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The Jacksonville TEOSA Needs January Volunteers

The Jacksonville TEOSA is needing some volunteers to fill out their January calendar. Jacksonville Police Chaplain, Alan Bradish, says that the overnight shelter has been serving between 5-8 people per night since opening this month. 

Bradish says he will have two training opportunities this week to help fill out the January schedule: “We’ve got about half of our positions full, so we’re going to have another couple of trainings this week. We’re going to have a training on Thursday morning, the 31st, that will be the last day of the month, from 9-11 at the TEOSA at 948 North Main. We’ll have a second training on Saturday, January 2nd from 1-3. We’ve got a morning training and an afternoon training, one a weekday, one a weekend, so hopefully, we’ll be able to get enough volunteers to fill out a January calendar.”

Bradish says that the shelter will remain open through at least March. He hopes that the city will re-evaluate a permanent option. He says that there are hopes that New Directions may reopen next year and take back on the responsibility of taking care of the city’s homeless population. 

Bradish says the other current need is evening meals: “This week, during the holidays, is a bit rough, so if there would be someone or an agency or a group or an individual that would want to cater a meal, and evening meal. We are short on evening meals this week because of the traditional feeding programs here in the community are not going to be functioning during this week or over the holidays. The soup kitchen is closed this week, and then the Salvation Army will be closed New Years Days.”

If you are interested in volunteering or donating an evening meal, contact Bradish at (217) 719-9358 or via email at jpdchaplain@gmail.com.

COVID-19 Vaccines Roll Out in Illinois

COVID-19 vaccinations will continue in full force this week. All 102 counties in the state have now received at least one shipment of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine. Doses have been given directly to frontline healthcare workers as part of Phase 1A of the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed, which will affect about 5% of the country’s population. Phase 1B will likely begin next month which will go to people of all ages with comorbid and underlying health conditions that put them at significantly higher risk and older people living in congregate living and long-term care facilities. 

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said last week that despite the roll out of the vaccines, people need to stay vigilant about precautions from COVID-19: “50% of people who are spreading this virus are doing it without any symptoms, without even knowing they’re sick, so when you have a gathering with people outside of your household you are increasing the chance of you spreading the virus to someone else or them spreading it to you.” 

Adams says that with the current holiday season, a possible surge due to large gatherings spreading the virus may overrun hospitals while the vaccine is rolling out: “That full ICU, it’s full because there are COVID patients pushing it over the top, but that means if have a heart attack there might not be room in the inn. It means if you get in a car wreck on an icy road, they may not have a bed for you.” 

Adams commended the state last week for having numbers trend in the right direction after the Thanksgiving holiday. Illinois Department of Public Health officials reported today 156 additional COVID-19 deaths on Friday and 5,742 confirmed and probable infections. The state also reported 4,352 people currently hospitalized for COVID-19 with 928 of those in intensive care units.

Congressman Rodney Davis Introduces Medicare Change for Colorectal Screenings

13th District Congressman, Rodney Davis, has helped introduce a reform to Medicare to help remove barriers for colorectal cancer screening. Davis, earlier this month, helped to unanimously pass House Resolution 1570, which will allow diagnostic screenings and treatment couple billing for Medicare patients: “We have been advocating for ensuring that anyone going to get a colonoscopy. What’s frustrating right now with Medicare; Medicare right now if somebody wants to go get a diagnostic colonoscopy that’s paid for. It’s completely a screening method, and all of a sudden now, if a polyp was found or a tumor was found then that patient would get billed separately for the treatment that is needed after that. We’re trying to make sure that it’s a holistic approach. That people aren’t billed because they actually have the disease or have a precursor to the disease because that’s going to discourage people from getting screened, so our bill would allow families to, under that same diagnostic test, be able to cut polyps off or biopsy a tumor that may be in the colon at the same time for the same cost.” 

Davis says that helping in the fight against cancer is personal for him, as his wife was treated for and diagnosed with colon cancer due to Lynch syndrome 21 years ago. Davis says by cutting the multiple costs down for Medicare patients, more people will be able to receive life-saving treatment and diagnostic tests. 

