Big Pappa’s Gyros at 10806 S. Cicero Ave. in Oak Lawn is gearing up for its third annual Christmas dinner giveaway.
“Before we opened Big Pappa’s, I used to work at homeless shelters and know what a difference a nice meal at Christmas means to people,” said owner Sandi DiGangi.
DiGangi said anyone can sign up at her restaurant for a holiday dinner but she especially wants to hear from senior citizens.
“I like to help out seniors because they aren’t going to make themselves a nice dinner,” she said.
DiGangi said she will also distribute toys to needy families that sign up to receive one of her turkey dinners complete with mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, rolls, gravy, cranberries, soup, salad and dessert.
“We deliver full meals,” she said. “A senior will be able to eat for two or three days on the amount of food we deliver.”
Some families will also get a second free meal on the day after Christmas.
“We know there are some families who are desperate,” she said. “So, we’ll deliver a second helping to them.”
Any food left over is given to PADS for their homeless shelters, she said. Any money left over after buying everything needed for the meals is turned into gift cards and delivered to needy families with their food.
“Last year, we had $327 left and I bought gift cards and handed them out,” she said.
DiGangi sets aside a little money each day during the year to pay for her generous gifts, but she will take cash and toy donations at the restaurant.
She also gets volunteer help from Oak Lawn police and restaurant regulars who will spend four to five hours on Christmas Day delivering the meals, toys and gift cards.
People can sign up at Big Pappa’s to volunteer or to get one of the meals or they can call 708-741-4014.
“The phone has been ringing all day,” she said Monday. “We already have 390 names on the list.”
DiGangi handed out 700 dinners the first year and another 1,048 last year. This year, she thinks she’ll hit 1,500.
What about Christmas for her own family?
“We’ll sit down a couple days after and have our Christmas,” she said.
Stay tuned to Patch later in the week when we bring you extended coverage of DiGangi and her community efforts.
Mathnasium opens in Evergreen Park
Amaechi Onyeali spent 20 years teaching in the Chicago Public Schools system and stumbled onto his new business, Mathnasium, the Math Learning Center at 9834 S. Western Ave. in Evergreen Park, while searching for a math tutoring program for his son.
“I came across Mathnasium,” he said. “I realized that it not only was what I was looking for, but it would be a great business opportunity.”
He opened the tutoring center on Oct. 1 and already has 25 students on the roster.
Students take two assessment tests, said Mr. O, as he is called. “There is an oral and a written assessment. From there, we develop a learning plan tailored to the student’s needs.”
Students visit the center twice a week for an hour each time and work on bridging gaps in their math education as well as enhancing their strengths, he said.
“We have a very positive atmosphere,” he said. “We use math games and other techniques to give the kids a good feeling about math and about coming here.”
“Everything we do is by paper and pencil. You don’t need a computer.”
“We try to have kids develop number sense, so they can learn how numbers work and how they can manipulate the numbers conceptually.”
Mr. O said there are 340 Mathnasiums in the U.S. and 15 more overseas.
Study sessions start at 3 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and there are Saturday hours, as well.
For information, visit Mathnasium of Evergreen Park online.
Mt. Greenwood Winter Wonderland
Mt. Greenwood Park will be turned into a Winter Wonderland from 2-5 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 8, complete with free ice skating, hot chocolate, cookies, free sleigh rides, face painting, kid crafts, a magician, tree lighting ceremony at dusk, a reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” and a visit from Santa.
For information, call the Mt. Greenwood Chamber of Commerce at 773-238-8776.
Business holiday lights
Residents can vote on which businesses and shopping centers in Oak Lawn along 95th Street and on Cicero Avenue are best decorated for the holidays.
Residents can vote online or at the chamber office until Dec. 31 for the Best Lighted Business and the Best Lighted shopping center.
Eva’s wins BBB Torch Award
Eva’s Bridal of Oak Lawn was one of eight Chicago-area businesses honored last week with the 2013 Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics by the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois.
The Torch Award spotlights companies that exemplify ethical business practices.
Other companies honored were Access One, Chicago; Andrea A. Raila & Associates, Chicago; Boeing, Chicago; Imagetec L.P, McHenry; LTD Commodities, Bannockburn; Passages Hospice, Lisle; and Scott Nelson Electric, Inc., Mundelein.
"Companies receiving the Torch Award do business the right way," said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois.
Baby’s to Give Away Twinkies
Baby’s Cheesesteak and Lemonade has acquired about 4,000 of the remaining Twinkies in the world and will give them away today to customers at the Orland Park location, 15858 S. LaGrange Road, and the Country Club Hills location at 4019 W. 167th St.
To get one of the last Twinkies ever made, customers must make a purchase or follow Baby’s on Twitter or like the restaurant on Facebook.
If you see a new business in town or wonder what happened to an old favorite, drop me a line at email@example.com.
You can also catch up on Comings & Goings in other parts of the Southland at www.southlandbusinessnews.blogspot.com.