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Vickers saw many improvements to fire and vehicle safety since he first joined the fire department. When Vickers first joined the fire service, the firefighters had to share air masks between the crew. Because of the state of the equipment; there were many fires at which the fire fighters could not enter because of the poisonous gases and heat. “Nowadays we have better equipment where you don’t get hurt from the heat or smoke or gases that could give you cancer later down the road,” Vickers said.
Vickers praised improvements to extrication equipment and changes that the auto industry made to reduce the rate and severity of injuries.” We used to go to so many bad car accidents where you would call in the helicopter and people would be bleeding and have broken femurs and bones out their skin,” Vickers recalled. “Now that the cars are changed, they crumple so the people don’t get hurt.”
“It all evolves. It was good timing where I was at because I could watch it. People say ‘they don’t build them like they used to,’ and I say good because people are standing there and they are fine.”
Vickers was selected to be part of a team of fire fighters that traveled to New Orleans in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. As fire fighters and their equipment made their way south to New Orleans, they became a convoy of over 500 fire trucks to help extinguish the fires that were breaking out throughout the city and to provide backup assistance. Some images of the dead in the streets of New Orleans continue to haunt Vickers.
As a member of the Belvidere fire department, Vickers specialized in automobile extrications and roof ventilations.
“Each and every firefighter has special talents, special traits that can’t be duplicated or taught. Ted was never one to back down from a challenge,” said fire chief Dave Worrell. “Ted specialized in fire investigations and enjoyed teaching extrication. He organized and led many extrication teams for local competitions.”
For nine years, Vickers led a team from the Belvidere Fire Department to compete in the Midwest Regional Extrication Competition in Cherry Valley.
On his last official day as a fire fighter, Vickers spent part of the day in auto extrication training. “I like doing it. I figured might as well go for it,” Vickers said. “If we would have had a house to practice training on, I probably would have picked roof ventilation.”
For every ambulance call, the fire department responds with a truck. Every member of the Belvidere fire department is a paramedic or EMT. At times, the fire department arrives before the ambulance. Vickers delivered five babies during his tenure at the fire department.
He spent the first day of his retirement building a community garden for Christ The Rock, Lutheran church in Rockford. “We just started a garden 50 x 70. We pick tomatoes and green beans. The group gives 80 percent of their bounty to Rockford rescue mission and the rest to the Salvation Army.”
He also volunteers several times each month driving a van from Rockford to the VA hospital in Madison. Vickers sought a way to help veterans after the care that his Korean War veteran father received at the VA Hospital in La Salle.
“They were so nice to him at the VA Home in LaSalle. I spent a lot of time visiting my dad and then he was gone,” Vickers said. “How can I help the Veterans Administration? Then I saw the van.”
For a man who spent his career helping his community, it seems natural that he spends his retirement helping his community.
A retirement party for Ted Vickers will be held July 12 at the Moose Lodge in Belvidere.

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    Edwards & Co ISOFIX / Belt Fix Capsule Base
    The capsule base allows you to connect your Ed & Co Car Seat Capsule to the car safety and securely with one simple click. It secures to your car by using seat belts (where ISOFIX is not fitted) or ISOFIX (refer to your vehicle manual about your car’s ISOFIX system).

    Political Briefs Democrats have candidates for Boone County Board seats
    May 21, 2014 How to secure the base • Using seat belts: Pull the safety belt directly through the belt guides following the instructions provided on the base, then fasten the safety buckle which attaches the base to the vehicle seat. Press the stand release button to adjust the height of the stand tube, ensure that it can touch the floor of the vehicle. Check that the base is firmly attached to the vehicle seat. • Using ISOFIX secure system: Direct the two leading covers into the anchor of the latch system on car. Insert the fixing lock of the ISOFIX system into the leading cover until you hear a click. Repeat it on the other side Meets safety standard ECE R44-03 as approved by Land Transport NZ. (note, doesn't include Ed & Co capsule)
  • Bob Balgemann



    BOONE COUNTY - The Boone County Democratic Party is busy lining up candidates for upcoming vacancies in three county board districts.

    Chairman Mike Guthrie said he's 99 percent sure he has candidates for the two four-year seats in District 2. Republicans currently in that race are incumbent Karl Johnson and newcomer Jeffrey Carlisle.

    So far there is one Democratic candidate for certain in District 3, where two four-year terms have drawn Republican newcomers Sherry Branson and Brad Stark.

    Democrats are hoping to land a running mate in District 1 for incumbent Bill Pysson. Republicans in that competition are newcomers Sherry Giesecke and Raymond Larson. Incumbent Republican Brad Fidder chose not to seek re-election.

    So far there are no Democratic candidates for the two-year seat in county board District 3, which now only has incumbent Republican Kenny Freeman in the running. Nor is there a Democrat candidate for sheriff (Republican newcomer Dave Ernest), county clerk (incumbent Republican Mary Steurer) or county treasurer (incumbent Republican Curt Newport).

    Guthrie said the party would be caucusing soon so it can file the list of candidates by the June 2 deadline.

    Independent candidates are able to circulate petitions now and must file from June 16-23.


    Constitutional changes may be on Nov. ballot


    BOONE COUNTY - Two petition drives that obtained more than the minimum 500,000 signatures may lead to constitutional amendments being placed on the Nov. 4 general election ballot in Illinois.

    One would limit terms in elected state office to eight years.

    The other would require redistricting maps to be drawn by an independent commission, rather than by the political party that happens to be in control of Illinois at that particular time. Boundaries must be redrawn after each census, now conducted every 10 years, to reflect population changes.

    Both are being challenged in the court system, with the main scrutiny focusing on the validity of signatures, according to state Rep. Bob Pritchard, R-Sycamore.

    The term limits drive was led by gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, a Republican. This issue also would change from three-fifths to two-thirds the number of House and Senate votes that would be required to override a governor's veto.

    Further it would reduce the number of state senators from 59 to 41 and the overall General Assembly would decrease from 177 members to 164.

    "Yes for Independent Maps" filed the petitions to take redistricting out of the hands of politicians. The commission

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    Pheasants Forever assists landowners, farmers in creating habititats.
    May 20, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    POPLAR GROVE – Area hunters, landowners, farmers and conservationists gathered at Edwards Conservation Park in Poplar Grove on May 3 to take part in annual seed giveaway program designed to increase food plots and coverage for pheasants and other wildlife. The seed giveaway was sponsored by the Kishwaukee chapter of Pheasants Forever and is held the first Saturday of May each year.
    The Kishwaukee chapter of Pheasants Forever has about 240 members. “Our chapter is truly a conservation and habitat organization,” habitat chairman Jan Noble said. “More time, money and energy is spent on conservation issues and improving habitat than on the sporting side.”
    “I am a charter member back from 1985 when landowners and farmers realized there was a declining pheasant population,” Noble added.
    He remembers from his childhood when pheasants were plentiful throughout the area and wanted to help protect the pheasant population. “We realized that pheasants and all wildlife could be preserved through this,” Noble stated.
    Approximately two dozen farmers and landowners from Boone, McHenry, and Rock counties received 50 to 200 pounds of seed corn, soybean, winter wheat, sorghum, and pasture mixes. Some of the seed recipients wanted to plant food plots while others wished to plant grassy areas for nesting. “It is amazing how much habitat can be held in a 10 food wide fence row. A one acre field can a supply a lot of food for wildlife,” Noble said. “Fence rows with tall grasses left in place leave an ideal area for nesting and cover during severe snow storms.”
    “During the coldest winter months it is amazing how much food value that can be left by landowners if they do not harvest an outside row of crops or to plant a food plot and let it stand through the winter,” Noble added.  The ground cover helps the pheasants stay warm to survive the winter. In addition, in the spring, it helps protect the nests from predators such as coyotes and hawks or other raptors.
    The seed was donated by the DeLong Company in Clinton and Conserv FS in Caledonia. “We try to support local organizations that deal with agriculture and the environment,” Steve Quade, seed manager at the DeLong Company, said.  “Every year we get some seed left over that we have from test plots or other areas. We cannot use it. It works out well for them to use it as habitat for a wildlife plot.”
    “We have a unique situation where our company can benefit an organization like Pheasants Forever. We have a nice synergy with them when we have excess seed,” Quade added. “It is good for the environment and the habitat.”
    The DeLong Company sells wildlife mixes specifically to attract deer, wildlife turkey. The company began to carry the mix based on customer demand as farmers began to create habitats on their land.
    In addition to the seed giveaway, the Kishwaukee Chapter of Pheasants Forever has a Tye no till drill available for landowners to utilize in the planting of food plots and habitat area.
    For further information on Pheasants Forever or the seed giveaway or, contact local habitat chairman Jan Noble (815) 765-2070.

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    Belvidere North honors career-minded students
    May 18, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – Nearly 250 students at Belvidere North High School were invited to the school’s first annual Career and Technical Education Banquet. In addition to being the honorees, the students helped plan and organize the awards ceremony and banquet.
    Students from BPA, DECA, Engine Team, FFA clubs as well as students from career-track courses such as accounting, business, child development, clothing, computer operations, interior design, and teaching were honored.
    “This started as a way for us to work together for all of our career and technical education classes,” Business education teacher Candy Bloome said.  “It was a way to honor students who have taken a series of courses so they can be proud of themselves.”
    “This is a chance to showcase what they’ve done well and we’re proud of them.”
    “It is the biggest student recognition event we have had at Belvidere North High School, and we are really excited about it,” Belvidere North principal Marc Eckmann said.
    “I think it is amazing that we got recognized along with the other students,” FFA chapter president Chelsey Huntington said. “It meant a lot to some of the students that we did get recognized.”
    “We were shocked that we were invited because we have never been involved with anything like this before.”
    “They really are doing some amazing things. We have students in national competitions and they are just doing incredibly awesome things. It is nice to have this opportunity to give them this recognition,” Marjorie Hartfiel assistant director from Career Education Associates of North Central Illinois (CEANCI) said
    Members of the Engine Team were at the awards ceremony in force and wore their team t-shirts. The group brought the trophy that they won at the Race and Performance Expo state competition in late February. The group took first and third place at the state competition. In teams of five members, the students took apart and rebuilt a Chevy 350 V8 engine in 23:11 for the first place team and 29:56 for the third place team.
    FFA members wore their distinctive blue corduroy jackets to the awards night. “We are given opportunity to obtain knowledge through classroom material and compete in career development events,” said Huntington who participates in as many of the FFA career development experiences that she can. “What we learn in the classroom helps with the competitions”
    Huntington added that she feels more confident and outgoing when she is at FFA events and wearing the blue jacket. “We are more upbeat because we know what expectations are for us.”
    “We know that from labor market information that 20 percent of the occupations actually require a bachelor’s degree. There is an 80 percent club that we have to prepare for,” Hartfiel said. “I believe schools are the opportunity to serve the community with the labor force that we need.”
    Students from the school’s food and culinary arts programs spent a week planning and preparing the banquet. “It is a really good feeling that a lot of people enjoyed it,” Josh Gracia said. “It is pretty exciting.”
    Through the planning and execution of such a large banquet, Gracia said that he and his fellow students developed an appreciation for the lunchroom staff who prepare hundreds of meals every day. Although he plans to go to Rock Valley College and UW-Madison to study business, he encouraged other students to consider taking the culinary courses.
    Ashlyi Tucker, a freshman who takes computer application courses at Belvidere North, enjoyed learning
    PowerPoint and Excel this year. “I thought it was pretty cool because I will be working with technology.  It helps you to use the computer and learn what apps you would use,” Tucker said.
    “It is nice to see what we have set forth in our vision for the school district to prepare students for careers and the job market, Belvidere CUSD100 school board member Jason Colson observed. “It is nice to see it come to fruition and see how well they put this together on their own.”
    “I think it is a great opportunity to find people who are already trained to put them in technical fields.”
    “Everyone is in love with it.,” Huntington summed up the students’ sentiments of the Career and Technical Education Banquet. ‘I hope next year we can have more of our students who get recognized through it.”