Additionally, the bill says manufactures of covered drugs that do not have rebate agreements under the program, including average sales price, total units, and wholesale acquisition cost. Manufacturers that fail to comply or report false information are subject to civil penalties. 

The bill was received in the Senate on December 10th and is currently under referral in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

U of I Extension Offers Ways To Upcycle & Recycle Christmas Trees

That dry Christmas tree in the middle of your living room has several uses after the holiday season. The University of Illinois Extension Office has a few ideas for your used tree after Santa has come and gone. Extension Educator, Katie Parker, says there are a number of ways to recycle your tree if your area doesn’t have a pick up program: “If you have like a compost facility nearby that’s a really good option because they can mulch it or compost it. If you have chipper or something yourself, you can do that as well. Any way to reduce causing additional waste.”

Parker says that the pine needles and boughs can be used as ground covering to protect outdoor plants. Parker says the trunk can be chopped up and used for arts and crafts to garden edging. The tree can be placed outside in a stand and be used as a decorative bird feeder during the winter months if you fill it with feeders and food for birds or animals. 

Parker says however it’s not a good idea to use it for firewood in a fireplace: “A lot of times our Christmas trees are full of resin which makes it very flammable, so that is not a good idea to do that like for inside firewood. If you were going to burn it outside, that might be an option, but it can still cause a big fire so just be careful.” 

The City of Jacksonville will have their curbside tree pick-up on Monday, January 4th. The city brush drop off will also be open from 8AM-4:30PM on Monday for those unable to have their tree on the curb by 8AM.

Jacksonville Area Museum Offers Exclusive Membership

The Jacksonville Area Museum is offering exclusive membership for members of the community to get in depth at Jacksonville’s latest upcoming attraction.

Jacksonville Area Museum Board Chairman, David Blanchette, says the purpose of the memberships are twofold: “These memberships get really an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of this new addition to the Jacksonville community. They’re also a way to make sure that we as a museum, which is entirely non-for-profit, can remain open. Those with memberships receive advance viewing of the museum before it opens to the general public, which right now will occur we believe in mid-July of 2021. Members also receive advanced viewing of new and traveling exhibits, the first chance at admission ticketed and special events, and also some members-only programs.” 

Blanchette says there are different tiers of the memberships offered: “The membership levels include $25 for students, $45 individual sustaining, $60 for silver which is a family membership or for couples, gold is $75, and platinum is $100. We also have a business membership category which includes sustaining of $150, silver $250, gold $300, and platinum $500. Now in both the individual and business categories, the gold and platinum members will receive recognition on the museum’s donor wall.” 

Potentially interested parties can go to jacksonvillearemuseum.org and complete an application by clicking on the donate button and then click on the membership form tab. 

The Jacksonville Area Museum, funded entirely with donations and grants, will open in mid-2021 in the old Post Office Building in the 300 block of East State Street. Ir will use original artifacts, storytelling exhibits, and the building itself to show people of all ages and backgrounds why the Jacksonville community has been and continues to be unique. 

The museum will host the prestigious Smithsonian “Voices and Votes” traveling exhibit in the fall of 2021 and is also the repository for the archival collection from MacMurray College, with various pieces from the school’s 180-year history.

United Way Campaign Falls Behind Due to COVID-19

The United Way campaign is taking a huge financial hit this year due to COVID-19. The Prairieland United Way is seeing a dip in their campaign funding because of a lack of in-person events and in-person employees. 

Karen Walker says that due to current mitigations, Prairieland is having to innovate in ways never before to keep up campaign contributions without event and in-person information sessions with employers throughout the area: “Last year we had several events including one of our newest ones which went over very well. The Prices United event which we had hoped to host again this year but with it, our color run, our trivia night, our drive through breakfast, all of those things. We had over, there was over $15,000 that we had generated through those events that we aren’t able to do this year, so that has certainly had an impact on us. Then again, with employee campaigns a lot of what we rely on is not being able to have in-person meetings. You know, we aren’t able to go out and visit the businesses as we would in years past, so we had to. A lot of the businesses are working remotely, so they didn’t even have the access to the employees that they typically would have in a normal campaign year. Certainly, things are different this year.” 

