City Lifestyle



Gratitude Without Boundaries

Local Folks Share Thanksgiving Sentiments From Far and Wide

Article by Michael Beightol

Photography by Stephen Neilson

Originally published in SW Lake Lifestyle

In a nation of immigrants it's no surprise the importance that Thanksgiving Day holds. The bonds of family, friends, sharing, reflection and gratitude run deep across this land. 

Common themes emerge when considering the things for which we give thanks: Health and happiness. Family and friends. Faith and traditions. Success and prosperity. Favorite memories and new opportunities. Inspirations and inspiring people.

Being grateful all the time comes naturally to very few people for the simple reason that things aren’t always so rosy. Obstacles rear up. Ugliness occurs. Conflict, strife, tension and controversy can all be daily occurrences. A change in a loved one’s health happens over time or strikes with terrifying suddenness. Real life isn’t always a cheery post on Instagram.

The meaning of the holiday to the local folks featured here are simple, straight-forward and eloquently expressed. For some of our neighbors new to SW Lake Co. and the United States the Thanksgiving holiday takes on special meaning.  Across the years one way to define the human condition is to realize that as a species we are constantly on the move. For some, success may be found elsewhere whether it’s the empty-nester couple pulling up stakes, a new college graduate blazing trails far from home or an immigrant family brought to these shores seeking a better life.

It’s our hope that as the holidays unfold we will all have opportunities to share good times, reflect on what’s important and bask in the warmth of family, friends and community. And along the way perhaps we’ll lend a hand to somebody who needs our help.

Name: Jenny & Rich Wierzchon

Organization: Primrose School of Long Grove

What are you grateful for this year?

Rich: Continued growth of our business and a wonderful healthy family at home. Growth of our business means we are providing quality education and care for more families in the Long Grove area. We love the families who attend our school and truly think of them as our own extended family. It’s always fun, exciting and a privilege to see a child grow up with you and develop. We have some students who started with us as infants and are now in our pre-kindergarten program. 

Jenny: I’m grateful to be able to work with my husband who just happens to be my best friend. Lately, our oldest daughter joined us as a teacher so now it’s a real family affair.

Who inspires you?

Jenny: It’s always been about the children and families. I love to watch children grow and flourish. To see that inquisitiveness in their eyes, and the huge ear-to-ear grin when you know they’ve figured something out for themselves. I never get tired of those “moments” because each child is different and therefore those “moments” are always different.

Name: Kelly Difino

Organization: The Gent’s Place (Deer Park)

Who Inspires You?

Our team inspires us. They are not only talented and dedicated, but truly wonderful people. I love to come to work and see their smiling faces and hear all their ideas and thoughts. They are the glue that holds us together. Our success is truly a team effort. We have such a dedicated and talented team. They work so hard and have fun while doing it. They are all like our kids -- sometimes a little naughty, but always loved (haha)! We have grown so close in the short time we’ve been together. It’s special.

Can you share a favorite Thanksgiving memory?

A few years back, my sister was in charge of the turkey. She took such pride in the brining, basting and seasoning, but a few hours into roasting we realized she had placed it upside down in the pan. She will never live that down. I kept saying “something doesn’t look right!” Seriously though, our best memories are sharing with family and friends, and my husband Frank’s Honey Jack Sweet Potato Casserole.

Name: Mollee Johnson

Organization: Style 1519 (Lake Zurich)

Where do you find inspiration?

I am most inspired by other small business owners. Being a small business owner means wearing many hats and being all things to many people. Seeing the hard work and drive of those around me inspires me to keep going. 

What prompted you to start your business?

My second daughter was nine weeks old and I wanted the best of both worlds. I wanted to be available for my kids at home, but after working for 10 years building a design department for another company, I was ready to be on my own. I realized there’re would never be an ideal time.  If I was going to start my own design firm, this was the time to do it. The biggest obstacle was realizing I had to be the head of every department. I was the head of accounting, marketing, sales, IT. I had to educate myself on all these things. I couldn’t only focus on design if I was going to be successful. Thankfully, I had a great mentor who answered a lot of questions, and I found good people to put in place to help me.

Name: Sandra Frampton

Organization: @Properties Realty (Barrington)

What is it you are most grateful for this year?

I am most grateful for family.This year is a turning point for my family as my oldest son, Charlie, is a senior at Lake Zurich High School and getting ready for college. Every chance we get to spend together as a family is special. 

Why’d you become a Realtor?

​I have always been a workaholic, so when we moved from the UK in 2001, one of my then-colleagues suggested I investigate a career in real estate in the U.S. I had never thought of it before, but after not being so impressed with my own real estate experiences as a customer, I knew I could bring a quality of service to the industry. My boys were still so young when I started out that without the support of my husband, Alan, I would never have been as successful at my job as I have been all these years. 

Who inspires you?

My mom inspires me every day. My father passed away when I was 10 years old and she had to make some tough decisions and tough moves over the years, but she got us through it in a way that has helped me become the person I am today.

Name: Tim Meade

Organizations: Reflections in Glass & American Garage Floor Systems (Wauconda)

What’s a favorite Thanksgiving memory?

Stuffing the turkey with my granddaughter. It’s a tradition we started 10 years ago that I hope we can do for at least another 10 years.

Who inspires you?

That’s easy. My father. He worked in his own business to put food on the table and feed his six kids. He motivated me to start my own businesses and be my own boss. Of course, it’s meant highs and lows, but we have survived and become a stronger company. 

What are you looking forward to?

Today we have a very strong bond in our family business. I’m looking forward for many generations to come to continue building and running the business.

Name: Victor Manuell

Organization: Salon V’Co (Lake Zurich)

What are you grateful for?

I’m thankful for being healthy and for being surrounded by family and friends who support me in my business. The most important thing is I am grateful for all my clients for their support in so many ways. I do believe that having my clients for the long-term you build personal relationships and they have helped me through the years.

What inspires you?

Honestly, it’s lot of things. People, fashion, colors and the natural environment

What does Thanksgiving mean to you?

I was born in Mexico, but very early on I wanted to move to the states. All the holidays here are very powerful to me. I moved to Chicago when I was 21 and my first Thanksgiving was so exciting with everybody coming together to give thanks and share all this wonderful food. I was taught the meaning of Thanksgiving from Day One - to be thankful for everything we have. I’m really looking forward to it again this year. We are hosting at our house, and yes, I the immigrant, will be in the kitchen doing the cooking all day. 

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