

By Pat Barcas
Staff writer
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at pat@foxvalleylabornews.com

NAPERVILLE — Instead of further incarceration, which would only add to the problem of gang violence in Aurora, Boys II Men Founder Clayton Muhammad decided to tackle the gang violence problem of Aurora at the root more than 10 years ago.

Young men needed mentors they could trust, and hope they could one day succeed instead of waste their lives in gangs or in prison.

“You can’t just tell people not to go to gangs. You must provide an alternative,” said Muhammad during a June 19 meeting of the Naperville Township Democratic Organization, which hosted Muhammad as their June speaker.

He said gang violence was at an all time high in 2002, with 26 young people killed in Aurora. Through the hard work of Boys II Men and the Aurora Police Department, shootings have been basically eliminated.

“We have fundamentally a different Aurora. It’s a different downtown than 10 years ago,” said Muhammad, who shared success stories throughout the years, highlighting young men who have gone on to achieve great success in the face of adversity.

“I can tell these stories over and over again,” he said.

One young well dressed man, Isaac Palma, joined Boys II Men in ninth grade. Dressing in saggy jeans, he needed a makeover in his confidence, something the organization provided in spades.

Aurora's Boys II Men
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
Boys II Men Founder Clayton Muhammad decided that young Aurora men needed mentors they could trust and hope they could one day succeed.

“It gives you an outlet to go forward in life, and provides you a mentor you can talk to,” said Palma. “You’re not always able to talk to your parents.”

Hector Velazquez, a senior at Aurora University and Boys II Men member, said he owes his success to Muhammad.

“His leadership has shown young men how to establish themselves in this community,” said Velazquez. “We can always count on Clayton.

Muhammad stressed that Boys II Men provides a sense of family for the young men, encouraging them to succeed by any means.

“Not attending college is not an option in our world,” he said. “These boys are coming here to connect with something bigger than themselves. Our community is now one of hope, empowerment, and safety.”

Area vets visit one-stop veteran’s fair at AU

Aurora University veteran's fair
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
Legion Post 84 Commander Mike Eckburg, along with Post 84 Auxiliary Unit President Norma Peterson, talk with a veteran about what the American Legion stands for.

By Pat Barcas
Staff writer
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at pat@foxvalleylabornews.com

AURORA — The City of Aurora lived up to its veteran friendly reputation as it hosted its second annual Veterans Resource Fair June 20.

Veterans were invited to check out information about educational opportunities, employment, housing, health care, mental health, financial programs, legislative assistance, and other area veterans’ organizations.

The fair was hosted by the Veterans Advisory Council, Aurora University, and the DuPage County Veterans Center at the Aurora University Institute for Collaboration.

“Our goal is to get information and help to any veterans who might need it,” said Bob McKnight of the council.

Norma Peterson, president of the Aurora Auxiliary unit of the American Legion Post 84, said the Legion benefits the community as a whole.

“There are 26,000 veterans in the Aurora area. Not only are we doing things for other veterans, we’re doing it for the community. The American Legion stands for Americanism at its finest,” she said.

Often times, said Peterson, a veteran may just need a sense of companionship or brotherhood when returning home.

“It’s a sense of community, of doing things with other people while doing a lot of healing themselves. Young vets may not realize the resources we can provide for them,” Peterson explained.

The Aurora Library was there to present its vast resources. While not typically associated with veterans, Chris Schabel informed that veterans can benefit greatly from the library.

“Veterans coming home, some of them might need to brush up on their literacy. We offer classes on that and also computer classes. This can aid in getting a job,” she said. “We’re working toward having as many free and available resources for the community as we can have.”

Many returning vets may not know of the free services that the DuPage County Vet Center provides — namely counseling for vets who have suffered military trauma or sexual trauma while serving. They also offer counseling to family members of those that have been killed in service, all without any wait lists. There is a branch in Aurora, located at 750 Shoreline Drive, Suite 150.

Another huge overlooked resource is Aurora’s own Old Second National Bank, which has a program for veteran first time home buyers where the bank will pay $10,000 in assistance to buy a home in Illinois.

“We’re actually having our first closing of the Welcome Home Heroes program this week,” said Old Second National Bank Vice-President of Real Estate Lending Phillip DeLaFuente.

“It’s our way of saying thanks for serving,” DeLaFuente explained.”