After 24 years of serving the Plainfield Park District, Wendi Calabrese’s last day is Jan. 4, 2022. The longtime Plainfield resident and Park District employee is officially retiring and relocating to The Villages, Florida with her husband Steve.
“I’m excited, nervous, and a little sad that I’m leaving everybody,” Calabrese said. “I’m not really sure. It’s a lot of emotions.”
Wendi joined the District in 1998 as a secretary at the front desk. At that time, the Park District owned 17 parks encompassing 278 acres of land. Today, the District boundaries cover more than 43.04 square miles (27,545 acres) and serves a population of more than 100,000. It is the 9th largest park district in the State of Illinois based on population served.
“What really sticks out over the past 20-plus years is the incredible growth in population and changes in technology,” Calabrese said. “People used to camp out overnight in order to register for programs. Everything was pen and paper. Now they just do it from home. We didn’t even have a credit card processer for a long time. Everything was cash or check.”
Wendi held administrative assistant, guest services and executive assistant roles before her final position as director of administrative services. She was a part of many accomplishments while at Plainfield including:
- In 2000, voters approved a $5.92 million bond issue for the purpose of acquiring not less than 80 acres of land for park and recreation purposes. The Park District utilized these funds toward the purchase of River Edge, Mather Woods, the Florek property, and the purchase and development of Northwest Community Park.
- In 2016, the District celebrated its 50-year anniversary with special events, programs and celebrations all year long that were coordinated by Wendi.
- In 2016, voters approved a $10.5 million referendum for playground redevelopment, field lighting improvements, safety repairs and improvements, and the construction of an indoor recreation facility. The Prairie Activity & Recreation Center officially opened in 2019.
- In 2017, Plainfield was recognized as an Illinois Distinguished Accredited Agency. Wendi was the leader of the certification process.
Additionally, Wendi implemented the current Board Documents system and oversaw the integration of the online registration system. The Plainfield Park District Board of Commissioners officially declared December 8, 2021 as Wendi Calabrese Day at the District. She was honored at the Dec. 8 meeting.
“It was really special living in the community and working in the community,” Calabrese said. “Even though I’m moving, I’ll be here forever.”