Walker said last week that the campaign was currently at 63% away from their goal of $465,000. Walker says that is slightly down compared to year’s past, but will still be on pace to reach the end of the intended goal. Walker says they hope to receive the majority of the goal’s funding before the end of the previous calendar year. Walker says the employer campaign has actually seen an increase in giving with some business: “So we’ve had some businesses that have actually increased. They have been able to bring in more than they did a year ago which has been fantastic. Really excited to see that, but some of the bigger ones you know unfortunately have just not been able to give the support that they have in years past, and I’m sure there’s a variety of reasons. Certainly understandable. You know times are different for everybody. Those who are working still might be struggling in areas, so we just certainly appreciate any support we get.” 

Walker says there are still several ways to make a donation through multiple outlets of communication either through the internet or postal mail. 

Prairieland has also set up their first pre-allocation informational meeting. There is a meeting for IL 501(c)3 not-for-profit organizations in Morgan, Scott, Cass, and northern Greene counties who are interested in applying for funding. The meeting is set up for Thursday, January 21st at 9AM.

Walker says that the meeting will be held virtually this year: “Once we know how much money we’ll have raised, we’ll start working on how that is going to be given out, so that pre-allocation meeting happens in January. Normally, we meet in-person. This year we know we’re not going to be able to do that or don’t feel like we should do that, so it will be a virtual meeting. We just want to give advance notice to all of our nonprofits in our four county area, so we want to invite any nonprofits that are interested in asking for funds to come and attend that meeting. They just need to send me an email: karen.walker@prairielandunitedway.org, and then I will get that person the agency connected with the information to get into that virtual meeting.” 

The campaign ends on February 28th with allocations to nonprofits beginning in March.

Chicago Democrat Sponsors New House Bill For Members To Meet Remotely

Legislation was introduced last week to allow Illinois lawmakers to conduct business remotely in the event of an emergency. 

11th District Democrat Representative, Ann Williams, of Chicago is sponsoring House Bill 5868 saying it’s imperative the legislation can act even if they can’t  get together physically: “I think most people agree that the legislator meets better, and we’re more effective when we can be face-to-face and in-person in the capital. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. That’s how we want to be, but there’s some situations, like the one we’re facing now, that that is going to be impossible, and during those times, we have to find a way to continue on. Certainly, in March no one ever envisioned that a Pandemic would change our lives as we knew them, but that’s what happened. Now that we know the unthinkable can happen, it’s important to be prepared.”

Earlier this year the Senate adopted rules letting members meet virtually, but a bill letting the House do the same fell one vote short of passage. Williams says she’d like to see this new legislation passed as soon as they are in session.

Illinois College Seeks to Grow Agro-Business Program

The new Agri-business Coordinator at Illinois College says he hopes to take the young program to the next level.

As Illinois College announced on Friday, Professor Jeff Galle is returning to teaching as the Agri-business Coordinator. He is a Cambridge Illinois native who grew up raising grain and livestock with a focus on pigs. 

Galle has a background in both the agriculture and teaching fields. He has both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in agriculture education and served as the founding president of the  livestock consulting firm Global Pork Production Enterprises. He has mostly been focused in the pig production industry during his career. He also served as the director of the agriculture programs at John Wood Community College for 30 years while also teaching in the soy management program until his retirement. After retiring, he continued teaching part time at various colleges. 

Galle began teaching at Illinois College in the Fall 2020 semester as a part-time instructor, but says as he got to know the students and college, he decided to stay: “Just recently that came about after I started teaching on a part-time basis this fall. I was asked to come in and teach an ag marketing class and got to know the students at the college a little bit. The more I got to know about it the more interested I was in a full-time position. They gave me the opportunity to apply, and from that point then, I was selected to serve as coordinator for the Ag Business Management Program.” 

