Around Town: Montessori School wins big on National Battery Day; a Lazarus House goodbye

Vandana Caruso isn't quite sure how many batteries she now has in her possession after winning enough from Batteries Plus in Geneva to last a year.

The batteries are stored at Green Friends Montessori School in Elburn, where Caruso has been the director for the past three years. She was lucky enough to be chosen as a worthy recipient from a parent of one of the Green Friends students. That parent won the recent National Battery Day contest at the store and had the option to also select another worthy recipient.

"There are AA and AAA batteries, with about 36 batteries in a pack, all in two big cases," Caruso said. "I really don't know how many there are, but certainly enough to last a year."

The batteries are at Green Friends, a school focusing on the outdoors and nature, but one lacking in technology that needs batteries.

"Students will use them for ordinary day-to-day things and we gave some to the staff here because there are so many batteries," Caruso said. "We are always grateful for any donation we get, but there probably isn't a lot of need in the classrooms."

The school staff has been brainstorming on what to do with the batteries. A donation to a shelter or other organization is possible, or possibly students selling them to their parents and friends as part of a fundraiser for the Montessori school, Caruso noted.

"It was surprising to find out I won the batteries, though I didn't really understand it at first," Caruso said. "Then I thought, what a nice thing for us because we want to connect with local businesses and we especially like the idea that we can get the word out about the school."

In addition, the staff at the Batteries Plus store - store owner Frank Meier and store manager Russell Heinen - were "so nice to us," she added.

Green Friends Montessori is located on MA Center Drive, off Keslinger Road and near Bunker Road. "We have a beautiful campus here and access to 140 acres," Caruso said. "We are outside with the children a lot so they can experience nature and learn how to take care of the planet."

They now also have access to a whole lot of battery power.

Oh, what a showstopper

The Norris Cultural Arts Center recently picked a "show stopper" topic to close its Wednesdays at One series of free presentations at the Baker Community Center until next fall.

Theater expert Charles Troy delighted audience members with his knowledge of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "Oklahoma!" along with various video clips and songs from the play, especially the stage and film versions in the late '90s starring Hugh Jackman in the key role as the cowpoke Curly McClain.

Troy knows his stuff when it comes to Broadway, especially regarding the debut of "Oklahoma!" at the St. James Theatre on March 31, 1943.

It was a long road for Rodgers and Hammerstein, taking parts of a play called "Green Grow the Lilacs" and initially turning it into "Away We Go" and eventually changing the name to "Oklahoma!"

This musical changed everything on Broadway, Troy explained, because it had a storyline told through words and music, unlike so many other productions up to that point that were more like operas or comedy skits and often opened with a chorus girls dance number.

It was fascinating to learn how the great partnership of Rodgers and Hammerstein started, and how a lady named Theresa Helburn and her "Green Grow the Lilacs" play was the engine sparking creative ideas and essentially paving the way for "Oklahoma!" to become a smash. It didn't hurt that Helburn was co-founder of New York's Threatre Guild.

Keep an eye open for the fall season of Wednesdays at One. You are certain to find something enjoyable. Maybe not as enjoyable as having "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'" stuck in your head for a day, but certainly something close.

Lazarus money guru

Lazarus House in St. Charles is saying goodbye to a mainstay of 21 years in Steve Sager, a volunteer extraordinaire who spent much of his time meeting with the Lazarus residents to help them with financial budgets, filing taxes and contacting debtors.

In announcing Sager's retirement, the shelter's newsletter summed it up well in noting, "Countless guests have expressed that Steve always served them with compassion and respect, affirming their dignity in a time when it was sorely needed."

Sager also served on the Lazarus House board for 12 years, serving as board treasurer for seven years. In that role, he was an important voice during the expansion of the Lazarus House building and its services.

This fellow changed the lives of a lot of people who needed an emotional lift. We join Lazarus House in thanking him for that.

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