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    Belvidere joins Rockford students with career expo
    May 15, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – Community and school leaders from Rockford and Belvidere met at the Boone County Community Building to announce a joint initiative to sponsor an Academy Expo at BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford this fall.
    In 2011, a pilot program began at Jefferson High School in Rockford to redesign the school into academies. First year students are enrolled in the freshman academy. Beginning in the students’ sophomore year, they are enrolled in one of four career academies. The career academies are organized around a specific interest.  Electives that sophomores, juniors and seniors take allows the students to earn college credit or career certification and makes them immediately marketable or employable in that area.
    The program was subsequently rolled out to all Rockford high schools.
    Before rolling out the program, the Rockford Public School District surveyed seventh and eighth grade students on their career and workplace knowledge.  From that survey, 75 percent of students indicated that they knew about 100 percent of the available jobs and marketplace.  Subsequent discussion and classroom activities revealed the students’ overconfidence.
    The decision was made to support and engage students and provide them with more experience.  From that, Academy Expos were organized at BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford so that freshman students could learn about career paths and make a more informed decision. The 2013 Academy Expo for Rockford freshmen included 150 employers and 750 community volunteers.
    Area employers staff booths with career professionals who demonstrate what they do, how they got where they are, what they like about their job, what they do not like about their job,” explained Dave Carsons, executive director of college and career readiness at the Rockford Public Schools.
    “It is great to connect their learning in a contextual way,” Rockford Public School superintendent Dr. Ehren Jarrett added.
    Belvidere freshmen will have the opportunity to attend the 2014 Career Expo on Sept. 16.
    “We are focused on a tiered rollout of regional collaborators. We really think this will be better if we can make this a regional endeavor,” Jarrett said. “Employers do not look to hire students from one specific school district. They look to our region for high quality work force. Belvidere is where we wanted to go next.”
    The participation by Belvidere students in Align Rockford and the Academy Expo is in line with a greater vision for the school district. “Our board has challenged us to come up with 5 magnet schools by 2017,” Belvidere Community Unit School District superintendent Michael Houselog said. “One of the things that we are talking about is a career vocational high school. The capstone activity for us would be graduating from high school with certificates for employment.”
    “We see a lot of things on the horizon and we see this as the first step.”
    The specifics of a career vocational high school are still being decided. “We have space in our high school. At the same time, there is manufacturing space in our community because of the downturn in the economy.”
     “Technology and automation have brought about the huge change in the economic marketplace today,” George Mutert, president of Franklin Wire said. “Manufacturing jobs are so much different than what they were 35 years ago.”
    Currently 42 percent of working adults in Illinois hold a 2 or 4 year degree.  “By 2018, the Center on Workforce and Education from Georgetown University estimates that 64 percent of job vacancies will require post-secondary credentials,” Kelly Galluzzo, executive director of Growth Dimensions said.
    The time is ready for the schools and business communities to work together to prepare students for the workplace demands.
    “How can we help? What is it that you need from us?” Mutert asked. “We are very happy to get involved.”

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    Difrent and compleatly happy!
    May 14, 2014
    By Stephanie Hyzer
    Dyslexia… an inherited condition that makes it extremely difficult to read and write and for some to spell. Ever since I was in third grade I have known that I have a form of dyslexia.
    For me reading and spelling are the things that affect me the most. I read at a low reading level for my age, and I am a terrible speller. My journey through school has been very different from most. I have been in special education classes as long as I can remember.
    For most kids when a reading assignment is assigned in class, it is no big deal; they read what was assigned and answer the questions. But for me, it is more like a job than an assignment. I often leave class to find a teacher that can sit down and read the assignment to me. If I were to try and do the assignment on my own, I would probably not even attempt to read it. I would just sit and stare at the words hoping that when it came to answering the questions I would somehow answer them correctly.
    When I read something I don’t comprehend it and, many times, I will read it three or four times to make sure I know what it said. When it comes to writing things, like this article for instance, I write it all down on paper first and then give it to my mom and she will sit down and try to decipher my spelling and type it up for me. She has done this for me my entire school career. My disability is something I don’t talk about because I feel like people are going to judge me.
    If you know me well enough, you know I can’t spell. My close friends have learned to just accept it, but there are a few people in my life that could not accept that I am different and have made fun of me.
    I have been cyber-bullied regarding my spelling on social media. The person that said things did not know about my disability, but I am a prime example of how you should not judge someone when you don’t know what they are dealing with. Up until my junior year, I tried not to let it bother me, but, in this specific case, the thing that bothered me the most was that this person has no clue all the things I have had to go through to get to where I am today.
    For years I have worried about how I am going to get through my whole life with my disability. I have worried about if I would ever find someone to be with that could accept me for me (thankfully I have). What happens when I have kids and they want me to read to them and teach them how to read and write? Even before kids, will I find a job that I am comfortable in that does not overwhelm me?
    All these things are things I have been dealing with for as long as I can remember and will have to deal with for the rest of my life. But at the end of the day, I know this is the way God made me and this is how I am meant to be.
    I have learned to accept it. Can you?

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    Historic Preservation Commission honors achievement
    May 13, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - The Belvidere Historic Preservation Commission has presented its annual achievement awards to property owners who through building renovations have paid tribute to the city's past with an eye on the future.
    In addition, the second Priem Award was handed out while the downtown Boone County Historical Museum was recognized for its recent $1-million-plus expansion.
    Members of the Belvidere Historic Preservation Commission board presented the awards May 8 during a gathering at the museum, 314 S. State St.
    Mayor Mike Chamberlain welcomed those who turned out for the special occasion. Of the award recipients, he said, "Kudos to you for preserving the past for future generations."
    And of the historic preservation commission itself, he said it was tapping people's imaginations when it came to the various restoration projects.
    Renovations to the building at 419 S. State were recognized. Ed Winter's father purchased it in the 1950s during a time when it housed a Walgreen's, complete with a soda foundation.
    Offices on the second floor have been renovated and the building now is being sold to Tom Lewis.
    Attorney Nathan Noble is moving his law office into the building at 504 N. State, which once served as a gas station as evidenced by 25-cent gas tickets that were found. More recently it housed Globetrotter Travel. He was cited for keeping his building in concert with the historic integrity of the neighborhood 
    The project became an instant hit when he said he would accept suggestions from the commission as to the ultimate design.
    A historic, 104-year-old home at 505 N. State is being renovated by Donald and Cheryl Van Abbema. Of improving the 3 bedroom, 2,600-square-foot residence, co-owner Donald Van Abbema said it was the most work and money he'd ever put into a house.
    Saved from demolition
    John Ahrens saved a picturesque three-story house at 809 S. State St. from demolition and now is renovating it. He thanked Ed Marx for providing the opportunity to do the improvements. "Without him it wouldn't have happened," he said.
    The Millie Priem award was given out for the second year after initially going to its namesake, who now is 97 years of age and wasn't able to be at the presentations;. This year's award went to George Williams, who fits the description as one who is dedicated to preservation of the community.
    Interim City-County Planning Director Kathy Miller said he was known for his knowledge of home construction and love for historic preservation. He has lived in Belvidere since 1944, she said, and has a wealth of knowledge about the city.
    Williams was there and said it was "a real honor" to receive the award bearing Millie Priem's name. He said he had worked with her on many committees over the years.
    A plaque with the name of each year's recipient will hang in the museum.
    The Boone County Historic Museum itself was honored for being a focal point of the downtown and for its recently completed expansion, linking the museum with the adjacent research center.
    And the Boone County Journal received the Organizational Recognition award for its weekly series of historic feature stories that run on the front page of the newspaper.

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    Area mothers and their children reflect on motherhood
    May 11, 2014
    By Rhonda Mix
    BELVIDERE - There is a passage in the book “For One More Day,” by Mitch Albom, that reads:
    “But there's a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother's story, because hers is where yours begin.”
    While we may not remember exactly when our first cries rang out and the first pages of our stories were written, our mothers are indeed continually present with us. Whether physically or in spirit, over the course of our entire lives, our mothers are often in some way imprinted on our hearts and personalities.
    Our mothers shape us and we also shape them.
    In honor of Mother's Day, I  recently interviewed a couple of local mothers to see what they had to say about motherhood. I  also interviewed their grown-up children to see what they had to say about how their mothers have helped make them into the people they are today.
    Here's what they shared.
    Phylis and Brad Morelock are Boone County residents who run a dairy farm. They have three children, Chad Morelock, 34; Christa Morelock Morris, 40; and Brian Morelock, 38.
    “I think one really rewarding thing about motherhood has been watching your kids grow up and become their own person – having individuality,” Phylis said. “It has been challenging watching them grow up and biting your tongue, letting them learn their own lessons from their mistakes.”
    But, she added, every moment of motherhood has been memorable and she said she has been lucky to have her children living in such close proximity to her.
    “I couldn't live much better than that,” she said.
    She also shared some words of wisdom for new mothers and mothers-to-be.
    “Watch your children and don't let them just be gone,” she said. “You want them to have family time where they can learn your values. Try to teach them by example.”
    Chad admires the fact his mom has been a hard worker throughout his life and said she has set a great example.
    “You always know where you can find her. She has been a good role model – being a dairy farmer is a big commitment and a lot of work,” he said. “I grew up watching that.”
    His mom's dedication also has had an effect on the way he lives his life.
    “When I was three or four, we'd play ball,” he said. “She was getting me to swing a bat at a ball and would always say 'keep your eye on the ball. Just keep your eye on the ball.'”
    Christa and Brian share their younger brother's sentiments.
    “All moms are special, but there's something extraordinary about mine. She is the hardest working person I know,” said Christa. “Being a farmer is hard work. And raising three children is hard work. But she has managed to do both amazingly without ever falling short for any of us kids …. My mom has taught me to be a fair, open-minded, and selfless person [and] has always put others' needs before hers,” she continued. “That's just what mothers do.  And you can't fully appreciate and understand that sacrifice until you become a mother yourself. Then it all makes sense.”
    “I admire her dedication to her work and her family,” added Brian. “No matter what, she has and will always be there for her family. She is a wonderful mother and grandmother and her children and grandchild love her very much.”
    Boone County resident Debbie Anderson and her two children also shared some thoughts. Debbie Anderson said that one of the most rewarding aspects of motherhood has been having the privilege of watching her two children, Steve Anderson, 35, and Jennifer Anderson, 39, grow into caring people who love God.
    “And also sharing in their happiness together as a family, [with my husband, Nils]  –  it has been a joy,” she said. “There have been some challenges watching them struggle, while being able to have the discernment to step back and let them learn, and to learn not to do everything for them. Part of growing up is having those struggles and learning from them,” she reflected. “As a mom, it is your responsibility to let your children go through the challenges and be there for support. One of the biggest lessons was that I had to accept that it was 'OK'  when things don't go absolutely perfect in your child's life.”
    Her words of advice for new mothers?
    “We will have challenges no matter how old we are. Realize it is part of growing and help your children become the people they are meant to be.”
    Steve and Jennifer have been appreciative of all their mother has done in their lives.
    “She's taught me a lot,” Steve said. “She's kind-hearted and has always been there for me. She taught me to work hard at whatever I do and not give up. She taught me to treat others how I'd want to be treated and to be there for my friends.”
    Jennifer Anderson said she admires Debbie for “living what she believes.”
    “She also possesses qualities anyone would want in a mother,” she said. “She's there no matter what, and loves you no matter what. She supports me in whatever I do and is not afraid to tell me when I'm wrong. She is compassionate, intelligent, has integrity and leads by example. I can't imagine my life without my mom.”
    When it comes to my own mother, I am privileged to have enjoyed and continue to enjoy many happy times with her. Even during the years when we weren't physically present together – when thousands of miles existed between us when I lived on the opposite side of the planet – she was, and always is, with me. I've carried the lessons she taught me as a child, the love she shared and the faith she instilled, through all the chapters in my life story so far. I've been very blessed and I hope I have been a blessing to her as well.
    How has your mother shared in your own story?
    Now may be the perfect time to tell her.
    Happy Mother's Day!

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    Parking lot for food pantry patrons becomes a reality
    May 7, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    CAPRON - Spring finally has returned and with it has come a new parking lot to serve patrons of the Belvidere/Boone County Food Pantry.
    Heavy equipment was at work the morning of Saturday May 3, clearing the land for the anticipated coat of ground-up asphalt. There should be room for 30-40 vehicles.
    Linda Clark, executive director of the pantry, thanked everyone who helped make the project happen.
    N-Track Group in Loves Park provided the equipment that was on the scene Saturday morning.
    Company officials included Brooke Anderson, chief operating officer of the company and Danielle Schlichting, chief administrative officer. Assistance also came from Ronald Schlichting, Gary Wright, Kyle Markhardt and Noah Schlichting.
    In addition, help with the project was provided by Riley View Transport in Marengo, Penny Berschet, owner-operator; Brad Watson & Son Excavation in Capron; Ayre Excavating in Clinton, Wis., Prain Ayre, third-generation owner and driver, Randy Taylor; and Rhodes Ray Excavating & Landscaping in Rockford, drivers Keith and Lora Lee. 
    Having this new place for pantry clients to park while they are across the street getting food and other assistance removes the possibility that their vehicles will be issued a ticket for parking on the streets of Capron.
    "It seems that Capron has an ordinance that states you are not allowed to park on streets that do not have curbs," Clark said. "Even though there are only two blocks in the whole village that have curbs, they (village officials) are standing behind this ordinance.”
    "Giving our clients tickets for parking on the streets when they come to the pantry to get food for themselves and their families just seems a bit above and beyond cruel and unusual punishment. Our clients are going through enough heartaches without being ticketed for parking on the streets of Capron."
    Deadline is given
    The pantry was given until spring to show progress was being made toward construction of the new parking lot.
    Clark said the portion being worked on May 3 represented about three-fourths of the entire project, which has an estimated cost is $65,000-$68,000. The rest will be completed "when we have more money," she said.
    "So we are thanking Woodward Governor and the Boone County Foundation for donating to this parking lot project," she said.
    The food pantry opened in 2005 and does much more than provide food and other assistance to qualified families.
    One of its newest services is supplying the food for community meals that now are being served every Thursday at Poplar Grove United Methodist Church and the third Wednesday of each month at St. John's United Church of Christ in Belvidere.
    Starting in June, the Apostolic Church on Town Hall Road also will be providing a meal once a month.
    The pantry also provides snacks for children in elementary schools in North Boone Community Unit School District 200.
    In addition to weekly food distribution Tuesday mornings at the pantry, 200 Fifth Ave. in Capron, qualified clients are able to choose non-food items such as personal hygiene products, cleaning supplies and vitamins, plus much more.
    Clients may shop for clothing and household items as well as furniture and appliances, which Clark said "go very fast." The pantry also is an established Kibble Korner for those with pets.
    Volunteers are important at the pantry. Last year 203 worked 19,661 hours there. They came from RSVP, the probation department, local schools, churches and scout groups.
    Beyond that, the pantry has five full-time staff and three part-time workers.
    The pantry only receives government assistance from Poplar Grove Township. As of March 2014, the unemployment rate in all of Boone County was 12.3 percent and is the highest unemployment rate in the state of Illinois. In July 2013, the rate was 10.9 percent.
    Reports show more than half of the people served are from Belvidere Township.

