Camp Courage Campers Excited to be Back After Missing Last Year

Despite the heat and humidity Thursday evening, campers of all ages danced the night away as Camp Courage returned to the Western Illinois Youth Camp this week.

Camp Courage is a summer camp for physically handicapped children. It was founded in 1975 by four area families who had handicapped children and could not attend regular summer camps.

The first camp started with eight campers and has grown to a cap of 35 campers. John Hunter with Camp Courage says this is actually the camp’s 45th year as last year’s camp could not be held due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hunter says in spite of the heat, everyone was more than thrilled to be back at camp.

It’s been wonderful to be back. Naturally, all the campers are very excited to be back and see all their friends they haven’t seen for almost two years. So the excitement was very high on Monday and remained high all week so it’s been great.”

On Thursday night everyone enjoyed a concert in the recreation pavilion by the band Harmony Grits while the Zingabad Grotto Bus handed out cotton candy, popcorn, soda, and a lot of sno-cones.

Hunter says they try to vary the activities from day to day and year to year to allow the kids the opportunity to participate in events, they normally do not get to take in.

We’ve had horseback riding, we’ve had a hot air balloon come out in the past. Now this year we had Rodger Russel come out from the Jacksonville Prop Kickers and actually did a little demonstration with one of his model airplanes and the kids really enjoyed that. We went canoeing yesterday, and we go swimming as much as possible, weather permitting and heat.

We have people that come out with their pontoon boats every year and give us a ride around the lake on Wednesday night. John Casey comes out on Tuesday night and does D.J. Service for us. This band that’s here this evening, at least two of the members have been coming out for many many years. The band reorganizes every now and then. So we try to adapt different games and activities for the kids to make where they can do it also.”

On Tuesday night the Safe Co Ice Cream Trolley made an appearance during the evening to help the campers and staff keep cool.

Hunter says the total attendance was down for this year however it was a very successful camp.

With COVID we had some that weren’t allowed out and back in of group homes, and some of our campers have moved away, so we had twenty-three this year, which is not bad after a year off. But we are always looking for new campers and younger campers. We will take anybody from six years of age up to eighteen years of age.

So if you have or know of a handicapped child who is looking for a camp to go to, you can contact me, John Hunter at 473-6363”

Camp Courage is a not-for-profit organization and entertainment and vendors donated their time and products this week to help the kids have a good camp.

For more information on how to participate or to donate to the camp, contact John Hunter at 217-473-6363.

Passavant Making Improvements to Exterior Saftey

Changes are underway at Passavant Area Hospital to make the exterior safer.

Last week saw the start of a project to renovate the exterior of the emergency room entrance at Passavant in an effort to make the approach to the entrance safer and more accessible.

Affiliate Vice President for Passavant Jim Krug says the emergency department parking lot has been in tough shape for some time with heaving and settling of the concrete becoming more of a hazard for falls.

A project is now underway to completely replace the existing concrete to reduce the risk of injury in the lot that sees heavy traffic twenty-four hours a day. Krug says the replacement of the concrete is just a part of the work being undertaken.

We are going to install a much wider wheelchair access ramp with handrails. Today it seems to be a little narrow for two-way traffic to get through there, especially if you have someone with a walker or a wheelchair. So we are going to bring up the standards on that to be a two-way, and it’s also going to have some nice handrails for folks to hang onto as they come in and out of the hospital.”

Krug says the emergency department entrance is remaining open during the work and signage has been posted to direct traffic around the work zones.

He says Passavant has been working with Ameren Illinois in Jacksonville to update lighting both inside and outside of the complex. Krug says visitors to Passavant will see improved lighting throughout all of the parking lots on the campus.

You’ll probably notice, especially as we get the new addition done to the medical office building, we are putting in not only a lot more lampposts but we are replacing those light bulbs that are existing today with LED, so it’s going to look like a landing strip there for a while.

And the thing that we were after was improving the security in that parking lot. We do have cameras throughout the facility especially in the parking lots. As it gets later in the year and is dark at five o’clock we have a lot of colleagues moving in and out of the hospital.

