Pritzker, whose inauguration is Monday, was welcomed in a dining area of Downer Place of Lutheran Social Services of Illinois, an apartment complex for senior citizens.
“We have a lot of work to do, and a lot of challenges to overcome,” Pritzker said during his remarks to the group.
The future 43rd governor of Illinois was accompanied by his wife M.K., along with Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin.
Several members of Boys II Men, an Aurora-based mentoring organization for at-risk youth, served meals to the 65 residents who attended the event.
Pritzker’s inauguration committee reached out to the second largest city in the state seeking a way to work with seniors and youth, said Clayton Muhammad, the city of Aurora’s chief communication officer.
“We merged the two groups together for a fun night,” Muhammad said.
Irvin met with many of the seniors a few months ago as part of his effort to stay connected with all sectors of the community and decided to return, the city spokesman said.
The day of service encourages volunteerism throughout the state, Pritzker said. Thirteen events were planned around the state.
“We’re all in this together,” Pritzker told The Beacon-News. He came from Rockford, where a group of American Red Cross volunteers trekked door-to-door to distribute smoke detectors.
Pritzker cited the state’s minimum wage and affordable college tuition among his chief priorities when he takes office.
“We should raise the minimum wage in the state, and make sure we are making college more affordable by expanding the scholarship program. It will help keep our smartest, best and productive young people in the state,” he said.
Pritzker acknowledged three years of a budget impasse resulted in a backlog of bills in the treasurer’s office and the reason the area’s public school districts have yet to receive state payments.
“We have to pass a balanced budget and make sure we are responsible at the state government in making sure we are paying down the backlog of payments,” he said.
The relationship between the executive and legislative branches of government needs to be improved to get things done, he said.
“We need to get rid of the hyper-partisanship in Springfield and focus on problem-solving,” he said.
Pritzker has visited Aurora on several occasions, Irvin said.
“He seems to be sincere about his interest in taking the state to the next level. Aurora will pitch in to do its part for the whole of the state to make sure we progress and are successful in Illinois,” Irvin said.
They didn’t talk about the nitty-gritty, the mayor said.
“Today was about the people,” he said. “We didn’t talk politics or policy at all. We talked about how we could call a good bingo number.”
Albert Rios gave up his Saturday night for the day of service. Rios, 18, is a freshman at the University of Illinois at Champaign. “From my experience, seniors are really open people and energetic,” he said.
As for the bingo, Pritzker occasionally called out a city to identify a space on the bingo card, which made it all the more fun for the players.
“I have never been so up close and personal with somebody so important,” said Susan Guardiola, 67. “I feel like a kid in a candy store.”
Linda Girardi is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.
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January 13, 2019 at 12:15PM