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    Candlewick Lake manages geese population with addling program
    May 6, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    POPLAR GROVE – If you ask many people what is their least favorite Canadian import, the answer is likely to be geese.  As the Canadian geese population has increased to excessively large numbers around suburban lakes and ponds, steps have been taken to keep the population in check.
    Candlewick Lake Association has implemented several programs to manage the geese population in the subdivision.  For six weeks every spring, volunteers participate in an addling program. The group also herds geese for humane slaughter. Buffer zones around the lake discourage geese from using the lake. In addition, solar lights have been installed near the beach and marina.
    For 6 consecutive weekends in April and May, 5 to 12 volunteers search for nests and coat the eggs with cooking oil. The oil seals the pores on the eggs and prevents the embryos from developing and hatching. The eggs are left in the nest until the end of the mating season. After that time, the eggs are removed from the nests and buried. If the eggs were removed from the nest too soon, the goose may lay additional eggs.”
    The addling program, in its seventh year at Candlewick Lake subdivision, operates under a permit from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The volunteers keep track of where the nests are located and check on them throughout the mating season and attempt to identify any nests that were missed on previous outings. “The first week there might only be one egg,” Jim Brefeld explained. “She might lay five or six eggs.”
     “You might find broken eggs from around the area where some animal got in and at them. If it is early enough in the season, she might lay more eggs.”
    “Since we started this program since 7 years; decreased 50-75 percent,” Brefeld said.
    Each year the group finds an average of 25 nests. After the first weekend, the group found 50 eggs. The number of eggs in each nest varies from one to seven eggs. Despite the group’s best efforts to identify all nests in the area the group misses a few nests each year. “In the end of May someone will call and say there are 5 babies or 6 babies,” Brefeld said. “You do the best you can.”
    This year, Candlewick Lake will also attempt a herding program under an IDNR permit. “For a certain period of time there is a molting season when the birds cannot fly,” Brefeld said. “What they do is they herd them into a channel with boats and they collect them.”
    The geese are humanely slaughtered and given to the needy.
    Candlewick Lake residents should contact Theresa Balk at (815) 765 2827 x208 to report any nests on their property.

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    RAMP Wheel-a-thon raises money, awareness
    May 4, 2014
     By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – When Boone County RAMP held their ninth annual Wheel-a-thon on April 26, the event was more about raising money to support their mission.
    “The purpose of it is so that able-bodied people can get an experience what it is like to have a disability as they try to navigate through town and see the challenges that people with wheelchairs face,” Kim Johnson, Boone County RAMP manager, said. “We bring in wheelchairs and we encourage our participants who do not currently use a wheelchair to pick a wheelchair and travel through our route.”
    Participants walked a two mile course through Belvidere that began and ended at the Boone County Community Building. Many returned from the course and said that they didn’t realize how difficult it would be to push a wheelchair through the city. Others were surprised by the difficulty they faced crossing streets or pushing the wheelchair up inclines on the sidewalks. “Hopefully it makes them more aware of people with disabilities and the challenges they go through,” Johnson said.
    “It is to show what these barriers are like so working together we can help remove these barriers for equal access.”
    The Boone County State’s Attorney’s office was among the teams that participated in the Wheel-a-thon.
    “We really enjoyed it. The weather was beautiful,” State’s Attorney Michelle Courier said. “It was a great event for a great cause.”“The money earned at the event stays within Boone County to provide services and advocacy here.”
    In addition to promoting accessibility for the disabled, RAMP offers a variety of programs to assist the disabled. “We are more than out there building ramps. We are helping people build their independent life,” Johnson said. “Whatever that means to them.”
    “We serve anyone with a disability no matter what their age or what their disability is,” Johnson said. “We have programs such as independent living skills whether that be finding an apartment and living on their own. I will help them with that. We also have an employment network for people who want to go back to work or even start employment. We also have youth education advocacy where we help parents in school through the IEP special education process.”
    RAMP counselors offers a course called Teens in Transition for Belvidere and Belvidere North High School special education sophomores and juniors. The program helps the students develop a plan as they transition from high school to adulthood.
    “We look at post-secondary education, and help them with resumes, mock interviews. We provide that feedback for them. They find it really helpful,” Johnson said. “We move on to what housing is going to look like for them. We are trying to give them a heads up on these expectations for when they hit adulthood.
    RAMP counselors help their consumers find employment and affordable accessible housing. Matthew Sherman was one of their consumers. Sherman was living at home and had mental health issues. Through RAMP, he was able to find full-time employment at Walgreens. He has since found his own apartment, purchased a car and got married. “He has come a long way. I am very proud of him,” Johnson said. 

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    Health department likes new wording in Plote Quarry permit
    May 4, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - Overall, the Boone County Health Department is pleased with revised wording in documents, relating to a request by Beverly Materials for a five-year extension of the special use permit needed to mine the 220-acre Plote Quarry on Town Hall Road.
    Now officials are waiting to be certain the county board includes the revisions at its May 21 meeting.
    The department has come under scrutiny in some quarry-related issues, and initially was criticized for not paying closer attention to quarterly reports on groundwater tests conducted at three monitoring wells on the 220-acre property. Later, it was revealed that the original agreement attached to the special use permit stated only that those reports were to be sent to the county.
    More recently, accuracy in wording in one of the conditions attached to the special use permit came into question.
    It stated the location of those monitoring wells had been agreed upon with the advice and consent of the health department. But Bill Hatfield, director of environmental health for the department, said that was not correct. And he received concurrence from Dave Zumbrunn, general manager for the petitioner, Beverly Materials. He said Patrick Engineering, hired to take water samples from the monitoring wells, had decided where the original wells should be located.
    So that sentence was removed and now reads that the location of future monitoring wells "shall be established with the advice and consent of the Boone County Health Department."
    That wording was approved by the county zoning board of appeals (ZBA) April 22, when it voted 3-1 to recommend approval of the extension. The county board is expected to consider the recommendation at its May 21 meeting.
    Cynthia Frank, current administrator of the health department, stressed that she wanted the department's responsibilities to be clearly defined when it came to the quarry. "I want to be sure that in 10 years, when this comes up again, that the health department isn't persecuted for not monitoring these wells," she said.
    “The department is not qualified, nor does it have the equipment, to monitor the wells,” she said. Further, the department tests water from residential wells. “Monitoring well tests are far more extensive than those conducted on residential wells,” she said.
    An update on wording in conditions related to the quarry's special use request was provided for the county board of health, which oversees the health department, at its April 28 meeting.
    Hatfield said the department's responsibilities were clarified in the special use conditions. And while that was approved by the ZBA, changes could be made during the upcoming county board meeting.
    The question of how often the monitoring wells would be tested was resolved, he told the board. While there was some talk about tests being conducted twice a year, he said they would continue to be done quarterly, as spelled out in the original agreement.
    Criticism revisited
    Also April 28 board Vice President Jim Cox said he had to "find fault" with statements made during the March 6 meeting of the county health and human services committee. Questions about wording in the Plote special use permit conditions prompted two committee members to say having health department representatives present would have gone a long way toward providing answers.
    "They (health department officials) were told (in February) that they didn't have to be there," Cox said. "Then they were criticized for not being there."
    He directed his comments to District 2 county board member Ron Wait, who also sits on the board of health.
    He added that committee Chairman Paul Larson and county Administrator Ken Terrinoni both said health department officials did not have to be at the March 6 meeting.
    Wait's response was this: "Well, at least we're consistent. There are five members on the committee and we'll have five different opinions."
    County board Chairman Bob Walberg sat in on a few minutes of the board of health meeting, then left after receiving a cell phone call. Cox said he was sorry to see the chairman leave.
    Referring to the criticisms that were leveled at the March 6 HHS committee meeting, he said, "I'm concerned Bob Walberg as (county board) chairman didn't stop it."
    "I think an apology would be appropriate," board of health member Kathleen Taylor said.
    To which Wait replied, "Don't count on that."

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    Young Athletes program brings a school together
    May 1, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    POPLAR GROVE – Students at Poplar Grove Elementary participated in the Young Athletes program for Special Olympics. Competing in the program were pre-k students from Capron Elementary and kindergarten through second grade students. Third and fourth grade students and parents were on hand to cheer on the athletes. Fourth grade students and high school students from North Boone High School volunteered to help with the event.
    The athletes were split into seven teams and included students from each of the lower grade levels as well as special education students.
    “We mixed up the teams so there were different kids on every team so they had to meet new people,” Kelly Lough, special education teacher at Poplar Grove Elementary, said. “They had to expand what they are used to in their class.”
    “Young athletes is a fully inclusive program. It is for students with and without intellectual disabilities,” Jennifer Marcello, director of the Young Athletes Program for Special Olympics of Illinois, said.
    One of the concepts of the program is perfect peer modeling. Direction is given to an older child or a child without an intellectual disability. “You can say ‘Johnny jump with two feet over the bar.’ So Johnny can jump with two feet and be a perfect peer model for his peer with an intellectual disability so he can then follow him,” Marcello explained.
    “I think today went great. It turned out better than I expected,” Lough said. She was impressed with “the way that all of the students came together and helped each other - even the older students helping the pre-schoolers and the kindergarteners helping out my students.”
    “It was nice to see everyone cheering each other out and helping each other out even though they didn’t know each other.”
    Third and fourth grade students filled the bleachers and cheered the younger students as they competed at the various stations. “They made signs. Some of them had pompoms. We tried to make it a fun event for them,” Lough said. “Even though they couldn’t participate in the actual event we wanted them to participate in some way.”
    And they did. Loudly and enthusiastically.
    “We built awareness for special education students,” Lough added. “We had a lot of good helpers with our students and they loved helping our students so that was really great to see.”
    “I think it brings the school as a whole closer together.”

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    More criticism from county irks Boone board of health
    April 30, 2014
     By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - Five members of the Boone County Board of Health, sitting as finance committee, were meeting Thursday April 24 to discuss budgetary and personnel matters.
    But they also took time to express their displeasure over continued criticism from the county - specifically from the health and human services committee (HHS).
    This time the grousing dealt with no one from the county health department being at the March 6 committee meeting. Yet minutes of the meeting showed department representatives had been told the month before that they need not be present at the March 6 session.
    Once again the Plote Quarry issue was the focal point.
    According to the minutes it was HHS committee member Bill Pysson who raised the issue of confusion over whether the county health department had approved the location of three monitoring wells at the Town Hall Road quarry.
    Pysson said had Bill Hatfield, director of environmental of health for the department, been at the March 6 committee meeting Hatfield would have been able to address the misunderstanding.
    There also was a question of whether wells were to be tested quarterly or twice a month.
    Discussion continued, the minutes stated, over frustration of communication on those issues between the city-county planning department, health department and HHS committee.
    County Administrator Ken Terrinoni suggested the health department attend an upcoming county board meeting to address communication issues, and the HHS committee agreed.
    HHS committee member Kenny Freeman again stated, as he did earlier in the meeting, that when there is a topic involving the health department there should be someone in attendance. Other committee members agreed, according to the minutes.
    But committee Chairman Paul Larson reminded that at the last meeting it was stated the health department representatives did not need to be present at the March 6 meeting, as the agenda was focused on several other topics for discussion.
    "They clobbered us for not being there," Cox said of HHS committee members. "Criticized the heck out of us."Hatfield remembered being told in February that neither he nor the health department administrator, Cynthia Frank, needed to be at the March meeting. Monthly HHS committee meeting agendas typically have a slot for the health department to discuss its monthly report and financial matters.
    Board of health and finance committee Kathleen Taylor has been unhappy with continuous criticism from county officials. "It's time we started playing that game, too," she said.
    "We're an ethical group and we don't make up this stuff," said board president and committee chairman Kent Hess, M.D.
    The back and forth between the county and health department began in August, during the county fair.
    The department was criticized for requiring some fair vendors to obtain a $75 food license if they were handing out free, pre-packaged candy and bottled water. Yet health department officials pointed out they were merely following what was mandated in county code.

