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Providing ‘helping hands’ during pandemic

peppos photo 5 28 Photo by Joe Boyle
Local agents from Country Financial stopped by Peppo’s Great Sub Sandwiches in Palos Hills last Thursday to talk about the “Operation Helping Heroes” program that has provided meals for first responders and healthcare workers. On hand for the event were (from left) Paul E. Mackin, fire chief of North Palos Fire Protection District; Palos Hills Ald. Joe Marrotta (4th); Robert Peplowski, owner of Peppo’s; John Natanek, Country Financial; and Dan Gallivan, Country Financial.
By Joe Boyle
Local businesses could use a “helping hand” as the COVID-19 pandemic now extends into the month of June.
Representatives of Country Financial were on hand last Thursday afternoon to meet the owner of Peppo’s Great Sub Sandwiches, 10335 S. Roberts Road, Palos Hills. Country Financial has stepped up to provide funds for much-needed equipment and supplies for local hospitals, healthcare workers and first responders.
Through its “Operation Helping Heroes” program, the company has donated $3 million to first responders, medical workers and military service members in the communities they do business in as the pandemic began to surge.
And that’s where Robert Peplowski, the owner of the popular Peppo’s, plays a vital role. Country Financial has provided meals for first responders and healthcare workers from Peppo’s.
“We have been providing meals for first responders and healthcare workers long before COVID-19,” said John Natanek, an agent with Country Financial in Palos Heights. “But the need is greater now than ever.”
Operation Helping Heroes was created in 2015 to support non-profit organizations that support active-duty service members, veterans and their families. In 2019, Country Financial expanded the program and donated $700,000 to nearly 500 first responder and military organizations. Some of the funds were used to purchase lifesaving automated external defibrillators (AEDs), bulletproof vests, and training equipment and programs.
Country Financial reviewed ideas to implement the program at the local level. The idea of contacting Peppo’s during the pandemic works on two levels. Company representatives want to provide a boost to Peppo’s and other local restaurants who may be struggling during the pandemic. Palos Hills Ald. Joe Marrotta (4th) helped to coordinate the efforts of Country Financial and Peppo’s to provide the meals for first responders and healthcare employees. This in turn also provides an added boost for Peppo’s, a popular sub sandwich shop that has been located in Palos Hills since 1976.
“We are more than happy to help out the first responders,” said Peplowski, who has taken over most of the ownership duties. His father, Jim, was the founder of the sub shop.
“We have enjoyed being in Palos Hills all these years,” Peplowski continued. “We have been busy and doing as well as expected.”
Peplowski usually has indoor dining and catering. But with the presence of COVID-19, local residents and first responders can now drop by or call in their orders.
“We are happy to come up with local funding for businesses with the Helping Heroes program,” said Daniel Gallivan, another Country Financial agent who is based in Tinley Park. He was also on hand last Thursday to meet and talk to Peplowski.
Peplowski and reduced staff have been providing meals for first responders. And one of those officials who have received a meal is Paul F. Mackin, chief of the North Palos Fire Protection District.
Mackin also stopped by Peppo’s last Thursday to thank Peplowski, the Country Financial agents and Marrotta for reaching out to first responders.
The North Palos Fire Protection District provides fire and emergency medical services for Palos Hills, Worth, Hickory Hills and Palos Heights, as well as a large portion of the Palos division with the Cook County Forest Preserve District. The fire district covers 14 square miles with three fire stations and services a population of about 30,000 residents.
Mackin wanted to personally thank everyone involved in the program.
“It’s great what they are doing,” Mackin said. “We really appreciate this.”
Natanek said that Country Financial agencies also provide financial support at the local level.
“This is a national program and we put up half the funding for this,” Natanek said. “We just want to support local businesses at this time.”
Natanek added that other local businesses have been provided with funding for first responders, including Joe’s Italian Villa in Palos Heights.
Peplowski has been appreciate of the gesture. One of the reasons Peppo’s was chosen was due to its long affiliation to Palos Hills and the popularity of their sub sandwiches. Sandwiches ranges from ham, pastrami and Swiss cheese to a California veggie. Premium sub sandwiches, Italian beef, meatball marinara, hot dogs and salads are offered at the shop, Peplowski said. The restaurant is currently open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Peppo’s is closed on Sundays. The restaurant can be reached by calling (708) 237-1755.
Peplowski is hoping to set up a patio area as stay-at-home restrictions loosen up in June.
“We can’t wait to open up again,” Peplowski said. “Hopefully, it opens up a little in June Until then, we will just have to wait and see.”

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