Kevin and Gloria O'Connor (Melissa Elsmo/Contributor)

The Chicago Zoological Society saluted its 1,400 volunteers last month during National Volunteer Week, April 19-25, giving a special shout out to about 20 volunteers calling themselves the Merry Mask Makers.

The volunteers, representing a combined 176 years of service to the Chicago Zoological Society, have sewn approximately 700 masks for the zoo’s animal care specialists, who still need to work to ensure the animals are being cared for while the Brookfield Zoo is closed to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two of those Merry Mask Makers are Brookfield residents Teri Marsh-Souders and Wendy Petrosky.

Souders, who has been a volunteer at the zoo for 34 years, is also a nurse in the operating room at MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn, where she has been working 12-hour shifts and then going home to sew masks for the staff.

In 2019, Brookfield Zoo’s volunteers contributed nearly 75,000 hours of service, many as docents who engage guests by sharing their knowledge about animals, habitats, conservation, and nature. 

Guest guides greet zoogoers at the north and south entrances, offer recommendations for a satisfying visit, and answer customer service questions. Other volunteers assist with the society’s outreach programs or help out with various office duties, as well as during special events such as Boo! at the Zoo and Holiday Magic.


Local authors debut work

Brookfield resident George Adamczyk has self-published a volume of short horror stories, “Lost Minds, Wandering Souls,” which is available for purchase in paperback on Amazon for $4.99.

A resident of the village since 2005, Adamczyk says his book will “take you to the fringes of reality” with stories involving a man battling a demon for control of his mind, a writer awakening in another dimension, a bullet that sends a teen into an astral plane and a very strange boy celebrating his first Halloween. 

Riverside resident James Varga, writing under the pseudonym Augie Holiday, published “a book for the whole family,” titled “Angels Have Wings” on April 20. It’s available as an e-book through Amazon.

“Angles Have Wings” tells the story of two brothers with small-town roots who move to an affluent suburb of a big city. “The story questions the true meaning of success and the essential value of wonder in a society dominated by artificial intelligence and instantaneous everything,” said the author in a press release.


You’re in the Army now

Pvt. Joshua William Brokopp, of Brookfield, graduated from basic training for the U.S. Army at Fort Benning, Georgia on March 27, and was awarded his black beret.

Brokopp, a 2019 graduate of Riverside-Brookfield High School and a member of the National Honor Society, enlisted in the Army late last year and shipped to Fort Benning on Jan. 6.

Brokopp’s parents, John and Georgette, and his brother, Jonathan, had planned on attending the graduation ceremony, but it was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, they were able to speak with him and see him over the phone for the first time in three months that weekend.

He since has begun training to become a cavalry scout. His graduation date is June 18 Fort Benning.


On the sauce

Riverside couple Kevin and Gloria O’Connor have translated their creativity in the home kitchen into a new commercial venture, Dip and Dollop LLC, which has rolled out its first product — That Red Sauce.

The couple has been selling at local craft fairs for the past two years, including St. Mary Jingle Mingle and Riverside Holiday Stroll. Recently, they have begun selling That Red Sauce – a small batch artisan sauces that features red pepper, feta cheese and balsamic vinegar. The shelf-stable sauce, whose every batch is handmade by Kevin, is versatile and can be used as dip for crudités or tossed with pasta for an easy dinner.

You can learn more about the couple and their new company at


On campus

A pair of local students were among the approximately 700 students receiving scholarships from Central College in Pella, Iowa. Jack Sagan, of Riverside, received T.W. & H.B. Prins Endowed Memorial Scholarship, while Ruth Hruska-Kelley, of Brookfield, received Stan Ver Ploeg Family Scholarship and Journey Scholarship.

The awards were to have been announced at the school’s annual Scholarship Celebration, which was scheduled for April 23, but was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Alyssa Schwarz, of Riverside, and Autumn Rajcevich-Schwer, of Brookfield, were among 79 student-athletes at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin, named to the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin’s list of Winter Academic All-Conference team.

Carthage earned the second-most selections among the CCIW schools, with Wheaton leading the way at 95.

Elijah Ourth of Riverside, a senior at Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, has been named to the dean’s list for outstanding academic performance during the winter 2019-20 term. To qualify full-time students must have a grade-point average of at least 3.5 on a 4-point scale.