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    Community leaders celebrate local economic successes
    April 29, 2014
     By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – Over 200 local business and civic leaders gathered at Belvidere High School to attend the Growth Dimensions 35th anniversary and annual meeting. The meeting focused on the past, present and future of economic development in Boone County.
    “Boone County welcomes all kinds of businesses, economic activity. Growth Dimensions has been here for 35 years,” Dick Van Evera, chairman of Growth Dimensions said. “We are here to help. We are here to make Belvidere and Boone County an attractive place to live and a great place to settle and raise kids.”
    Jean Loesch, plant manager at General Mills spoke regarding the company’s history and growth in Belvidere. “We went from a plant with 200 people now over 650. Plans are to bring in another line,” Loesch said. “When General Mills looks at putting in new lines and grow their business, Belvidere has been in the top of that list. The reasons are several. One is great support in the community. Growth Dimensions has been a great part in helping us be very competitive as a company in this area. As well as the support we get whether it is the fire department, the police department, and the Chamber. There are all great relationships there.”
    “And then there are the people. So that’s the culture we call in our plant is one of the best in the company.”
    Executive Director Kelly Galluzzo expressed her appreciation to the private and public partners for their time, energy and dedication that has been the fuel to keeping Growth Dimensions going. Galluzzo continued, “I’ve been around for roughly 10 of the 35 years and over the last decade, I’ve seen businesses expand, locate here and thrive in Boone County. I’ve also witnessed hard economic times hit our community. I’ve seen our community leaders, business leaders, elected officials bravely weather the storm and stay committed to the task of building an even stronger Belvidere-Boone County.”
    “I see our community and the communities that surround us work closer together to take strides in achieving common goals in an effort to build a stronger and true regional picture. With the Rockford Region Economic Development District leading the way, Boone, Winnebago, McHenry and Stephenson counties recently submitted an application for a federal grant, “Investing in Manufacturing Communities Program. If chosen, our counties will receive elevated consideration for federal dollars and assistance to support the implementation of strategies we’re all working on related to advance manufacturing. The financial incentive is the obvious benefit, however we believe our application is an illustration of these 4 counties coming together, identifying assets, common programs underway and the willingness to join hands to leverage resources that would benefit a true collaborative effort”, Galluzzo stated.
    Galluzzo celebrated the recent announcement Amtrak will include Belvidere as a stop on its Rockford to Chicago commuter route. “The recent announcement of Amtrak service returning has been and will be met with a great deal of enthusiasm here in Belvidere. The rail initiative first began her over 10 years ago. I saw much of the time and energy and a lot of blood sweat and tears that went into making that initiative a success. It is pretty promising to see that the vision that many of you had is now becoming a reality.”
    In addition to the expansion of Amtrak, Galluzzo focused on transportation infrastructure initiatives. We continue to work closely with the city of Belvidere, Boone County, Illinois Tollway Authority, Illinois Department of transportation in improving transportation infrastructure in our Boone County area,” Galluzzo said. “The projects that are underway are considered the catalyst for prime economic development in our area. These projects do not only benefit our area but also the communities around us. This activity will support our position to becoming the gateway to the gold corridor.”
    Rod Carey, head coach of the Northern Illinois University was the keynote speaker. He drew parallels of leadership on the field to leadership in business. The room filled with business and community leaders was challenged to develop champions and Carey laid out the game plan used by Northern Illinois Huskie coaches and student athletes to accomplish success in leadership.
    “You win with people,” Carey said. “Successful teams are people driven.”

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    Chrysler Group receives $1.3 million rebate from Nicor
    April 27, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE- Chrysler Group’s Belvidere Assembly plant received a $1.3 million rebate grant from Nicor Gas on April 22 before a ceremony of employees and area leaders. The Chrysler Group participated in the Nicor Gas Energy Efficiency Program. Chrysler Group’s head of assembly operations, Zachary Leroux and Belvidere Plant manager Eric Schimmel accepted the check from Nicor Gas president Beth Reese.
    “We are pleased to recognize Chrysler Group for its commitment to saving energy and money through the Nicor Gas Energy Efficiency Program,” Reese said. “We applaud their efforts, which have earned a $1.3 million return and also are helping to bring our program closer to reaching its energy goals.”
    “The good thing is that they found some really creative ways to do things like how they handle air in the facility how they control the building, the technology,” Hank Linginfelter, executive vice president of AGL said. AGL is the parent company of Nicor Gas. “They used the program that Nicor Gas offered to improve the efficiency of the plant. They saved energy and increased the productivity of what they do here.”
    “Big picture for environmental management we look at water, waste and energy. So this was our energy project,” Michael Keefe, Environmental Specialist from Chrysler said. “Our goal for 2013 was to reduce energy by 9.5% which is a significant amount, especially in a place this large.”
    Chrysler worked with its engineering department and Nicor Gas to develop three large scale projects. The projects were cascade air, installation of 34 variable drive motors, and upgrading hardware and software to control air supply units and exhaust fans. Through the implementation of these projects, Chrysler will save nearly 2.5 million therms annually which is the equivalent of the amount of energy used in 1,000 homes for a year.
    “Cascade Air is a simple concept which is reusing warm air instead of just one pass through and out. As simple as the concept is, the execution is very complex,” Keefe said. “Your duct work, your design work that is on the roof. It is all expensive to do. It was a big project.”
    “Historically they were continuously bringing in new air and letting old air go out,” Linginfelter explained. “Now the system lets them retain old air and recirculate it and not have to use as much heat for the outside air.” Chrysler received a $400,000 rebate from Nicor on this project.
    Chrysler installed 34 variable frequency drive motors on direct gas-fired air handling units. “A simple analogy is your dimmer switch at home you use to get just the amount of light you want depending on the setting. You may want less light at dinner than you want at breakfast so there is an industrial version of that you apply to motors,” Keefe said of the project that resulted in a $323,000 rebate. “Previously it was all on or all off. Well maybe we only needed 60% of that motor speed.”
    “You put that on 34 large, large motor, you use less of the motors. You use less motor to pull less air, you heat less air, and you use less gas.”
    The third project was an energy management system. “It is software that allows us to remotely control the airflow throughout the building. Better pressurization, better scheduling of our heating,” Keefe said. “The little electronic thermostat you can buy for your home, you can turn the heat down when you are at work or on weekends. Imagine that on an industrial scale. You manage your energy better.”
    The energy management system cost $1.3 million to install and upgrade the hardware and software to connect and control 25 air supply units and numerous general and process exhaust fans. Chrysler received a $500,000 incent from Nicor to defray the costs of the project.
    “The savings that have been generated through these projects are truly immeasurable and are representative of the dedication with which the Belvidere workforce tackles any challenge,” Schimmel said.
    “It is exciting from a business standpoint it is a great partnership,” State Senator Dave Syverson said. “You have Chrysler becoming more energy efficient. Because of that they are getting more grants and the result is that it reduces the cost of doing business here in Belvidere. That is crucial when you are trying to stay competitive in a national and international market.”
    “I believe Nicor has done a really good job in working with Chrysler for making this as efficient as it can be,” Linginfelter added.
    “One thing that I think is very important, any time a plant like this can do a number of things like save energy, help the environment but also save money, it is very good for employment at a place like Belvidere and Rockford. It really helps the economy and makes this place competitive with other manufacturers so it is really good for the region as well.”
    “It is a wonderful example for everybody. Individually we all make a small contribution,” Boone County Board president Bob Walberg said of the announcement that was made on Earth Day. “When you add up all our small contributions, we can have a super effect.”“It is not a matter of just taking care of it to preserve it (the environment), but there is a financial benefit as well.”

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    Group opens door for Alzheimer's support
    April 24, 2014
    By Rhonda Mix
    BELVIDERE - Memory loss can happen to anyone.
    And when it comes to dealing with and facing Alzheimer's disease, many people struggle to find the answers and support they need. According to the Alzheimer's Association website, an estimated 5.2 million Americans currently have Alzheimer's disease, including 200,000 individuals under the age of 65. In Boone County, there are a number of people dealing with this tragic illness as well as other memory-related illnesses.
    A group of organizations dubbed “Memory Cafes” have formed in recent years to support individuals and families facing down Alzheimer's. The Memory Cafe' is a national project wherein trained volunteers and professional mental health team members meet with any member of the public who feels that he or she or a friend or family member may have a memory problem, is dealing with dementia or struggling with Alzheimer's.
    The Boone County Council on Aging, in partnership with Northwoods Care Center/Maplewood Care Center, Rockford University, the Greater Illinois Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association and Dr. Malgorzata Bach, M.D., of the Memory Clinic at Rockford Health System, have come together to form a Memory Cafe' group in Belvidere.
    Boone County Council on Aging Executive Director Joe Fortmann, one of four leaders of the Belvidere Memory Cafe' group, said there are a number of health issues rising with the “baby boom” generation; especially early onset dementia and Alzheimer's.
    “In the next 10 years, one out of every 11 men and one out of every eight women will experience memory loss,” he said, explaining why he felt it was necessary to organize a Memory Cafe' group in Belvidere.
    The goal of the Memory Cafe' is to create a relaxed environment in which people can share their stories while gaining education and understanding about memory loss.
    Fortmann said the first session began in October of 2013 and, on average, between nine and 15 people have attended the monthly meetings.
    The April 15 meeting brought in 16 people.
    Leading the group were Richard Apple of the Alzheimer's Association; Elaine Sharpe, a professor at Rockford University; and Fortmann.
    Apple led the main discussion, which focused on the subject of “resilience” and how people can move forward when dealing with Alzheimer's disease. He discussed the importance of making connections with those battling the disease, as well as techniques family members can use to help a loved one with memory loss. He also shared ideas for how family members can make peace of the situation, discussed stigmas about Alzheimer's and ways people can help the community can gain better understanding.
    Several attendees participated in the group discussion and offered advice to their peers.
    One Belvidere resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said she is grateful for the support group. Her mother has been suffering with Alzheimer's for several years and she said the pressure has been difficult on her family. She said she attends meetings so she can better understand how to help her mother, as well as to provide advice for her father, who has struggled with the situation.
    “A lot of people have Alzheimer's and we have to learn how to deal with it,” she said. “I've learned through this group that [it's important to do things with people suffering with the disease] and keep them busy. I enjoy coming here and hearing everybody's stories.”
    Attendees clearly demonstrated the fact that memory loss not only affects people individually – it sometimes poses dramatic and emotional challenges to relationships.
    “Alzheimer's doesn't just happen to individuals, it happens to caregivers as well,” Fortmann said. “Memory Cafe' is a way for everyone to come and talk about these things. This starts a cascade of opportunity for people to find systems and support ….We hope it will provide a set of doorways for people to find information, diagnoses and assistance with caregiving,” he continued.
    “There is also a lot of stigma about Alzheimer's disease and memory loss. We are trying to get rid of that and get people to talk about it in a supportive environment.”
    The Memory Cafe' group meets at 6 p.m. the third Tuesday of every month, at the Steam Plant Restaurant, 123 Meadow St., Belvidere.
    People are welcome to drop-in, registration is not required.
    For information, call the Boone County Council on Aging at (815) 544-9893.

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    Spreading the love of reading, one book at a time
    April 23, 2014
    By Rhonda Mix
    BELVIDERE - When Belvidere resident Meg Hodge lost her son Andy, 22, to a brain tumor in 2006, she said she wanted to do something to honor his memory.
    Even as a toddler Andy had been an avid reader and had always had a book in tow.
    Remembering her son's love of reading, Hodge created a simple book drive that would help children of all ages in under-served areas have access to books.
    In 2007, she started the drive, and in 2008, she said she started the nonprofit organization Andy's Books for Kids …
    Sounds like a plan! with the help of an Illinois Business Consultants program at the University of Illinois.
    Andy's Books for Kids … Sounds Like a Plan! was born on Aug. 25, 2008, Andy's birthday.
    In 2011, the organization was granted 501(c) status from the United States federal government, designating it as a tax exempt charitable organization.
    Andy's Books raises funds to purchase new children's books as well as arranges drives and projects for the donation of books. The books purchased or donated are distributed to elementary and high school school libraries, pre-K programs, after-school programs, homeless shelters and other community programs.
    Just providing a child with a book gives him the unique opportunity to be lifted out of his ordinary circumstances and vaulted into whatever exciting, fascinating, illuminating or scary situation the words of the author has conjured up, without ever having to leave the confines of his chair. The goal of Andy's Books for Kids is to provide access to books to those children who, without that access, might never have the opportunity to experience the pastime that Andy so loved,” Hodge wrote on her website.
    Andy's Books has worked on a number of donation projects with schools throughout the area as well as with groups such as the Community Cupboard Food Pantry, where Hodge began handing out books to area children in October 2013. She said she tries to be at the food pantry every Thursday between the hours of 2 and 4 p.m. Children who come through the pantry are welcome to pick out three books during a visit. Hodge said she has enjoyed watching them receive the books.
    “Particularly, the little ones,” she said. “They get so excited and as they are walking along tagging after their families, they start reading. Some of them squeal. It's pretty much the excitement and it's very encouraging to see the kids reading.”
    Shannon Hanson, director of the pantry, is appreciative of all Hodge has done.
    “[Hodge] has been there passing multiple books to any child who passes through the food pantry,” she said. “She has been a great asset. Really encourages reading and families.”
    On average, Hodge distributes between 50 and 75 books per month. The titles and physical condition of the books are mostly new, though she said she has given out used books in fantastic condition.
    Andy's Books for Kids … Sounds Like A Plan! is made possible through both monetary and book donations. While used books in prime condition are welcomed, Hodge said with all the program's projects she tries to give out newer books that are relevant to what children want to read.
    “I want to make sure the books are attractive to kids and make them want to read,” she said. “If you present kids with books that are new and trendy, they are more likely to take them and read them.”
    Though the program was initially created in memory of Andy, Hodge said now her main goals are to stress the importance of reading and to allow reading material to be accessible to all children.
    “Reading is important educationally. Not only does it help develop vocabulary, but it also helps children learn about things and opens up the rest of the world to them. This is good for children who may not have had the opportunity to travel. Reading also can be a good way for children to share with each other.”
    For more information or to donate, visit

