UPDATE: Decatur Woman Dies After Thursday Crash on I-72

UPDATE: Decatur Woman Dies After Thursday Crash on I-72

May 18 – A Decatur woman has died after a Thursday evening crash on I-72.

According to the Illinois State Police and Macon County Coroner Michael E. Day, 63-year-old Kathleen Fleckenstein was traveling eastbound on I-72 at mile post 135 in a red Chevrolet Cobalt in the westbound lane. A 35-year-old Missouri man in a white Volvo Truck flat-bed trailer was traveling westbound when the woman struck him head on.

The Volvo went off the roadway to the left of the eastbound lanes of I-72 where he hit a blue Hyundai Elantra as it crossed into the eastbound lane. The woman driving the Elantra was a 21-year-old Springfield woman.

The Decatur woman was pronounced dead on the scene while the Springfield woman was transported to Decatur Memorial Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. She was treated and released.

Law Enforcement Raises Money for Special Olympics

Law Enforcement Raises Money for Special Olympics

May 18 – Local law enforcement were out early Friday morning for Cop on a Rooftop at Dunkin Donuts to raise money for Special Olympics.

Officers and deputies from the Decatur Police Department, Macon County Sheriff’s Office, and the Department of Corrections raise money for the Law Enforcement Torch Run that benefits the Special Olympics. Sergeant Matt Reynolds, Macon County Sheriff’s Office, said the officers were outside of the coffee shop talking with residents and taking donations. “When they walk in the door or through the drive-thru and donate, they can get a coupon for a free donut, they can also get a free Torch Run travel mug if they donate ten dollars or more.” Last year law enforcement raised $3,500 and had a goal to raise $4,000 this year. State-wide, officers raised $150,000 at Dunkin Donuts locations across Illinois.

Joanie Keyes is the Special Olympics Region I Director. She said this fundraiser is a natural fit for the two organizations. “Everyone that knows the Special Olympics and law enforcement knows the close relationship that we have and how supportive they are of Special Olympics and our athletes. It’s pretty awesome.”

The Law Enforcement Torch Run will come through Decatur on June 14 starting at 8 a.m. The torch will come from Marion law enforcement and be delivered to Bloomington by Macon County officers.

Test Drive A Car for United Way

Test Drive A Car for United Way

May 18 – The Jackson Ford dealership on Pershing Rd is bustling as people come in to test drive vehicles for the United Way.

The United Way of Decatur & Mid-Illinois has partnered with Jackson Ford and the Ford Foundation for the second “Drive 4 UR Community” campaign. Debbie Bogle, United Way of Decatur Executive Director, said the success of last year’s event gives her confidence for this year. “This is an awesome fundraiser that Jackson Ford puts on for us. Last year we raised $2,200 doing this and we are on track to reach that again and we hope we surpass it.”

United Way will be at Jackson Ford until 6 p.m. on Friday. If you want to help, all you have to do is go to the dealership and fill out a form with your name and address and take a car around the block. “That’s the end of it. You get to drive a car and donate to United Way,” said Bogle. The dealership will not contact you unless you specify that you want more information.

This event is the start of a busy summer according to Bogle. “We start with Ride United in June and then we roll into BO3K and then Run United and we kick off our campaign and we have Day of Action. So we have a lot of things United Way going on from now until fall.” Bogle said while United Way has so many fun events, she always looks forward to the variety of runners that come for the BO3K.

For more information about how you can help the United Way or summer events, please call (217) 422-8537.

Oak Grove Hosts End of Year Open House

Oak Grove Hosts End of Year Open House

May 18 – Oak Grove Elementary students and their families enjoyed a family BBQ on Thursday night before their end of the year Open House.

The meal was provided through a Healthy Community Grant given to the school according to Megan Holt, Oak Grove Elementary Instructional Specialist. She said the money they receive can be used in any way as long as it was outside of the school day and they invited families. “We just want to encourage people to come together, sit at the table together, and just have a conversation about what went on at school that day.” She continued to say the school has used the grant to host a game board night where students learn new games and get to bring the game home and they have even had a family dance.

Once families were done with their food, they were able to visit the students’ classrooms and see what they have done all year. “The Open House is for teachers to show growth over the school year. They can show something the student has done at the beginning of the year and something they did at the end of the year to show growth,” said Holt. Teachers will usually show examples of writing and paper cutting.

