Maureen McMullen, Published January 19 2014
It's my job: A warm and friendly face
But for many of the children who frequent the Horace Mann Elementary warming house, Vandenberghe offers a friendly face and someone to talk to as they escape the cold.
Q. How did you start working here?
I actually started working flag football for the park district my sophomore year of college, and my boss said that the warming houses needed extra help. I needed a job for the winter, so I ended up doing that, and now it’s my second year working here.
Did you have any experience on the ice before becoming a warming house attendant?
I played pond hockey quite a bit, so it was already a no-brainer for me.
Do you ever get a chance to be on the ice while you’re working?
No, that’s one of the things we can’t do, which I really wish we could. I get my own time to do it, but it does sometimes get tempting when you’re sitting here alone and no one shows up.
What do you like most about your job?
Probably just interacting with the kids because, at least at this one, it’s a lot of younger kids; they don’t necessarily stay out and skate the whole time. So, they’re in here and they’re always wanting to play with the music and always wanting to pick the stations and just sit here and have someone to talk to.
Normally, their parents will just drop them off and they’ll stay and skate for a couple of hours and want someone to talk to.
What kind of impact do you think it has on the neighborhood to have a supervised place where kids can skate after school?
I think it helps tremendously. I know some parents will sit in here and watch and others will drop their kids off because they know someone is here. For most of them, the regulars live right around here anyways. So, it’s nice to have them in the neighborhood where you know if they need to come get their child, it’s right there and someone’s watching them mostly all the time.
What kind of relationship do you have with the kids who come here?
Actually, one of them today asked me how a test went because he remembered from before winter break, when I had a test.
So, they remember certain things and you start to get a relationship with them. Most of them come day after day after day.