So one of the things that are kind of a side benefit not from the energy savings standpoint, but from the safety standpoint, it gives the security officers a lot more visibility on the cameras to see what’s going on.”

Work also is continuing on the east side of the hospital where a 36,000 square foot expansion of the medical office building is in its final stages. Krug says the project which began approximately 18 months ago is set to be completed in October of this year.

The new expansion will be home to Springfield Clinic who is expanding services to include more family practice and primary care as well as ophthalmology, diabetes, and kidney disease services. The addition also includes a 10-bed medical oncology unit on the second floor.

Be Aware Wellness Fair Postponed

The return of the Be Aware Wellness Fair is going to be a little longer than anticipated.

Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce President Lisa Musch announced today that the annual set for this weekend in Community Park is being postponed due to rain in Saturday morning’s forecast.

Musch says the outdoor event is changing venues and will now be held next Saturday in conjunction with the Back to School Bash on Sunday, August 8th from 2 to 4 pm. in Downtown Jacksonville.

She says the Chamber is pleased to be working with First Christian Church to bring both events together next weekend.

The Be Aware Wellness Fair is a totally free event that includes health and wellness exhibits, health screenings, and information featured by Chamber members, along with backpack, baby supply, and senior care pack prizes.

For more information, contact the Chamber at 217-245-2174.

Pike-Scott Farm Bureau to Host Vaccine Clinic as New Cases Rise in Both Counties

An area Farm Bureau is hosting a vaccination clinic soon as cases rise in its service area.

The Pike-Scott County Farm Bureau has announced a walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinic will be held in their office located at 1301 East Washington Street in Pittsfield on Monday, August 9th.

The clinic will run all day from 8 am to 5 pm and officials say the Pfizer vaccine will be distributed with the second dose being available on August 30th again at the farm bureau office.

The clinic comes as increasing positive cases have been announced in both counties. Scott County Health Department officials say a significant increase in positive cases has been confirmed since Monday of this week, with 16 new and 18 currently active in Scott County.

According to the announcement on the Scott County Health Department Facebook page yesterday, the new cases are the most active confirmed in Scott since early February.

Scott County Health Officials also say “a small percentage of the recent cases have been of those who are fully vaccinated. However, their symptoms have been mild and their symptoms have been present for a shortened period of time.”

Earlier this week, the Pike County Health Department announced 68 new cases of COVID were confirmed last week in the county, along with four COVID-related deaths during that time.

Pike County Health Officials say there are currently 53 active cases with nine Pike County residents hospitalized with the virus.

Vaccinations are also available at the Pike County Health Department. Residents are asked to call for dates and times available at 217-285-4407.

The Pike-Scott County Farm Bureau walk-in clinic is open to all persons age 12 years and older. Again that clinic will be held on Monday, August 9th from 8 am to 5 pm at the Pike-Scott Farm Bureau office in Pittsfield.

Blood Drives Return to Passavant, as Need for Blood Grows in Service Area

Blood Drives are returning to Passavant Area Hospital as available blood supplies continue to give health officials cause for concern.

Impact Life blood centers are returning to hospitals in the Memorial Health System Network, including at Passavant in Jacksonville for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Kirby Winn with Impact Live blood centers says after a surge around July 4th that helped get the blood supply caught back up, projections now are showing that the increased level of blood donations didn’t last long.

We want to have on our shelves, tested ready to go, delivered to hospitals, a five to seven day supply. Well, the way things are going we are looking like a two to three-day supply. So, it doesn’t mean there is a shortage, it doesn’t mean that hospitals don’t have what they need, but we’ve got to have blood drives to really well, and we’ve got to have plenty of people come out in order to avoid being in that shortage kind of situation. Because we don’t want to have those conversations with the hospitals and the people who rely on us to provide for their blood supply.”

Pam Martin, Executive Director of the Passavant Area Hospital Foundation and Volunteers says they are excited to have blood drives returning to the hospital, with the first being held this upcoming Monday. She says she hopes donors will come out in force to help with the need.

It starts at 11 am and runs through 6 pm, so that’s an appointment every ten minutes. So in a day’s time, Impact Life can draw seventy units, and you can see how important that is because for every unit you can help three people. And so that is well over two hundred and ten people who would be assisted through filling all of those appointments for the blood drive.”