Juanita Neeley said she was excited to see how her daughters Alexus and Rihanna Jackson have done over the year. “I just like seeing all of their art projects and things they have drawn or written. I save everything.” Rihanna, an Oak Grove 3rd Grader, said her favorite project of the year was making a paper “ice cream sundae” that showed all of her favorite memories of third grade.

Decatur Public Schools will end another school year on Thursday, May 24.

Busy Bees End the Year with BBQ

Busy Bees End the Year with BBQ

May 17 – The Busy Bees at South Shores Elementary held their end of the year cook out that showcased the skills of both the Bakers and the Grillers.

This program was started by Sara Kennedy, a South Shores 6th Grade teacher, and Jeanene Edrington, a South Shores English teacher. The Bees started out as a baking class that met after school and taught young ladies the math and science involved with baking, but now it has expanded into a grilling class for young men and a sewing club as well. All of the students are taught by local volunteers who act as mentors for them.

Kennedy said the group is about teaching life skills. “To be in school and learn reading and writing is one thing, but to take away a life skill that you can use every day and at every meal and everywhere you go, even if it’s over a campfire, you cook. So it’s a skill that they can use forever.” She continued saying some of the students are the only ones in their family who know how to cook and they pass on their knowledge.

This club not only helps students learn a new skill, but gain confidence as well. Katie Hawley’s daughter Kamie Hoffman has been involved with the group since last semester and has seen Hoffman grow. “It’s has her more motivated to cook at home. I know she has stepped out of her boundaries. We were making pancakes the other day and she was mixing cookie dough into the pancakes. She is more confident in the kitchen when it comes to cooking and doing things on her own.” Hoffman said she has enjoyed spending time with her Bee friends and learning how to make things like Lazy Day Cookies.

The club will take on a new class of Bees next year, but this time they will also have a food pantry for their students according to Kennedy. “Because we have a high poverty rate here at South Shores, we want to make sure our students have food. So we are going to incorporate the Busy Bees by putting in recipes into the food baskets so when our Bees – or students who are not Bees – go home, they can cook with their families.” In addition to the pantry, Tate & Lyle will donate $1,500 so the Bees can purchase their cooking tools and ingredients.

The Busy Bees was made possible by the Decatur Public Schools Foundation. In addition to funding from the Foundation and Tate & Lyle, there have also been donations from local citizens.

 

Davis Speaks On Farm Bill Ahead of Friday Vote

Davis Speaks On Farm Bill Ahead of Friday Vote

May 17 – Congressman Rodney Davis held a Thursday press conference ahead of Friday’s vote on the 2018 Farm Bill.

Davis said it was interesting to reflect back on the 2014 Farm Bill he helped construct and how it compares to this year’s bill. “We put a very well-balanced public, private, risk management strategy together within that last farm bill. The end result was that even during a time of low farm income; we were not only able to save the taxpayers $23 million that was estimated to be saved in mandatory spending, but $112 million.” He continued to say Congress has taken the 2014 bill and “tweaked the edges” to accommodate the current growing economy.

The Congressman mentioned they are trying not to change too much in this year’s bill. “We don’t want to mess with the success of the last bill.” However, Davis said they do want to make reforms to the Food and Nutrition portion, which accounts for 80 percent of the bill. He said the economy has grown since the 2014 bill and Congress wants to see it continue by helping SNAP recipients receive job training. Davis mentioned employers like Caterpillar who are looking to hire hundreds of new employees but cannot get trained applicants. “If someone is on SNAP benefits, why can’t we help them go to Richland Community College and get trained to not only get a job, but a career. This may be the second chance career that some have been looking for.” He said the goal would be for students to keep their SNAP benefits while they are in school until they are financially able to provide for themselves and their families.

While Congress is looking to get people into a self-sufficient state and off of SNAP, Davis said they understand some may really need the benefits and want to make it accessible to those who need it. Davis will soon speak in support of the MacArthur Amendment that “strengthens the provisions in the bill that protect children by making it clear that if an adult becomes ineligible because of a failure to meet the work requirements, the other household members remain eligible to participate in SNAP,” according to Ashley Phelps, Communications Director for Davis.