The IC ag program was created in 2017. Galle says he hopes to help develop the relatively new program: “The opportunity to come into a fairly young program and not only be teaching, being a part of it, and helping young people in the classroom, but also be able to be serving in an administrative role. Because it’s reasonably new, hopefully I’ll have an opportunity to help and getting it organized as far as curriculum is concerned. It’s kind of a bonus that makes it complete and whole agriculture program.” 

IC offers the agriculture focused major both online and in person with an internship in the ag field being required. The program is in the final stages of being approved by the State Educator Preparation and Licensure Board.

The BBB is Warning of Scams this Holiday Season

The Better Business Bureau is warning of scams this holiday season. 

With more people shopping online this holiday season, the Better Business Bureau is warning against recent scams to sell hot ticket items such as the Nintendo Switch, the Playstation4 PRO, and the Playstation 5. 

Jessica Tharp, the President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau says these scams are happening due to people wanting better deals on these products: “The reason that’s happening is their high demand products, and they’re finding these products listed on websites, with maybe even a couple of reviews that they can find somehow substantiating in the consumers mind that this company might be legitimate, so people try to buy these products at great prices or value or just even availability.” 

Tharp also warns that these purchases often cannot be contested due to current shipping requirements: “They wind up providing some payment information or personally identifiable information and not receiving the product, instead receiving something else. The reason their getting that is that it prevents them from contesting that they received the product, because there is nothing that substantiates what’s inside the box, just that the seller shipped a product to the consumer. It’s very difficult for people to get any money back.” 

Tharp says the best way to avoid these scams is by doing your research on the company: “It’s really important for people to truly research the seller. You can look up any company in North America at BBB.org for free, and just get yourself some basic information on who are these people, where are they located, how long have they been in business, what is it that they’re offering. Be weary of limited time offers or great values on products. If you can’t find it from a store that you know and trust and this other website has it for a price that’s probably too good to be true, then it’s likely a defective or counterfeit product.” 

The BBB also has received reports that once the order is received the companies are unable to be contacted. They have also found that the websites that offer these deals will often disappear overnight. 

For more information on holiday tips, go to the Better Business Bureau’s official website.

Deer Harvest Dips Throughout West Central Illinois While State Numbers Increase

Overall state deer harvest from the two firearm seasons are up across the state. West Central Illinois deer harvest totals were a mixed group. IDNR Spokesperson Rachel Torbert says the state was just a bit ahead of last year: “We ended up just a little bit ahead of where we were last year, so hunters this year had a preliminary harvest of 76,579 compared with 75,417 last year, so we’re up just about 1,000.” 

In county-by-county comparisons, totals were down in Brown County with 970 taken last year to the 946 taken during this year’s season . Cass was up from last year with a total of 652 compared to last year’s 599. Greene County was also up this year with a total of 1,066 deer harvested compared to last year’s 1,043. Macoupin County was below 2019’s total of 1,557 by 22, down to 1,535. Morgan County was only down slightly from 2019’s total — 632 last year down to 627. Pike County, usually the state’s deer hunting capital, was down this year. Pike harvested 1,929 last year compared to this season’s 1,871. Schuyler County was down slightly from the previous year at 1,282 compared to last year’s total of 1,316. Sangamon County was up to 555, compared to last year’s 524. Scott County was down slightly with 2019’s total of 319 to this year’s 311. 

Despite it’s lowered total this year, Pike was the #6 best place to get a deer. Randolph, Adams, Jackson, Fulton, and Jefferson were the top 5 in that order for deer harvested this year. 26 counties in the state had over 1,000 deer harvested during the firearm seasons. Official numbers will be released for totals across all seasons late in January. Torbert says there are still a few opportunities upcoming for deer hunting: “We still have a muzzleloader only season, and that’s actually this weekend, so if you have muzzleloader tags, this weekends the time to get out. We have our late winter Antler List only deer season and our CWD deer season. Now, the CWD deer season is only in designated counties.” 

For more information on current deer hunting seasons and full totals, visit the Illinois Department of Resource website.