Both Martin and Winn say that currently there are no walk-in donations allowed at any of the blood drives in order to space out appointments and allow for social distancing. Blood donors will need to schedule an appointment to give blood.

Martin says, however, the location and procedures at the Passavant Blood drive will look very similar to previous drives.

People will come into the main entrance of the hospital. There will be a health screening for COVID. People will continue to wear their mask, but again the registration is right there in the lobby with the donation stations set up in meeting rooms two and three, just like they have been done in the past.

We certainly appreciate the loyal blood donors that we have in our community, and I’d encourage any person who’s ever considered giving blood to call and make an appointment. We’d love to have you serve our community in this way.”

The Passavant Area Hospital Blood Drive will be held this upcoming Monday, August 2nd from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm at the hospital’s main lobby area.

To schedule an appointment, call 1-800-747-5401, or online via this link:

To learn more about blood donation and to find a location near you, go to

Duckworth Re-Introduces Legislation to Improve School Bus Safety

A U.S. Senator from Illinois is re-introducing legislation aimed at improving school bus safety ahead of students going back to school.

U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth, along with Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee, re-introduced the School Bus Safety Act to help keep students safe, while also helping to prevent accidents involving school buses.

Their legislation would implement safety recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board to make school buses safer by ensuring there are seat belts at every seat and buses are equipped with safety measures like stability control and automatic braking systems.

The bill would also create a grant program to help school districts modify school buses to meet these important safety modifications.

Duckworth says “no parent should have to worry about the safety of their children when they get on a school bus, but school buses often lack seat belts and other basic safety equipment that every parent demands”.

The legislation includes requirements for on-board Event Data Recorders that can record pre and post-crash data, fire suppression systems, and firewalls that prohibit hazardous quantities of gas or flame from passing into the passenger compartment.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 1,207 people have died in school transportation-related crashes between 2009 and 2018, which is an average of 121 people each year.

Crime Stoppers Seeking Anonymous Tips on Recent Jacksonville Shootings

Crime Stoppers is asking for the public’s help to assist the Jacksonville Police Department in their Investigations of multiple shootings that have occurred in the city over the last week.

On Tuesday, July 27 at 9:11 pm, JPD received multiple reports of shots fired. It was determined that there were at least two separate crime scenes. Police later determined during the course of the investigation that the two incidents are related.

No injuries have been reported from either incident but, property has been damaged.

The police are asking that anyone who has information concerning this incident or any other crimes within the three-county area submit an anonymous tip online by going to and clicking the leave a tip button on the home page or by calling Crimestoppers at 243-7300.

Crime Stoppers is reminding the public that all tips are anonymous, and if your tip leads to an arrest you are eligible for a cash payout.

Tips may also be submitted anonymously via the Crime Stoppers of Morgan-Scott mobile app, available for download in Google Play and the App Store, and by texting 274637 (CRIMES). The first word of the text tip must be “payout”.

Scammers Posing as Ameren Reps Using New Tactics

Scammers are expanding the way they are trying to bilk the public out of their money.

Ameren Illinois announced a spike in utility-based scams this week.

Brian Bretsch with Media Relations for Ameren Illinois says the utility company has seen a spike in both reporting of scam calls and victims of the scams.

When we see a spike like that, it is actually customers who take the time after they have received one of these calls to call us at our eight-hundred number, which is 1-800-755-5000 to report it. So just in the last week across our service territory, we have seventy-five who called us.

Unfortunately, five customers were duped, and when I mean duped, they did pay out money, and the total group lost about thirty-one hundred dollars. Unfortunately that, a customer in Springfield lost a total of two thousand dollars.”

Bretsch says scammers are now using smartphone technology to get money from their victims which they can access in a matter of seconds.

They are asking out customers to download a cash app. And they are saying- okay, we will stay on the line, you download that cash app and if you don’t make an immediate payment, then we are going to send someone out and disconnect you right away.

But by downloading the cash app, you are able to, in the case of the Springfield customer who unfortunately transferred two thousand dollars, and within a couple of seconds that two thousand dollars are transferred to the scam artist’s cash app and you are out that money.”

