DECATUR – With students representing over 20 countries, Johns Hill Magnet School is showcasing their culture, along with their science program.
During their annual Science Fair and Multicultural Night, students brought exhibits sharing what they have learned through their classes. One half of the event was the Science Fair in which 30 participants brought exhibits covering many science topics.
“We have science fair exhibits from the kids along with inertia games from my 8th graders,” says physics teacher Mrs. Bartimus. “We set up games so the younger group of students can learn about physics and gravity and things of that nature.”
The other half was the Cultural Arts portion, as JHMS supports English as a Second Language, or ESL, students. Representing so many different cultures, so and so says it is important for the students to share and learn about their classmate’s backgrounds.
“I think in a community our size, it is pretty amazing to have such a depth of diversity here,” says arts teacher Mrs. Ganley. “We embrace having new cultures here – it’s really what we are all about and the students love it.”
Students of all levels participated, earning medals for their science exhibits, and stickers were given out for students who “traveled the world.” Mia, a student with Dominican heritage, says it helps her get to know her fellow students.
“I think the science and multicultural fair is really great,” she said. “I’m glad I got to dance with my Hispanic culture club and show a bit about our backgrounds.”
SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner surprised exhibitors at the 2016 Illinois Beef Expo this morning by attending the annual Futurity Sale. Gov. Rauner spent time walking through the barns and visiting with breeders and exhibitors.
Congratulations on fifteen years, Dr. Saunders. You will be missed!
DECATUR – The Decatur Public Library board says they are still in favor of selling the library to someone better equipped to handle the necessary maintenance costs.
The board met on Thursday night where City Librarian Rick Meyer presented two separate budgets for Fiscal Year 2016. One budget showed the numbers that would be involved if the library were sold to the Public Building Commission. The other budget scenario is where the library retains possession of the building and they would have to cover the maintenance costs.
Board President John Phillips says the budget looks pretty good overall.
“We think the budgets presented tonight make a lot of sense,” says Phillips. “They are very conservative because we are not trying to spend any more taxpayer money than we have to in order to maintain this facility.”
Phillips says they will send the two budget proposals to the city council for them to decide what they want to do with the building. The Decatur City Council lists the library as an asset, so they have power to decide what happens with the building. The library had recently decided to explore the opportunities available where they could still hold on to the building. Phillips says that everyone agrees on at least one thing.
“Everyone knows that the status quo cannot be maintained,” says Phillips. “We have very serious building issues that have to be addressed going forward. One way is for the building commission to do it; the other is for someone else to take care of it. Either way, they all cost and they have to be addressed.”
Phillips says they plan to get in contact with the city’s financial team directly, or meet with the Mayor and City Manager face to face to try and speed up the process. Phillips doesn’t believe they can operate much longer with all of the maintenance upgrades necessary.
“We just want to send these budgets to the council in one form or another and hopefully it will spark a decision from the city,” said Phillips.
Personally, Phillips believes the best possible option at the moment is to go through with the deal with the Public Building Commission because they will cover the maintenance costs.
“Clearly in my mind this is the best option still on the table,” he says. “I’m thinking from a citizen and taxpayer’s point of view here. The library doesn’t need to be spending the city’s money to fix the library when someone has already agreed to do it.”
Phillips hopes that the budgets will be looked over fairly soon by the city council, but, for now, he says it is in the council’s hands again.
DECATUR – A beer brewing company is coming back to Decatur after a near 100-year hiatus.
“Decatur Brew Works” is under construction in downtown Decatur and will be located at 101 N. Main Street. Dreux Lewandowski is one of the partners and says the last time a brewery was in Decatur was in 1916.
“Our concept kind of pays homage to what Decatur Brewing Company used to be,” says Lewandowski. “Here at Decatur Brew Works, we will be bringing hometown beer to Decatur.”
Lewandowski says they hope to initially be brewing 4 beers, but will also have a taproom with 24 total taps. Decatur Brew Works will not be serving food, as Lewandowski and the other partners say they are “not cooks.” Partner Micah Koll says they will let people bring in food, however.
“Our business is beer,” says Koll. “We are bringing Decatur a beer to call its own, finally. This will be a place people can congregate and bring food in from anywhere downtown. They can come in here, order a pizza and drink our beer if they choose.”
Koll, Lewandowski, and several other partners are Decatur residents, but that isn’t the only reason they want to bring the brewery to Decatur.
“We saw a gap in the beer culture that is really booming in central Illinois,” says Koll. “It is booming all around us and it just needed to come here, so we are jumping at that opportunity.”
While it may be early, considering the brewery isn’t even completely built yet, Koll says they do have future plans.
“As the youngest partner in the group, I have stars in my eyes,” he says. “If we could expand I would love to become the next Dogfish Head or Rouge. It would be amazing to do that, but if all we ever did was here in Decatur, I would still call it a success if we become popular.”
Lewandowski says, as a more senior member of the group, he has a more conservative goal.
“My personal goal is that business is strong and booming every day, that we try and make new friends in the community, and that we introduce people to beer,” he says. “In the long run, with God’s willing, we could do well and end up expanding.”
