Laptop computer sitting on a table with money symbols in the background.

Blog Archive April 2020



Homeschooling and Life Lessons

Young student doing homework at home with school books, newspaper, digital pad, being helped by his mother.

As parents have become first-time teachers across the nation, homeschooling has become a hot topic. Frustration, lack of patience and humor have all been the main ideas of countless memes and jokes viewed continuously across social media to alleviate the struggles most parents have faced taking on the vast responsibility of education. As recently announced that the conclusion of the 2019-2020 school year will officially be completed through at-home learning, parents and teachers everywhere gave sighs of varying degrees.

Some sighs were of relief that children would not be exposed to the Coronavirus that is so feared, while also tinged with sadness for the many events and milestones children will miss such as graduations, proms and sporting events. Others were of regret for the many goodbyes that were never said, the incomplete lessons and missed opportunities. Worst were the sighs of dismay by the teachers who truly missed their students and had hoped to see and interact with them again, fulfill their passions and lead their students to their next academic levels.

This is yet another dynamic of the pandemic that has left a considerable measure of uncertainty and void. Not every district in the state of Illinois has the resources and technology to adequately accommodate every student with computers and E-learning. In fact, every district is offering different levels and types of remote learning. While every district and teacher is doing his or her best, there is of course, no substitute for a full day of actual structured class time.

Rather than focusing on what has been lost or is missing, let us create new types of learning that can benefit our children in more ways than just learning textbook information. There are so many experiences that will teach them determination, patience, respect and family values that cannot be taught in a classroom. For instance, encourage your child to help their siblings with a task, challenge them to complete an interesting project, or offer to start a new hobby with your child. Let us also not forget basic life skills that are not taught at school, such as cooking a meal, balancing a checkbook, changing a tire, doing basic chores and being responsible for oneself. Not only will your child learn a new skill and build confidence, but also strengthen a bond with family members. Most of these activities are usually out of mind because of busy schedules. Now is the time to take advantage of quality time.

Lastly, how enjoyable is it to just spend time with your children without the stress of having to rush to an event. The best conversations can be had when there is a regular opportunity to interact and talk. Take advantage of getting to know your kids on a different level. Bring up random topics and explore your child’s interests and opinions.

A child’s first teacher is their parent. During this time, parents are being called upon in an extreme manner to guide their children. Grasp this rare opportunity to create lasting memories. Experiences can impact a young person’s perception of how to handle difficult situations and mold their character. It’s as simple as maintaining an optimistic perspective, enjoying fun activities and using daily experiences to tie in life lessons.


Metal tooth wheel mechanism with COMMUNITY concept letters.

As a lieutenant for the Maywood Fire Department,  Anthony (Tony) Morrone begins yet another of his numerous shifts since the coronavirus pandemic began, he pushes aside the many worries that plague him round the clock. Having the unique perspective of operating a suddenly struggling business while also being a commanding front-liner, Tony understands the need to have the economy return to normal as quickly as possible, while seeing first hand the many tragic victims succumbing to COVID-19. A true community warrior, Tony has always put the community first in both aspects of his career, making decisions based on heart, not profit or protocol. 

Tony is the proud owner of Signco, Inc., which provides sales, service and installation of commercial signage in the Chicagoland area. Signco, Inc. has also expanded to offer graphic design and digital printing through its state of the art design and print lab which was financed with a working capital loan from Pan American Bank &Trust. Located in Melrose Park, IL, Tony took over the business from his father and grandmother who originally founded Signco, Inc. thirty-five years ago. The company initially started with 4 employees but has grown large enough to now support 23 employees. As a family-run business and a community supporter, Signco, Inc. has donated and volunteered with numerous worthy causes such as Catholic charities, Proviso Area for Exceptional Children and the Housing Forward Homeless Shelter, to name a few. Tony’s greatest concern during this pandemic is the same as most small business owners, sudden decreased cash flow.

Despite his concerns as a small business owner, Tony’s number one priority is to keep his firefighters safe while helping as many in need as possible. Proviso Township has registered some of the higher levels of COVID-19 positive cases in Illinois. Since his crew is regularly in direct contact with COVID-19 positive individuals, it is imperative that they have the protective gear necessary to avoid exposure. Unfortunately, this has not been an easy task. Supplies of PPE are limited, even for front-liners. Tony and his crew are incredibly grateful to those that have donated PPE supplies to various drives and donation sites for our front-liners. When asked where people could donate food or supplies for their fire station, Tony states the firefighters prefer that donations be directed towards “Proviso Partners for Health” in Maywood. The funds will assist the elderly who have been affected so severely by this pandemic.

Between worrying about his employees and the safety of his firemen during his many long hours of service, the greatest sacrifice Tony has made is missing his family. Having so much exposure to the coronavirus, Tony has taken extra measures to protect his family by quarantining himself in a separate area of his home. Those measures along with his long hours, means he has barely seen his wife or son in weeks. 