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    Resident asks Poplar Grove to adopt renter's ordinance
    April 22, 2014
     By Bob Balgemann
    POPLAR GROVE - Resident Melissa Johnson doesn't like what's happening in her neighborhood. So she has asked the village to adopt a renter's ordinance that in part would require annual inspections of the premises.
    Specifically, she told the village board on Monday April 14 that a single-family home in her subdivision has been turned into a four-unit apartment building. She said she thought that was bad for the community and for her family.
    Police have been called there, she said, and there was an ambulance there last weekend.
    The city of Rockford created a rental registry in 2013, she said. Such a registry has been discussed by the Belvidere City Council, but never went anywhere.
    Johnson said she would like to see accountability for landlords.
    Village Building Official Phil Long said he was looking into Johnson's concerns. But so far, he said, "We have not proven there is more than one family living there. The homeowner said only relatives are living there."
    He said neighbors have reported seeing multiple cars at that address. Yet when he has visited the neighborhood and "the most cars I've seen at that house is four."
    "No way," Johnson interjected.
    "That is correct," Long responded.
    "No way," Johnson insisted. 
    She said some neighbors were willing to come forward and provide information. But out of concern for possible reprisals, she added they didn't want their names to become public.
    "We can't do that," Long said of pursuing anonymous complaints.
    Village Trustee Ron Quimby said other communities are enforcing the kinds of rules Johnson was looking for. "We need to find out how they do this," he said.
    Village President John Neitzel suggested the issue be taken up by the administration committee, of which Quimby is chairman.
    But Long said that issue was brought to the administration committee one year ago. He said at that time he had not been able to prove more than one family was living in the house. "That's still the case," he said.
    Pacemaker plans to open restaurant POPLAR GROVE - Pacemaker Fine Foods is planning to open a restaurant in its store at the Countryside Mall.
    The village board voted 6-0 April 14 to approve an A/C liquor license so alcohol may be sold in both the store and in the restaurant.
    Co-owner Tony Dal Pra said the next step would be to design the restaurant space, which will replace Cuppa Joe's. "Then we will meet with the village to be sure the design meets with their approval," he said.
    The restaurant will be in an enclosed area, separate from the grocery store yet accessible from that part of the building. A relaxed atmosphere is envisioned; the cuisine and name have yet to be decided.
    "The village has been supportive," Dal Pra said. "They recognize the store as an important part of the growth of the community."
    Ninety-five percent of the store's employees are from Poplar Grove and immediate vicinity.
    While the Belvidere store is being remodeled, he said there are no current plans to operate a restaurant from that location.

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    A memory from the 1967 Belvidere tornado
    April 20, 2014
     By Pam Mason Skelnick
    Guest contributor
    I was 13, a freshman, and I was leaving the school to walk home with my best friend Marsha Schimenz and we had just reached the top of the horseshoe in the front of the building when Bob Popp yelled "It's a tornado, a tornado is coming".
    Marsha and I looked up and this enormous funnel cloud that filled the sky must have been over the Chrysler plant and we turned to run back to the school and the wind started to blow real hard. Marsha and I got to front door and ran into the foyer holding hands and by the time we got to the locker bays the wind was so fierce it blew our hands apart and we both went our separate ways to try and get to the sunken library.
    We both made it but by then the tornado had swept through and was dying down. We were told the stay in the library and wait for someone to come and get us, a family member. We were dumb founded but stayed there and watched as the 'jocks' and others helped carry people to safely and to the gym which doubled as the morgue.
    One by one our friends were picked up by their moms, dads, aunts, uncles. Marsha's dad and uncle came to pick her up and said they went by my parents’ house on the way to the school and it was fine. They were sparing my emotions because the house was destroyed. We lived about a block east of Highland Hospital.
    I waited and waited for my name to be called and it was late when I heard someone call my name. I looked up and saw my dad. When he saw me he sank to his knees in the library and I went running to him and we hung on to each other for dear life, tears streaming down our faces. He had run from Logan Avenue up to the school and said he saw a sparking electric cable in a puddle of water right below his foot as the lunged to take another step and in mid-step he thought he was a goner. He stepped right on the wire and kept on going. God worked in strange ways that day.
    I was uninjured but as we left the building together we saw my brother’s future wife, Sandy Cameron sitting in the well of one of the classrooms bleeding and in shock. We asked her if she was ok and she said yes and we should go on. Dad and I left the school and at my first vision of the devastation.
    I get weak-kneed and dad held me up. I think it wasn't so much the shock of the wreckage but the realization that this horrible monster had swept through and I was spared from any injury.
    It was a time of courage for all of us and I will never forget it.

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    Still finding solace after the storm
    April 20, 2014
    By Rhonda Mix
    BELVIDERE - On April 21, 1967, Mother Nature rained her fury down on Belvidere.
    An F4 tornado – a storm with a violent rating on the Fujita scale – spun down in late afternoon, cutting a 10-mile swath of destruction through a number of commercial, manufacturing, residential and school areas.
    Twenty-four people were killed in Belvidere, including 17 children. Thirteen of these children were killed at Belvidere High School. The tornado caused one of the highest tornado-related death tolls in a single school building. Hundreds of people also were injured and many homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed.
    Tornadoes of such epic proportions have not been uncommon in recent years.
    The Nov. 17, 2013 tornado, which severely impacted Washington, Illinois, was the deadliest and most violent tornado outbreak on record for the month of November.
    Proactive measures have been put in place throughout Belvidere to help ensure people are well-prepared for future natural disasters.
    “We remind ourselves that it did happen and it can happen here,” Todd Martens, principal of Belvidere High School, said. “Caledonia was hit by a tornado in the last recent 10 years. And it reminded us how each day is not to be taken for granted. Not to live in fear, but to be prepared as best we can. Our students take it seriously,” he continued. “In my tenure as principal, we have had a couple of incidents where we shelter, and things like that. It is something you have to be prepared for every minute of every day and hopefully it never happens. But if it does, we can persevere through it and come out the other end with minimal loss.”
    Patrick Murphy, supervisor of Belvidere Township, also attested to the fact Belvidere has been diligent in its safety measures.
    “I'm proud to say that Belvidere is covered completely,” he said.
    Tornado sirens have been installed throughout the city and emergency-awareness teams meet regularly to ensure that the community is well-prepared for potentially catastrophic events.
    “Going through these things teach us that we are vulnerable,” Murphy said. “Regardless of how sophisticated we may feel we are, how wealthy, et cetera. It can all change in a heartbeat. In literally seconds your life can be turned around. Money doesn't matter. The fact that Mother nature can change things is so humbling.”
    Michael Houselog, School District 100 superintendent, added that schools throughout the area are also well-prepared in case of future tornadoes or other disastrous events.
    As the anniversary of the 1967 tornado approaches, many of Belvidere's residents may recall with great clarity the day when one of the worst tornadoes in the state's history wreaked havoc on their lives.
    And yet, as the story often goes when the storms of life let loose, there are valuable lessons to be learned after the wreckage is swept away.
    Wisconsin resident Sandy Pease, a survivor of the 1967 tornado, is one person who has taken something valuable away from the experience. Tragically, she lost her brother in the tornado, but said that over the years the incident has helped her look at life differently.
    Pease was a senior at Belvidere High School in 1967. She was on a bus in the school parking lot when the tornado passed through.
    “The bus flew up in the air. I thought I was going to die,” she said.
    Eventually the students were able to evacuate the bus and they were ordered to line up in the gym.
    At that point, Pease said she had no idea of the extent of damage the tornado had caused. She did see several students covered in blood, gravel and mud. She tried looking for her brother, Theodore Nelson, who was a sophomore. She walked away with surface cuts, but as she learned later that evening, her brother had been killed.
    Pease said she struggled with the incident for several years. In 1967, schools didn't have counseling sessions or memorials for the dead like they do now, she said.
    “In a week we went back to school, like nothing had happened,” she said. “It impacts you for a long time.”
    Pease said she is happy there are now counselors in place for children who survive such disastrous events and she reiterated the fact that the experience made her think much more about the important things in life.
    “It can change in an instant,” she said. “Appreciate what is there when you have it. And I'm grateful to have such a strong faith – I knew my brother was in a better place.
    “You need to take time to grieve and process these things, but they do make you stronger and give you a more positive outlook on life,” she continued. “They teach you not to be wrapped up in the small irritations.”
    For more information about the tornado of 1967, visit the Boone County Historical Museum.
    An online memorial and photos can be found on Facebook on the page Remembering the 1967 Belvidere Tornado. 

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    Shambo prepares to begin Eagle Scout project
    April 17, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    GARDEN PRAIRIE – When Jesse Shambo decided to work on his Eagle Scout project, the Garden Prairie native did not have to look very far for inspiration. Shambo chose the neighboring park.
    “My Eagle project is to install a safety surface at the park,” Shambo explained of the second phase of his Eagle Scout project. The safety surface will consist of eight inches of state-approved playground mulch.
    “It is my community. Boy Scouts are supposed to help their community,” Shambo said of the reason why he chose the project.
    “It’s history,” he added. The Garden Prairie park was once the site of a one or two room school house that closed 60 years ago. The park also was the site of the town’s library and host of a Triple A league softball team. The Garden Prairie Improvement Association is in its 60th year of maintaining the park.
    The member of Boy Scout Troop 141 is in the initial stages of fundraising. At the recent Easter Egg Hunt at the Garden Prairie Park, Susie Silberhorn introduced Shambo to the crowd and encouraged residents to donate to Shambo’s project. “Right now I am trying to get donations from the church. We are throwing around ideas for fundraisers,” Shambo stated.
    In 2013, he installed a flag pole that was donated for the memory of Doug Silberhorn. Shambo and his fellow Boy Scouts held the flag raising dedication ceremony at the GPIA August chicken broast fundraiser at the Garden Prairie park on Aug. 25, 2013.
    Much of the work to dig the foundation for the playground mulch will be done by fellow Boy Scouts. Typically, Boy Scouts perform their community service hours by assisting in others’ Eagle Scout projects. The Eagle Scout candidate serves as a project manager to raise funds and manage supplies and resources. “I learned that organization is really a big part of it keeping track of all the paperwork.”
    Shambo said. “When you are in a Boy Scout troop, you always get a lot of help with your project.”Shambo is a junior at Belvidere High School and a graduate of the recently closed Kishwaukee Elementary School. He is on the Bucs’ football and track teams.
    Shambo estimates that the project will cost $2,000. To donate to Shambo’s project, checks can be made payable to the Garden Prairie Improvement Association. For additional details, contact GPIA treasurer Julie Pilgrim at at (815) 543-5714 or via e-mail at

  • summerfield Zoo photo 2.JPG
    New babies herald another new year at Summerfield Zoo
    April 17, 2014
     By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - Spring usually means a raft of new babies as the folks at Summerfield Zoo and Farm get ready for another new year.
    The first-ever baby reindeer, born on April 8, commanded a lot of attention around the 3088 Flora Ave. complex as owners Rick and Tammy Anderson prepared to reopen April 26-27.
    Born to Angel and Donner (remember, some of them are Santa's reindeer) the youngster, already getting around on its own, had not been named as of April 10.
    A baby wallabee was seen peeking out from the security of its mother's pouch. There are new goats and bunnies, with more reindeer on the way and baby arctic wolves expected to be born in May.
    Rick Anderson used one word to describe the recently concluded winter: "Tough." Some days, he said, all they did was move snow around. It was piled over six-foot-tall fences on the property. Bitterly cold kept some of the animals from leaving the confines of their indoor accommidations.
    On the other hand he said, "The reindeer, arctic wolves and arctic foxes loved it."
    "We're running behind because of the winter; we have a lot of spring cleaning yet to do," he said. "We're hoping to have a new porcupine habitat open before the end of the month. And we're rehabbing the coatimundi enclosure, plus an addition to the wolf compound."
    Wolf habitat a goal
    But the Andersons' dream continues to be a two-to-three-acre wolf habitat complete with ponds, rocks and trees. "It's getting there," Rick Anderson said of the major project.
    Summerfield Zoo opened to the public about eight years ago though the animals, both the exotics and farmland varieties, were on the property before that.
    A place with everything from an alligator to a zebra, the zoo is a rescue mission of sorts, being home to surplus animals from larger zoos.
    The farm portion is home to the Arabian stallion Georgio AF, many of his successful babies and brookmares.
    A board of directors oversees the operation and, among other things, has a say in what kinds of events are held every year.
    The Wild West Weekend is a well attended event, usually held in June and providing a glimpse of life in another time. The gathering has included a mountain man of the 1830s, complete with a tee-pee.
    Winter Wonderland, starring the reindeer, is another popular gathering.
    After the reopening the zoo will be open weekends from April 27 through September. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays.
    Starting May 28, and continuing until Aug. 29, it will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
    Daily admission is $8 for adults, $6 for senior citizens and $5 for kids. Season passes also are available.
    Animal encounters are at 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m. Saturdays; noon and 2 p.m. Sundays; and at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
    Additional activities include pony rides, bottles for feeding baby goats and a petting zoo. Prancer's Gift Shop and Carmen's Cafe also are on the grounds.
    The Pearl Street bridge over Interstate 90 is closed. An alternate route is taking Appleton Road (it changes to Stone Quarry Road at the Chrysler plant) south about three miles from the plant to Bates Road, left on Bates to Flora Road and then another left for a short distance to the zoo, which is on the left. Phone number is (815) 547-4852.