According to a report by WMAY in Springfield, the victims are being asked to download the cash app Zelle to their smartphone or tablet to make the payments.

Bretsch says some scammers still use the now seemingly older tactic of asking their victims to use prepaid gift cards to pay their supposed delinquent accounts. He says Ameren will never contact customers in this way.

What we want our customers to know is that Ameren Illinois is never going to call you to demand immediate payment through a text, a phone call, or an email. We will reach out to you one of those ways to let you know if you are late on your bill, but we are going to give you several opportunities to make that payment.

So again, if you feel like someone is asking you to download a cash app for anything like a utility payment, or any sort of payment, take the time, take a deep breath, and simply hang up the phone.”

Bretsch says to tell the scammer you are in the middle of something and will have to call them back, and they will almost always give you a contact number. He says to hang up the phone, take a deep breath and call the Ameren toll-free number to report the call. The representative can also check the status of your billing cycle.

Ameren Illinois reminds people not to give out a credit card, bank account, social security, or any other information over the phone, through email, or via text, and say customers should pay their bills in the normal manner they pay them.

If you suspect you are being scammed, hang up the phone and call Ameren a 1-800-755-5000.

Elks Lodge Donates to City for Handicapped Accessible Swings

A children’s play area in Jacksonville will soon have more accessibility thanks to a local fraternal organization.

The Jacksonville Elks Lodge No. 682 made a presentation of funds to the Jacksonville City Council Monday night to help expand the playground area at Community Park.

Exalted Ruler of the Elks Lodge in Jacksonville, Doug Sills made the presentation. He says the major state program for Elks Lodges in Illinois is the Children’s Care Corporation which finances funding for supporting families who have children with disabilities.

Sills says the lodge worked with City Parks Supervisor Adam Fletcher to make the big toy area more accessible for handicapped children.

On behalf of the local Elks Lodge and our membership, we made a donation to the City of Jacksonville in the amount of fifteen thousand dollars, and that is to go towards the swing set project in Community Park for handicapped children to make the play toys a little bit more accessible.

It’s a good partnership with the city and Mr. Fletcher. We have worked on this for about three years now and we will be breaking ground on it shortly I do believe.

Sills says the Children’s Care Corporation donated the recumbent swing set at Community Park and continues to support efforts to make the playground accessible to all.

He says since the Jacksonville Elks Lodge was established in 1901, the lodge has been able to donate or generate approximately $4.8 million back to local causes over the 120 year history.

Be Aware Wellness Fair Returns to Community Park Saturday

A free event is being held in Jacksonville this weekend to everyone stay healthy.

The Be Aware Wellness Fair returns to Community Park this Saturday from 8:30 to 10:30 am.

President of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, Lisa Musch says the Chamber is happy to welcome everyone back to the event after being forced to take last year off due to the pandemic.

She says there will be a plethora of free activities at the event that is open to everyone.

It’s going to be held right outside of the Chamber Office in the park. We have over twenty exhibitors coming to give information about, just a lot of knowledge about health and wellness activities, screenings, just great information on how to keep yourself healthy. Activities for children, for adults, free Big Eli Wheel rides, some free snacks, and then lots of prizes. We’ve got baby supply bags, some backpacks, and some senior care bags for our prizes this year so we are pretty excited about that.”

The Be Aware Wellness Fair is free and open to the public. This year, the Be Aware Wellness Fair is being held in conjunction with Prairieland United Way Color Run, which will precede the Fair.

Musch says the event sponsors are thrilled the event is back in 2021. “Our three sponsors for this event have been doing this for a number of years. We have the Mia Ware Foundation, Passavant Area Hospital, and then the Chamber. Our Health and Wellness and Community Agency Division is running this fair and we are excited to be able to host it again this year.”

Attendees to the Be Aware Wellness Fair are asked to please note that the circle drive in front of the Chamber office will be closed for participant safety from 7:30 a.m. to 11:a.m. on Saturday.

The Chamber asks that all cars enter the Park at the Church Street stoplight and proceed toward the Chamber office for parking.

For more information, call the Jacksonville Area Chamber Office at 217-245-2174.