When asked what his greatest worry is of all those he struggles with, he explained it was initially his business and the concern of supporting his employees’ salaries and positions. Not knowing how to structure unstable finances or how long the economy would be shut down was a huge concern. After having several conversations with his relationship officer at PAB&T’, he was reassured that he had the support and tools he needs to get through this period of uncertainty. Tony stated, “PAB&T took the biggest weight off his shoulders, so I could wholeheartedly focus on my job of serving the community.”

With a genuine heart and real desire to serve others, Tony’s dedication to the community and putting others first is an inspiration.


A diverse collection of human portraits, all are positive or smiling, laughing.

As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches before us, social distancing has spawned an undesirable common theme of despair for many, the lack of connectivity. People struggle to find ways to interact with others that feel significant and fulfilling. Physical presence plays a large part in the foundation of relationships, and as part of humanity, we are all missing that aspect of our link to others.

As a Client Service Coordinator, no one at Pan American Bank & Trust understands the importance of connectivity more than Cheryl Firlinger. Initially hired as a teller supervisor six years ago, it was soon evident that Cheryl’s love of people and her natural ability to relate to others was a gift that must be shared on a larger scale. As such, her position now allows her to interact with most clients of the bank, intuitively seeking the right amount of information to guide them in an efficient direction to suit their needs. In the process, Cheryl loves learning about each client personally and is an unlimited resource of consideration and congeniality.

Having been raised in a family of caregivers, Cheryl realizes the value of serving others by listening and being compassionate. Her grandmother had always emphasized the idea that humility is key and that everything you do should always be for others. Phrases such as “Never be too big for your britches,” molded her into the extremely caring person she is today. Cheryl’s compassion to care for others is endearing to all. She is compelled to help everyone she meets in any way she can.

As a result, this period of isolation has been especially challenging for Cheryl. Her desire to take care of others as she usually does isn’t possible, but she has found other ways to create connections. For instance, she is making it a point to call clients to ask how they are coping on a personal level. Cheryl has spoken to many of them often enough to know about their families and health. She drives by family and friends’ homes to have social distance visits while also utilizing Zoom and Facetime to reach out as much as possible to stay connected in a meaningful way. She has even made it a point to post a positive or inspirational thought on Facebook every day in the hopes it improves someone’s mindset.

Cheryl has the perfect approach for this time of seclusion. Rather than focus on having it be a time of isolation, let us use the extra time we have to focus on connections. Thankfully, technology affords us opportunities we especially appreciate during social distancing. Not only can we communicate easily with others, but we can view our beloved family members’ faces even when we’re not together. Reach out more than usual to those you love. Build up a mediocre relationship to become great again. Restore a damaged bond. Initiate a foundation with someone you’ve lost touch.

Create connections. This is the time!


Young woman connecting with her laptop at home, she is pensive and looking out of the window.

My family of five roamed the house with annoyed and anxious expressions on their faces, an indication of the frustration and uncertainty they were feeling. This was especially evident in the constant fighting and ill humor that was felt all around. Yet another reason to add to the long list of reasons why the indefinite period of quarantine was a sensitive topic.

As another senseless argument erupted between my young boys over nonsense, my husband and I realized our boys needed guidance. Their emotions were dictating their actions, and at this point, the direction was negative. In a household with three teen and pre-teen boys, there are typically constant sports practices and games to burn their unlimited energy. As part of a large family, our weekends are filled with family events. School and friends easily fill the rest of their time.

I know our high-schooler was thinking of the coveted place on the baseball team he was so excited to have been chosen to play on, wondering if there would even be a baseball season.

Our middle-schooler had worked so hard to try to place on a more advanced soccer team this spring, but would probably not have the opportunity to prove himself.  Our youngest was disappointed not to start a new sport and desperately missed seeing his cousins and classmates.

To suddenly grind to a complete halt without any of their familiar routines, outlets or methods of utilizing their minds and bodies, they were all undoubtedly uneasy. Admittedly so, wasn’t everyone?

We decided the best course of action was to sit down with our kids and acknowledge that their feelings were valid and acceptable. With that said, there was also a choice to make. To focus on feeling upset by what they were missing out on wouldn’t solve anything. It would only add to their resentment and sadness. Instead, we encouraged everyone to focus on making the best of the situation. Having a positive attitude would change the experience of being in quarantine. Negative comments and attitudes were to be avoided at all costs. Anyone having a moment of negativity could take a break on their own or talk it out until they could readjust their thinking, but being negative towards others was no longer an option.

After giving them a couple of days to readjust their perspectives, the whining, bickering, and complaining about being bored stopped almost completely. We made it a point to find a positive replacement for everything that was considered negative by focusing on what we were grateful for. The difference has been incredible. We now look forward to walks, games, movies, meals and other time as a family. Our boys actually enjoy spending time with each other as opposed to viewing each other as enemies. Best of all, those anxious expressions are no longer present.

While this is undoubtedly a difficult time for everyone for various reasons, how we chose to face it makes all the difference. Perspective is key. Being optimistic will only lead you to more positivity. “It’s a funny thing about life, once you begin to take note of the things you are grateful for, you begin to lose sight of the things that you lack.” – Germany Kent
The diversity of multiple hands holding dirt with plants growing out of it.

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