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    Fire District 3 serves breakfast, unveils new ambulance
    April 16, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    POPLAR GROVE - The North Boone Fire District 3 station was a busy place Sunday morning and into the early afternoon.
    The firefighters association put on its annual fund-raising pancake breakfast while in the adjacent parking gagage, the district's new ambulance was waiting for inspection by the public.
    An investment of more than $200,000, this advanced life support rig has state-of-the-art equipment needed to help stabilize a person from the scene of an emergency to the hospital.
    Equipping the inside of the ambulance alone cost more than $60,000.
    It's going to be a while before the ambulance is on the road.
    Some finishing touches need to be applied and the district has to get the necessary licensing from OSF St. Anthony Hospital. The ambulance will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with a yet-to-be-secured staff of paramedics and emergency medical technicians.
    Personnel for the all-volunteer operation will be on call.
    Concerning the possibility of later having staff on-site Ray Morse, president of the District 3 Board of Trustees, said, "If it's necessary, it will happen."
    Once the ambulance is ready the Boone County 911 Dispatch Center in Belvidere will be notified. "We will be put on the tree for calls," he said. "We will respond when needed."
    District 3's role, he said, will continue to be backup, as needed.
    Jake Schoepski, district board member and treasurer, said the service would not include transfers. "That would tie up the personnel too long," he said.
    Community service
    Tickets for the breakfast were conveniently sold at a table adjacent to where the ambulance was parked. "There has been a lot of interest in it," Morse said.
    The firemen's association will use the proceeds for scholarships, which are awarded annually to seniors at North Boone and Belvidere North high schools. Money also goes for equipment and recently was used on a security system for the station.
    The addition of the Fire District 3 ambulance will bring to four the number of rigs serving 144 square miles in northern Boone County. The villages of Capron, Caledonia, Poplar Grove and Timberlane are part of the district, as is unincorporated Candlewick Lake.Three other ambulances are part of Capron Rescue Squad (CRS), which has been serving the area since 1957. Property owners in the ambulance district are taxed to help meet the cost of providing that service.
    The addition of the Fire District 3 ambulance will not bring any increase in taxes, officials have said.
    CRS currently has ambulances stationed in downtown Capron and on the west side of Poplar Grove Road, just south of Quail Trap Road. A third station is proposed to be built off Caledonia Road, on the south side of Candlewick Lake.
    The CRS board voted last year to change the name from Capron Rescue Squad to North Boone EMS. North Boone Fire District 3 asked them to come up with a different name, to avoid confusion in the community.
    Owen Costanza, president of the CRS Board of Trustees, said April 12 that the name change is on hold. That will continue "as long as they (District 3) do what they said they will do, and that is to serve as a back-up."

  • jack wolf 50 years photo.jpg
    Jack Wolf celebrates 50 years in business
    April 15, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – Jack Wolf was surprised with a recent reception to honor his 50 years in business as a General Motors dealer. Established in 1963, Jack Wolf Pontiac-Cadillac-GMC opened its doors on State Street in downtown Belvidere. The 12-acre Jack Wolf Auto Group dealerships sell Cadillac, GMC, Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Ram vehicles.
    "It's a wonderful thing to be recognized, but I certainly could not do it alone. It has taken a wonderful family and tremendous people working with us to accomplish all we have. I'm very thankful for everyone's hard work and commitment to our customers," Wolf said.
    “Obviously 50 years to be in business is remarkable,” Ron Meier, zone manager for Cadillac and GMC Chicago Rockford Milwaukee Madison, said. “It is rare for a family business to be in existence for that long in one location.”
    “When I got in business there were eight franchises in Belvidere,” Wolf said. “Throughout the years, the franchise dealers supplied almost 60% of the sales tax in Boone County.”
    Wolf was brought up in the automobile industry as his father CJ “Doc” Wolf started the Chevrolet dealership in 1924.
    “I started my first dealership in Genoa and sold that, and I came down here,” Wolf said. “I worked for my dad for all these years and then this dealership became available and I decided I wanted to branch off from old Chevrolet. We’ve been very competitive all these years.”
    Wolf’s first dealership had an inventory of three cars and he had three employees. The size of Jack Wolf Auto Group has grown significantly in the intervening years. “When I look at all of these people I think there are a lot of them,” Wolf added.
    Born and raised in Belvidere, Wolf is committed to the Belvidere community. “When we were in high school, they said we couldn’t be prouder than to be from Belvidere,” Wolf said. “And it stayed with us all our lives. Nice community. We do our best to advance it.”
    “I am very proud of Belvidere.”
    When asked what was his best day in business, Wolf did not cite the expansion of the Jeep dealership on their campus, nor being in business with his brother Bill, nor the day his daughter Amy Wilcox joined Jack Wolf Auto Group over 20 years ago.
    Instead he focused on the Belvidere community. “I suppose my best day was the day we opened the YMCA. Bob Funderburg and myself were on a committee and we raised that building,” he said proudly. “It was paid for.”
    Wolf and his wife Peggy have been strong supporters of the Keenage Center and the Boone County Historical Society. “Jack Wolf, has been, and continues to be a strong supporter of the Boone County Council on Aging. Since the very beginning, in the early ‘70s, both Jack and Peggy Wolf have been a cornerstone in the Council on Aging and the Keenage Center. They had the vision to see the community need and to support it,” Joe Fortmann, executive director at the Boone County Council on Aging said. “Jack has given a substantial gift. We are grateful!”
    Last year the Keenage Center drew more than 31,000 visitors.
    “His involvement means the world to the museum,” Mary Hale, director at the Boone County Museum added.
    A contributor to the Boone County Museum with his time and donations, Wolf recently contributed one of its most important items to its collection. Wolf visited the museum to participate in the Memory Project. Long-time residents of the community share their recollections and histories on video.
    Wolf has been married to his wife Peggy for 53 years. “We got married in 61 and have four kids,” Wolf said. “We have seven or eight grandchildren. I lose count.”
    “We like to be part of the community,” Wolf said. “It means a lot to us. We are glad to be here.”

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    April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month
    April 15, 2014
     BELVIDERE - Join Boone County CASA’s commitment to helping victims of child abuse and neglect heal, and making sure all children feel safe and loved.
    “We are very much in need of volunteer advocates. In 2013, we served 86 children including 22 new cases throughout the year,” Boone County CASA executive director Charlotte Meier said. “We have already received 18 new child cases in 2014, which is well above the average from last year.”
    Anytime a child is abused or neglected, it’s a tragedy – one that all too often scars victims for a lifetime. The latest statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are sobering:
    Child Protective Services agencies across the United States received some 3.4 million referrals of abuse or neglect involving 6.3 million children in 2012.
    An estimated 1,640 children died from child abuse or neglect in 2012, nearly three-quarters of them younger than age 3.
    “Research shows that abused children are more apt to grow up to abuse their own kids,” Meier said. “Research also shows that children with CASA volunteers get more help in the juvenile court system and more necessary services are ordered for the children.”
    “Many of the children that we serve have lived in various foster homes, transferred schools or daycares, and moved to different neighborhoods and even different cities. Our advocates are often times the only consistent person in these children’s lives,” Meier said. “Our CASA volunteers can be a strong, safe presence in their lives while these changes are happening. The CASA then represents the children in the court system so their voice is not lost. “
    “CASA’s volunteer representation is aimed at providing each child with a safe, permanent, nurturing environment.”
    During National Child Abuse Prevention Month, we invite our community to learn more about the work we do and consider becoming a CASA volunteer. Information is available on our website ( or by calling the CASA office at (815) 547-6599.
    “We understand that the idea of advocating for abused and neglected children can seem a bit daunting but the CASA staff is readily available to help out. Many of our advocates work full time, go to school, or have their own family responsibilities but still find the time to be CASA advocates,” Meier said. “With the help of a CASA volunteer, they are more likely to find a safe, permanent home.”
    Not everyone can be a CASA volunteer, but everyone can be an advocate by taking steps to make our community safer for our children:Be mindful of the signs of abuse and neglect in children, such as a lack of adult supervision, extreme passivity or aggression or poor hygiene.
    Be aware of warning signs in parents, such as showing indifference or rarely touching or looking at their child, constant verbal criticism, demands for perfection, blaming the child for family problems or other irrational behaviors.
    If you think a child is in immediate danger, don’t hesitate. Call 911.
    If you believe a child is being abused or neglected, report your suspicions confidentially to our state’s toll-free child abuse hotline at 800-25-ABUSE.
    Working together, we can end abuse and neglect so that every child has a chance to thrive.
    “We truly appreciate the time and effort that our advocates put in to represent the children’s best interest in the juvenile court system,” Meier added.

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    Committee divided on architect for animal services building
    April 13, 2014
     By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - The Boone County Health and Human Services Committee is recommending that Knapp Schmidt Architects be hired for the design and construction of a new 3,000-square-foot animal control services building.
    But it is a 3-2 vote, taken Wednesday April 9, which will go to the full county board at its April 16 meeting.
    Committee Chairman Paul Larson and members Bill Pysson and Marion Thornberry supported Knapp Schmidt, headquartered near Portage, Wis., north of Madison. Opposition came from members Kenny Freeman and Ron Wait, who liked Saavedra Gehlhausen Architects, based in Rockford.
    Support for Gehlhausen was tenuous, however. Wait said he didn't want the contract to go to an out-of-state company, while Freeman said he liked both companies.
    And there was a big concern about Knapp Schmidt because of the three-hour plus distance between Boone County and its base of operation.
    Beyond that, Freeman cautioned, "You bring in Knapp and he doesn't deal with the local trades, there will be problems."
    The committee recommended authorizing County Administrator Ken Terrinoni to negotiate a contract with Knapp Schmidt, should it be hired by the full board at the April 16 meeting. If no agreement is reached he was given the green light to begin discussions with Gehlhausen.
    There were four architectural firms in the running when the committee meeting began. But members quickly dismissed the Jenkins and Hagney companies for various reasons.
    Polling the committee
    After discussing the two remaining candidates Chairman Larson polled the committee to see where everyone stood. When it became clear that a 2-2 deadlock existed, Pysson called on Larson to declare his position.
    But Larson initially replied, "I won't force the issue. We are split."
    He said what he was hearing from the rest of the committee was that Knapp Schmidt was good at design with Gehlhausen good with construction. It was suggested that project responsibilities be split between the two firms, but it was quickly agreed that would not work.
    Still, Terrinoni said, "I don't know why you couldn't talk with both of them. Ask them to resubmit projects that are similar in nature."
    Freeman asked if the issue could just be moved on to the full county board. That could be done, Terrinoni answered, but he predicted the board "will be equally divided."
    Ultimately, the committee agreed with Larson's suggestion that it recommend Knapp Schmidt as its No. 1 choice, with the caveat that there were some concerns. Pysson authored a motion to that effect and it passed, 3-2, with Larson breaking the tie.The health and human services committee is one of seven standing committees of the county board. It consists of five of the 12 county board members.
    Members have agreed animal control staff and the animals themselves need to abandon the current building off Appleton Road, because of numerous structural deficiencies.
    The new building likely will be constructed on the east side of Illinois 76, just south of Spring Creek Road, where the county highway department currently is located.

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    Gustafson honored by Belvidere community’s philanthropy response
    April 10, 2014
     By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – DECA chapter president Hayley Gustafson presented Robin Fern from with a check for $15,300 on April 2. The money was raised from the Belvidere community through the recent Water Project.
    “The Water Project was a major success. There was a real sense of community throughout the day,” Gustafson said. “The Water Project brought out the best in us. Belvidere schools, organizations, businesses, and political leaders all came together for a common cause.”
    When Gustafson first embarked on the Water Project with the support of Belvidere McDonalds owner Maureen Koteles, Gustafson set three goals for herself. They were to increase awareness of the water crisis in developing countries; bring the Belvidere community together for a major event; and raise $10,000. With students at every school in the district participating in the Water Project, thousands of people attending the activities at the Boone County Community Building or Second City show, newspaper and television coverage of the cause spreading awareness throughout the entire Stateline area, and raising 50 percent more than her goal, Gustafson not only met her goal, she shattered her goal.
    “I am so greatly honored to be here to see what this young lady has accomplished on behalf of,” Robin Fern from stated. “She understands the need of water and how people are struggling and kids are not going to school and mothers do not have the ability to work because they are getting water. She is going to be able to touch so many lives and I am touched what Hayley has done on behalf of our organization.”
    Over the summer of 2013, Gustafson met with School District #100 superintendent Michael Houselog who encouraged her to “think big. Really big. We decided to give every school in the district an opportunity to participate,” Gustafson stated. “My excitement grew as I realized our potential and I had the full support of our school superintendent.”
    “She had a great idea. It was an awesome idea. She told me what she was thinking about doing,” Houselog stated. Having worked with Gustafson on previous projects and knowing the capabilities of DECA, “I challenged her to think big. I thought that this was a bigger project than she had envisioned. I actually had forgotten that until she mentioned it today.”
    With the marching orders to think big, Gustafson sent letters to all school administrators, art and music teachers, spoke before the Belvidere city council, met with the Boone County board, brainstormed with theater director Dan Holmes, and negotiated contracts with Second City and the Boone County Community Building. Gustafson’s enthusiasm was bolstered when elementary art teacher Katherine Urban stepped up to lead all the elementary schools in an art project on African animals and students from Seth Whitman Elementary School raised several hundred dollars through a penny drive.
    Belvidere high school principal Todd Martens took Gustafson under his protective wing to make sure that she was not overwhelmed by the project. “She is so independent and she is such a take-charge kind of a person that she needs that support to make sure she takes time for herself,” Martens stated. “Take a breath once in a while. So that was my role. Are you ok? What do you need?”
    Martens was encouraged by the success of the Water Project and Gustafson’s legacy to future projects in the community. “It opens up other doors for other kids to follow in her footsteps,” Marten said. “Nice thing about Hayley’s leadership is that it can just spread so other kids can step up to the plate to go along with it. As she graduates this year, other kids will see what Hayley did, what she accomplished.”
    “I can’t wait to see what comes from that. It incites that fire and ignites those things and gets kids involved in school and the community.”“She brings tears to my eyes,” Houselog added. “There will be great things from her.”
    “I am extremely extremely proud of what an 18 year old student could do. It is nothing short of amazing,” praised her mom Julie Gustafson.
    “This is an example of a community working together and what can happen when you listen,” Belvidere Mayor Mike Chamberlain stated.
    While Hayley Gustafson received accolades for her accomplishments, she remained focused on what the Water Project was about. “There are 780 million people who lack access to clean water and 3.4 million people die each year from a water-related illness,” Gustafson reminded the crowd.