Lewandowski hopes to be up and running by November 1st in the best case scenario, but worst case would be the end of November. He says they will be launching a Kickstarter campaign sometime soon as they will call on the community to give them a little help. Lewandowski says they want to have the latest innovations, but that requires a good amount of cash.
“I think there is a built-in audience here in downtown Decatur with everyone that works around here,” says Lewandowski. “We won’t be opening till 4:00, which is right around the time people get off work.”
“This is a totally unique concept to anybody in Decatur,” says Koll. “You have to drink other places’ beer there, but you can take ours home. If you want to watch the football game on Sunday, you can come by and grab a beer to take home with you.”
If you would like more information on Decatur Brew Works, you can visit their website at decaturbrewworks.com or their Facebook page by searching “Decatur Brew Works.”
Photos courtesy of “Decatur Brew Works” Facebook page.
DECATUR – Seniors from all over Macon County received free health screenings and information about state and local programs during a senior fair on Wednesday.
The fair was put on by State Sen. Andy Manar and Rep. Sue Scherer and featured free health screenings, information from the Dept. of Veteran’s Affairs as well as the Secretary of State’s office, and several booths handing out information about programs at the state and local level. Senator Manar says it is important to have fairs like these where seniors can learn about opportunities they can take advantage of.
“First and foremost, this fair gave myself and Rep. Scherer the chance to speak directly with seniors,” says Manar. “It is also an opportunity for seniors to come and get services available to them in one place, not spread out all over the state or locally.”
Sen. Manar said the senior center indicated that some seniors were not aware of what services they have available to them. He says some of the visiting seniors came to learn about one thing and ended up leaving with a much larger amount of information than they might have anticipated.
Rep. Scherer says it is fairly simple why they put on this event.
“Just like I want good care for my 94-year-old mother, I want all seniors in our area to have a helping hand to get what they need,” said Scherer.
Executive Director of the Decatur-Macon County Senior Center Leslie Stanberry says they greatly welcomed the senior fair because it is hard for some seniors to get everywhere they need to go.
“These people know the Senior Center,” says Stanberry. “They might not be familiar with some of these companies and sometimes only interact through a phone call. This way they can ask questions directly, and if one place can’t help them, they simply have to walk a few feet to find the answer to their question.”
Rep. Scherer and Sen. Manar are hosting similar fairs across their districts throughout September, and plan to be back to Decatur in the near future.
DECATUR – Dozens of Decatur residents marched in the final “Journey to Justice” rally on Tuesday night.
Along with members of Decatur’s NAACP branch, the community marched from the courthouse down to the New Salem Baptist Church in downtown Decatur. President of Decatur’s NAACP branch Dr. Jeanelle Norman says this journey has been going on for a while.
“The National branch walked 860 miles on their journey for justice, but we just had a journey on smaller scale while coinciding our efforts with them here in Decatur,” said Norman.
Dr. Norman says they have a few goals they wanted to achieve with these rallies.
“We wanted to build awareness in addition to help people register to vote,” says Norman. “We also are pushing for the passage of the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015. We will be circulating petitions to encourage our congressmen to pass this.”
She says they began the walks in Decatur back in August and believes they made some good progress over the last month and a half.
“I think we’ve been very successful,” she says. “We have built awareness about reforming education, and reform in the criminal justice system. People told us that they didn’t even know about some of these things happening in our own community.”
Dr. Norman says they had a booth set up at the church to get people registered to vote, and they plan on following up with those people to encourage them to go out and vote when the time comes.
Tuesday night was the final rally in the “Journey for Justice” initiative.
“When people start making the changes we have been rallying for, all of us will have a better life in the city of Decatur.”
DECATUR – A group of runners will be collecting gently used running shoes at this year’s 26th annual Shoreline Classic in Decatur.
The group is teaming up with the “Running Shoe Pantry” to help provide shoes to those who are in need. Race Director John Pranschke says this will be the first attempt at trying to collect shoes, but he hopes that it will work out.
“It’s a given fact that running and walking can be a big de-stressor,” says Pranschke. “If this works out and other clubs start to pick it up, it could be the start of something really good.”
There may not be a great need for running shoes in the Decatur area, so Pranschke says the shoe pantry will also be dispersing the shoes to others in central Illinois who need them.
“We may not have a high need for running shoes, but, as you stray out of Decatur, there are requests from all over,” says Pranschke. “We know we aren’t going to dress people who are going to run 5-minute miles, we are just trying to dress the people who want to pick up a healthy lifestyle.”
Pranschke says they are asking people to bring a slightly used but still good pair of shoes tied together to drop off in a box at the race. He says shoes may be dropped off on Friday, September 18th at Packet Pickup or on Race Day on the 20th.
This collection will be called “Distressing Through Stepping” as Pranschke says running/walking can be very therapeutic for the mind and body.
The 26th annual Shoreline Classic 15K run or 5K Run/Walk kicks off this Saturday, September 20th. For more information about the shoe pantry, you can visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/runningshoepantry