In addition to helping SNAP beneficiaries receive the training they need to get higher paying jobs, Davis touched on farmers wanting the bill to stay the same for crop insurance. “So we took their advice. We tweaked around the edges a little bit and we made the organic certification program stronger. We want to make sure that research dollars are prioritized. I’ve got a fight ahead as this moves through the process.”

Congress is scheduled to vote on the 2018 Farm Bill on Friday.

Decatur Receives Over $1 Million in HUD Funding

Decatur Receives Over $1 Million in HUD Funding

May 17 – Central Illinois Communities will receive over $11 million in federal grant funding through programs administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and urban Development (better known as “HUD”). The City of Decatur will receive funding through the Community Development Block Grant and the HOME Investment Partnerships program.

The funding was announced by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth. “This federal investment will give local agencies in throughout central Illinois the ability to offer affordable housing and homeless assistance to people who need it most,” said Durbin. Decatur will receive $1,378,744 in CDBG funding. This program provides annual grants to States and local units of government to develop viable urban communities through decent housing and a suitable living environment.

Decatur was also granted $444,741 through the HOME program. This program helps cities expand their supply of decent, affordable housing to low- and very low-income families.

 

Keirsean Bond Found Guilty in Effingham Man’s Death

Keirsean Bond Found Guilty in Effingham Man’s Death

May 17 – After a four day trial, a jury has found Keirsean Bond of Decatur guilty of the 2017 shooting death of an Effingham man.

Bond was convicted in the murder of Todd Daniel Feldkamp and wounding Scottie Bone, both of Effingham. The jury charged Bond with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, and armed robbery on Thursday afternoon. The jury said it was not proven if Bond was armed with a firearm as to Attempt First Degree Murder.

The conviction comes after Feldkamp accompanied Bone to Decatur to meet Bond so they could sell a large amount of cannabis. The men met at an empty house where Feldkamp was shot by another hooded suspect who was with Bond. While prosecutors did not accuse Bond of pulling the trigger, they did say he was just as guilty as the gunman, who police are still trying to locate.

 

 

Unemployment Rate Decreases for February Through April

Unemployment Rate Decreases for February Through April

May 17 – The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) says unemployment has decreased to 4.4 percent and non-farm payrolls have increased by 4,700 jobs over-the-month.

Job growth in Illinois has an average month gain of 7,500 jobs for the February to April period, an increase over the November 2017 to January 2018 gain of 1,700 jobs. “Illinois’ unemployment rate decreased for the fourth month in a row to its lowest level since 2006,” said IDES Director Jeff Mays. “At the same time, online job postings on IllinoisJoblink are up nearly eight percent from a year ago, so job opportunities have improved.”

The Director of the Illinois Department of Commerce Sean McCarthy said, “We continue to work to bring new opportunities to communities across Illinois. By attracting new investment and working with existing employers on workforce needs, we are cultivating a competitive economy and business-friendly environment that will boost growth and ensure a better future for Illinois.” In April, the three industries with the largest gains in employment were: Professional and Business Services (+2,700); Manufacturing (+1,600); and Leisure & Hospitality (+1,300).

While the state’s unemployment rate decreased, it is 0.5 percentage points higher than the national unemployment rate reported for April 2018 from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The rate is down 0.5 percent from a year ago when it was 4.9 percent.

Finally, the number of unemployed workers has decreased 3.5 percent from the prior month to 287,200. That number is down 9.7 percent from the same month for 2017.

 

Decatur Fire Department Investigating Thursday Morning Fire

Decatur Fire Department Investigating Thursday Morning Fire

May 17 – The Decatur Fire Department was called to 1700 W. Packard St. Thursday morning to put out a residential fire.

When DFD arrived, they found heavy smoke and fire coming from the home. They discovered there was a significant fire in the entire attic area according to DFD Chief Jeff Abbott. A hoseline was brought through the house to put out the fire. A power line was down across the fenced in backyard which prohibited fire crews from going around the house on the east side.

One resident has been transported to Decatur Memorial Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The residents were asleep during the fire and had been notified about it by a neighbor banging on their door.

The house has suffered significant damage and unfit for the residents to return. The Red Cross is assisting the displaced family.