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    Students bring international air to April Foods fund-raiser
    April 9, 2014
     By Bob Balgemann
    POPLAR GROVE - A group of foreign exchange students attending Rockford Christian High School spent another Saturday afternoon helping out at the April Foods fund-raiser for the Belvidere/Boone County Food Pantry.
    Eight of the 14, who hail from China, Vietnam and Brazil, were in a rear room at the North Boone Fire District 3 station on April 5, which was filled with an assortment of games for youngsters.
    But at first they kept themselves busy, sending text messages from their cell phones and tinkering with their iPads.
    The lack of children puzzled Mary McClintock from DMD, the New York City-based company that provides public and private school placements for international students.
    She had been at last year's fund-raiser and remembered raising several hundred dollars through sales of 25-cent activity tickets.
    But her worries didn't last long because as if on cue, a handful of youngsters came through the door moments later. Most of them wanted to go into the bounce house and use up some of their seemingly boundless energy.
    One of the students, Nina, was from Beijing, China, and she was back for her second year of volunteering at the fund-raiser. She said she enjoyed helping out and liked community service in general.The bounce house was her responsibility, which ultimately exposed her to a lot of young children. That was especially nice, she said, because she doesn't have any brothers or sisters. But when asked if the experience made her want a sibling or two, she replied, "I have a little cousin. That's good enough."
    Next door, in a much larger room, a whole host of adults were having a different kind of fun. It included looking over tables filled with silent and live auction items, and having a picnic-style lunch of bratwurst and hotdogs.
    Board members help
    Kris Bryan, owner of Wooden-It-Be-Nice restoration business in Belvidere, was back as auctioneer for the live auction.
    Representatives of the food pantry's board of directors, including vice president Diann Helnore and member Skeeter Guthrie, with an assist from husband Mike, were busy during the auction bringing items to the front of the room for bidders to see.
    One of the newer board members, Poplar Grove Village Administrator Mark Lynch, had a special job. He was stationed at the main entrance to the station and responsible for making sure everyone leaving the building had a receipt for the item he or she was carrying.
    Last year, the fund-raiser was shorted hundreds of dollars by people who walked away without paying for what they had bid on.
    Pantry Executive Director Linda Clark was always on the move during Saturday's event, seeing to the myriad of details that accompany putting on a fund-raiser of this size.Despite the theft, last year's event brought in $15,000 and she said she was shooting for $20,000 this year.
    The pantry is under a deadline to show progress by this spring in creating a parking lot for its patrons. That would keep them from parking on village of Capron streets, primarily during Tuesday's food distribution.
    If that doesn't happen, Clark said Boone County sheriff's deputies may be called upon to begin ticketing patrons of the pantry.

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    Ness marches across America for poverty
    April 8, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE- Although a journey of a thousand miles begins with thousand miles begins with a single stop, the first rest stop is Belvidere. Or so it the case for Lou Ness as she embarked on April 2 on an 800 mile march from Rockford to Washington, DC. Ness’ Hear our cry march for America’s poor brought her to St. John’s United Church of Christ in Belvidere where she met with Mayor Mike Chamberlain and Rev. Muriel Morley Jahn. Chamberlain presented Ness with a lapel pin for the city in honor of her mission.
    Chamberlain, Ness and Morley Jahn engaged in a conversation of serving the needs of the poor in the community, and bringing the community together.
    “We need to give people a hand up. We need a progressive ladder of success for people,” Chamberlain said. “If you qualify we will make sure you get job training. Once you have job training we will make sure we have an opportunity for you.”
    Ness spoke of identifying local solutions to poverty and stressed that the needs of Boone County are different than Winnebago County or even McHenry County. To help address poverty, it requires coordination between the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. “I believe there is a partnership between public money, private money and not for profits,” Ness said “I feel like as social service providers we have a responsibility to bring those (federal dollars) back to the community.”
    Ness and Chamberlain agreed that among the best ways to assist the poor involves engaging them in the process and helping them feel valued and important. Shelter Care Ministries where Ness is the executive director offers a program called Careers ETC that helps long-term unemployed individuals build job skills. As part of the four week training program, participants receive training and are told that they have potential and are important. “What we give them is hope. They say things to me like ‘we are people. We are capable,’” Ness said. “To give someone hope is powerful.”
    “Empowering people is the answer to everything,” Chamberlain agreed.
    “One of the programs that interested me greatly are people who come out of incarceration and try to fit back in. You have to help them stop that merry-go-round somehow. When you talk to those people who have addiction problems that result in incarceration, you find out that the programs that were supposed to help them do not really help them because people talk at them and not to them, and do not engage them in profitable and meaningful behavior,” Chamberlain agreed. “It is a merry-go-round and that is where we fail.”
    The trio spoke of working with the local government and religious community to help address the issues of poverty. “The seed I want to leave with people is to talk to their civic leaders and find out what their heart engaged. Do they have a very intentional document about how they will care for those who cannot care for themselves for whatever reason? And are the churches aligned? Find common ground where you can stand together in the spirit of Christ,” Ness stated. “Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless. God has laid that on my heart and so I say it everywhere.”
    Although Belvidere does not have a formalized plan, Chamberlain has begun an initiative to work with the religious community to identify citizens who need help maintaining their property, clearing the snow, etc., and pairing them with teens completing community service requirements or other volunteers.
    “There are issues with organizations not working together as productively as we could,” Morley Jahn agreed.As Morley Jahn and Chamberlain began to exchange information to discuss ways that the City of Belvidere could work more closely together, Ness beamed with pride. “This is exactly the kinds of conversation that I hoped my march would inspire!”
    To follow Ness’ journey, read her daily Facebook blog under Shelter Care Ministries Rockford.

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    Construction project set to begin at St. James
    April 6, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – When Bishop Thomas Doran was a seminary student in the late 1950s, he was told by Bishop Loras Lane that Belvidere needed a new church. The need was unmet for over 50 years until Father Brian Geary arrived at St. James Catholic Church in July 2008 and Doran gave the go ahead for the project to begin in earnest. “There has been a great need for it for all these decades,” Geary said.
    The original plan was to tear down the church and rectory and build a larger church in its footprint. Following the retirement of Doran, Bishop David Malloy changed the scope of the project to add on to the existing church instead of tearing down and replacing the existing church.St.
    James conducted a capital campaign to solicit pledges from its parishioners. Among the churchgoers, they have a 90 percent participation rate in the capital campaign. “It is very encouraging that we have that level of support,” Geary said.
    Geary was encouraged and touched by the participation of the Catholic youth. “In the middle of our first campaign, three years ago there was a server. I think he was about 8th grade age and he said sheepishly he wanted to tell me something before Mass. For a kid it is hard to get up the nerve to ask the priest to ask a question or talk to him,” Geary said. “And he told me ‘Father I got $50 for my birthday party over the weekend and I want to give it all to the church.’ ”
    “Children can be so generous and they are not as worried as adults about how am I going to make it.”
    “There are people who live in very, very modest homes here in Belvidere and they have given very sacrificially and generously,” Geary added. “It tells there are people here who you wouldn’t think have the means or generosity and that this campaign and brought out this hidden virtue”“I am grateful for that. “
    Since Jan. 5, parishioners have volunteered their time and efforts to help prepare St. James for the construction project. In addition to demolition work, the pews, organ, Stations of the Cross, altar and relics were relocated and the carpeting torn up to the subflooring level. “It is going to save us a significant amount of money,” Geary stated. Due to the construction, Masses are being held in the gym.
    Once the construction is complete, the seating capacity will increase from 320 people to 900 people. “The bishop has determined that if we build on to this church we could serve all of Boone County,” Geary said.
    In addition to Geary, St. James is served by Father John Earl. Earl celebrates many of the Spanish language Masses at St. James. “His Spanish is much better than mine,” Geary added.
    Geary and Earl are joined by retired priest Thomas Bartolomeo and Deacon James Olson.
    The project that was over 50 years in the making will begin construction this week. 

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    What's in a name? Edson popular in Poplar Grove
    April 3, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    POPLAR GROVE - There's Edson Street, Edson Road, Edson Circle and Edson Court. While that name appears to be popular in this village, it's not much of a hit with Boone County 911 emergency radio dispatchers.
    Sheriff's Lt. Perry Gay, who supervises the 911 center, brought the concern to associate city-county planner Gina DelRose. He asked that something be done to ease confusion that could slow the response time of emergency vehicles.
    DelRose, in turn, reported the problem to Village Administrator Mark Lynch. And he brought the matter to the administration committee at its March 24 meeting.
    After considerable discussion the committee agreed to leave Edson Circle, a short stub of a street, as is. Members also agreed to recommend consolidating the other three names to one: Edson Road, on both sides of Poplar Grove Road. It will be East Edson Road on one side and West Edson Road on the other.
    Next stop will be the village board for action at its April 14 meeting.
    "We're not going to make everybody happy," said committee member Jeff Goings, presiding in the absence of committee Chairman Ron Quimby. "Let's do what we have to for the post office and 911. It was done wrong in the first place."
    Lynch said DelRose offered to send letters to all affected residents. And the village would have to pay for making changes to the county maps.
    But Village Engineer Chris Dopkins said he thought the village could avoid that expense through issuing an affidavit of correction.
    Legacy Park program
    In other action at the March 24 meeting the committee was advised by Village President John Neitzel that a letter had been sent to the developer of Sherman Oaks subdivision, informing him that he was responsible for maintaining grass in that area. So far there had been no response.
    Information about the village's new Legacy Park program was included in the letter.In a related matter the first batch of letters was about to be sent out to property owners who might be candidates for a Legacy Park donation to the village.
    The idea is to keep open space and not allow too much of it to be lost to development.
    Committee Chairman Ron Quimby said previously that the donation of land to the village "can be part of estate planning, special use as determined by the donor and is also a tax deduction."Part of the concept, he said, is to create a park system in the village "and keep our rural history alive."
    Those interested in the program should call village hall, (815) 765-3201.
    Administrator's hiring authority questioned BELVIDERE - Boone County Administrator Ken Terrinoni is in the process of hiring someone to replace Becky Tobin, who recently resigned as assistant county administrator.
    That has prompted District 1 Boone County Board member Bill Pysson to questioni whether the administrator has the authority to hire his (or her) assistant. He claimed that wasn't covered anywhere in the administrator's job description, approved in 1976-77 and reaffirmed in 1997.
    County State's Attorney Michelle Courier said in her opinion Terrinoni has that authority. She cited the following sentence under the administrator's job description from 1976-77: "Recruiting, selecting, placing, transferring, promoting and in training and development of employees."
    She said the word "selecting" also meant "hiring."
    Still, Pysson wanted more specific wording in the policies and procedures of the board.Another District 1 board member, Denny Ellingson, said he thought it was a matter of one person (Pysson) thinking this was a problem.
    But District 3 board member Kenny Freeman didn't think the board should be rubber-stamping who Terrinoni hires.
    "I think we should be providing input," he said.
    "Ken always asks for our input," said Chris Berner, also a District 3 board member.
    "I think we're doing that now."
    Ultimately, the board in a voice vote reaffirmed the administrator's job description of 1976-77. It also was agreed to have the administration and legislative committee, one of seven standing committees of the board, submit proposed wording to make the administrator's hiring authority more specific.
    Terrinoni said in a follow-up interview that he was continuing to interview candidates after his first choice decided he didn't want to move here.

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    Habitat for Humanity may create space for women's shelter
    April 2, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - The Boone County chapter of Habitat for Humanity will not be building a house this year. But instead, the organization may remove an existing residence for use as a women's shelter.
    Carol Loveridge, president of the Habitat board of directors, said the board is interested in having that as its 2014 project. She said there would be more discussion of the possibility at its April meeting.
    The prospect of finally having a shelter for at-risk women brought a level of excitement to the March 21 meeting of the Boone County Homeless Project task force.
    "There is no safe place for women in Boone County," said Danice Loveridge, sister-in-law of Carol and chairperson of the task force. "So often they have to go to Rockford when they're fleeing an abusive situation."
    "We have a big gap in our community," Danice Loveridge added. "Habitat for Humanity has no money to build a house this year. Now they may rehab a house to serve as a shelter for women. I think we finally have a direction."
    She added the hope is that the housing would be somewhere in Belvidere, because "transportation is an issue for a lot of people."
    "There was a house for battered women years ago, but it went by the wayside," recalled John Fish, a Belvidere police officer and task force member.
    "I think they lost their funding," Danice Loveridge said.
    Housing in general has been a longstanding concern of the task force. There is plenty of need but an inadequate number of available places to live. Waiting lists are common; quite often applications aren't being accepted.
    The county chapter of Habitat for Humanity was formed in 2005. Since then it has built six three bedroom, one-bath homes in Belvidere. The most recent residence was for Lisa Waters and her three children at 735 Chicago St. It is near house No. 5, on Main Street near Fairgrounds Road.
    But those houses now cost in the area of $90,000 and after the main sponsor, Thrivent, decided to focus more on Rockford, getting that amount of money has been difficult.
    Officers needed
    Also at the March 21 task force meeting Loveridge reminded members of the need for new officers to serve at that level, and on the overseeing board of directors. Darren Ahlgren originally offered to serve as chairman of both the board and task force, but a job change forced him to take a different direction.
    In addition, she reported that a third church was in the planning stages of offering a monthly community meal. The Apostolic and Christian Church on Town Hall Road hopes to offer its first meal later this month or in May.
    "They have a van so they will pick up people," she said. "They're a little bit out in the country."
    Transportation continues to be a problem for some people and Loveridge said she still receives phone calls from those who have no way to get to Poplar Grove United Methodist Church, the first one to start offering meals every month.
    Poplar Grove UMC continues to provide meals every Wednesday, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., with St. John's United Church of Christ on Main Street in Belvidere having a meal the third Wednesday from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Between the two they are serving about 55 people per meal.

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    Flaming Monkeys prepare for regional tourney in Chicago
    April 1, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BOONE COUNTY - The Flaming Monkeys 4-H robotics club is in the final stages of preparing for the annual regional tournament, to be held April 3-5 in Chicago.
    Admission is free to the event, which will be at the University of Illiniois-Chicago Pavilion, 525 S. Racine Ave. Competition will start at 8:30 a.m. each day and is open to the public, free of charge. But it costs $10 to park.
    Qualifying teams will advance to national competition.
    The Monkeys recently held an open house on the second level of the Belvidere Township building, in space made available for them to build their robots and hold strategy meetings.
    Some 150 people turned out that Saturday afternoon so see this year's competition robot. In addition, the newest robotics team, Atomic Chimps for boys and girls 9-13 years of age, was on hand with some of its Lego creations.
    Adult advisor Dee Sternhagen reported a number of potential members signed up as did another adult mentor.
    The Monkeys have challenged themselves to improve on their recent showing at a regional tournament in downstate Pekin. The Chicago event will be their second and final opportunity to qualify for nationals.
    This will be the last competition for Belvidere High School senior Anthony Cruz. He joined the club two years ago after members of the organization came to BHS, with their robots, for a presentation.
    "I was interested and after a couple of months decided to join the team," he said. "This will be my third regional."
    Recognizes team
    He said he was impressed by what Pekin had done for the regional and to recognize its robotics team. Some streets have been renamed and some businesses put signs in their windows to welcome competitors. "I will never forget that," he said.
    The team continues to address some of the issues that arose during the Pekin event, in an attempt to qualify for the nationals. Robots have different designs and tasks each year. For the April 3-5 event the Monkeys' bot, as its called, will attempt to throw a large rubber ball into a space that's 10 feet wide and three feet high.
    The Monkeys' creation will compete with three other robots and that's where part of the problem arose at Pekin. "They were more aggressive," Anthony explained. "The lesson we learned is to be ready for that - and everything else, too. There will be surprises but we need to be ready for them."
    Overall, he said the time spent with the team designing, building, operating and marketing robots has been "one of the most fun experiences I've had in my life.
    "He's the team treasurer and said that involvement is helping him with the future, when he wants to become an accountant.
    And of the Chicago regional, he said, "All I hope is that we do the best we can."
    The Atomic Chimps showed some of the Lego robots they have built as they prepare for their own regional, to be held in May at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
    "We will be working on programming, on attachments to complete the missions," said adult adviser Mary Ann Hoegberg. Their creations are "very similar to the Flaming Monkeys, only on a smaller scale," she said.

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    Boone County shows it has heart in addition to talent
    March 30, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – If there were any question whether or not Boone County has talent, the answer is a resounding yes. The Boone County’s Got Talent show on March 21 at the Boone County Community Building showed the wide variety and depth of the county’s talent.
    The show was organized by the Belvidere Noon Rotary Club and was directed by Dan Holmes. Channel 23 News’ Mike Garrigan was the Master of Ceremonies for the show that raised funds for Boone County Homeless Project and New Horizons Day Program.
    The show featured 25 performers and was split into two acts. Emily Dahl led off the night with a song. She was followed by 13 year old Jackie Bozek who danced a ballet to Martina McBride’s In My Mother’s Eyes. Bozek, who studies with Lewis Dance Progressions in Argyle, danced in honor of her mother whose birthday coincided with the talent show.
    “I felt really good about it,” Bozek said. “Normally in competitions I am so nervous. With this I told myself I could have fun. I love dance completely. It is my whole life.”
    “The show can be renamed the Konieczki’s got talent,” joked Garrigan after a performances by Kayla, Riley and Chloe Konieczki. Chloe sang a pitch perfect and soulful rendition of Castle on a Cloud from Les Miserables. She was followed by Maria Elaine Larson who read from Act II of Les Miserable and sang On My Own. Larson evoked the emotion of the song in her performance.
    “Awesome, it brought tears to my eyes,” a woman told Larson in the lobby during intermission.
    “When I saw the audience, it was just like me talking to them. I just wanted to relay how I feel about it. I want them to know how this story amazed me,” Larson said. “I wanted them to be amazed and be into the story. The story conquers the heart.”
    Larson is a native of the Philippines and has been in the United States for three years. She lives in Belvidere with her husband Michael. Although she has never had professional voice training, she learned how to sing from her dad Erwin Macuha. “Even though they are not here, he was my inspiration,” Larson said. She was honored that her in-laws came from Elgin to attend the show.
    Glen Miller from NASR Belvidere Park District used a synthesized voice generator to share his love of comedy. He told a series of jokes such as “why do you walk quietly past the medicine cabinet.”“Why,” chimed the audience.“So you don’t wake up the sleeping pills,” he replied. “What happens when you throw a green rock into the Red Sea?”“What?”“It gets wet.”Following a brief intermission, the second act began with Open Bible Church. The group, all dressed in black, used a black light to illuminate their hands that slowed in the darkened theater to illustrate the song that accompanied their performance.
    They were followed by Serenity Brockman who sang Angel by Sarah McLaughlin. Brockman, 12, is a veteran stage performer. She will perform in Rockford’s Starlight Theater’s production of Angel in August.
    Following Brockman’s performance, she was joined on stage by her four year old brother Shance. If there were an award for cuteness, the prize would have gone to Shance and his rendition of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.
    Paul Bachelor told a series of groaners including “a horse walks into a bar and the bartender asks ‘why the long face.’” Bachelor also sang Love’s got nothing on you.
    As Bachelor exited the stage, Lorraine Kieffer entered the stage with a mop bucket and a feather duster. She mopped the floor in a performance that evoked memories of Carol Burnett’s washer woman. As Kieffer began to dust Garrigan, he took his cue and exited the stage.
    Kieffer played a medley that began with ragtime music and transitioned to Roll out the barrel. The audience sang along and clapped hands to keep time with the polka. She also played Besame Mucho, What a Wonderful World, and How Great Thou Art.
    The most emotional part of the night was when The New Horizons Grizzlies took the stage and danced to a mash up of Grease lightning, Hokie Pokie, Staying alive, YMCA, Thriller, Can’t touch this, You’ve got a friend in me, Bye-bye-bye, and Call me maybe. The group received a standing ovation from the audience.“
    “That was awesome. I’m glad I stayed,” one of the patrons said as she exited the theater.
    “It was a great show,” Holmes said. “Let’s do it again!”
    “I thought it was absolutely fabulous for such a wonderful, wonderful cause,” Clair Gierat president elect of Rotary Club, added.
    Sherry Majewski, whose 22 year old son Kyle participates in the New Horizons Program at NASR Belvidere Park District was touched by the audience’s response to the group from New Horizons. “They are being included in the community,” Majewski said. “A lot of times people look down on that. (Tonight) they liked seeing the kids go across the stage.”
    “Great job Kyle!” New Horizons participant Matt told Kyle as he left with his pal TJ. “Great job!”
    “Good job,” Kyle said in response.Yes it was.

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    DECA members think globally; act locally
    March 27, 2014
    By Tricia Goeck
    BELVIDERE – When DECA hosts is international career development conference in Atlanta on May 3-6, several Belvidere High School students will be in attendance with 16,000 others from around the globe. Four Belvidere students will participate in an international competition to present the results of their projects throughout the year.
    The Belvidere High School students thought globally and acted locally with their projects. Haley Gustafson advanced to the international competition with the Water Project which raised over $15,000 for Giavonna Kaspar and Veronica Gardner hosted a movie night at Meehan Elementary and raised awareness for scoliosis and raised over $1,000 for Scoliosis Research Society. Liz Gonzalez and Gustafson hosted a chess tournament to raise over $600 for the local DECA chapter. In addition, Gustafson is a finalist with an international scholarship that will be awarded in Atlanta.
    Gustafson brought an entire community together with the Water Project on March 1. The Water Project culminated in a day long festival at the Boone County Community Building with an art exhibit, concerts, book fair, and demonstrations.
    Along the way, Gustafson educated a community on the plight of people in developing countries who have limited access to water.
    “It brings you to a new level in recognizing how lucky you are,” Gustafson said. “You think that some people don’t go to school or have a nice home. Never do you really think that some kids don’t have enough water.”
    “I learned so much. The whole thing was a learning opportunity. Going out and speaking in front of the mayor and the Chamber of Commerce, the superintendent. I worked very closely with Dr. Houselog.”
    “We did the community service project on our media movie night for scoliosis,” Gardner said. Their project was inspired by Kaspar’s recent scoliosis diagnosis in which the sophomore learned that she had such a severe case of scoliosis that required emergency surgery.
    “When we presented our project before the judge, we made a point to say all it takes is 30 seconds to diagnose scoliosis. Because all you do is bend down. You can see if the spine is straight or crooked,” Kaspar said. “People just think it is just a crooked spine. It isn’t just crooked. But it is also twisted.”
    “It not only grows crooked but it twists. And that is the tricky part of scoliosis. And that is what causes a lot of pain because of the muscles in your back,” Kaspar said. Her condition caused pain and a loss of sensation in her arms and legs. “One side is pulled tighter and the other side is loose. It throws off your balance. I mean everything.”
    Previously, there was widespread screening of school children to check for the telltale curvature and twisting of the spine. Without the routine testing, there has been an increase in severe previously undiagnosed cases, similar to Kaspar’s.
    Kaspar was a freshman when she was diagnosed. She wore a purple brace that she on the outside of her clothing that was affixed with three velco straps on which she penned “beauty is imperfection.”
    “I decorated it,” Kaspar added. I had something for them to look at instead of staring at me like ‘what is she wearing.’”
    Kaspar and Gardner worked together to solicit donations for food and raffle prizes for the movie night at Meehan Elementary. Among the donors were Dean Foods and Pizza Hut. They set up posters to announce the event throughout the school, passed out pamphlets, and had display that showed how to test and detect scoliosis.
    Gonzalez advanced to the international competition in the Learn and Earn category. The DECA club was approached by Rockford Scholastic Chess who was in search of a larger facility for its chess tournament. Over 100 students participated in the tournament. Gonzalez and Gustafson solicited the assistance of ten students to help with registration, concessions and clean up. The money raised went into the chapter’s treasury.
    Over the last few months, the students competed in sectional and state competitions. At the competitions, the students presented their projects to a panel of judges and answered follow up questions about what they learned.
    Gustafson credits the Water Project for helping her learn “pretty much anything in regards to business and running an event,” she said. “I wish we would have promoted the Second City Comedy Night a little bit more. We still had a good attendance, but I feel like if we pushed the attendance a little bit more it would have been more successful.”
    “We learned how to work together more as a chapter. We also learned debriefing,” Gonzalez said of what the chapter learned in the Chess tournament project. “We had the project and then we discussed afterwards what went well and what did not go well.”
    “If we were to do this again, we learned what we could do better and to better ourselves as a chapter.”
    “It is wonderful how they take the initiative to identify and then coordinate. They go out and they do what is necessary to make it a success,” DECA advisor Ken Saam said of Gonzalez and Gustafson who worked together on both the Chess tournament project as well as the Water Project. “They have never felt restricted to go to people talk to them talk to them ask for them.”
    Saam praised Gonzalez’ deligation skills. “That is how they had the success that they did. They were not timid at all,” he said.
    The Meehan movie night for scoliosis project was complicated by Kaspar being sidelined due to her emergency surgery. Friends since kindergarten, Gardner picked up tasks that Kaspar could not complete.
    “It was critical for Veronica to pick up when Giavonna wasn’t accessible to do the things. She was really able to execute things that Giavonna couldn’t get to because of being sidelined due to her surgery. So that helped a lot,” DECA advisor Ken Saam said.
    “Especially with a first year DECA member which is what Veronica is. That is a sign of leadership. It was a great experience for her.”
    With their projects, the DECA members touched many lives. “It changes a lot of people. With me being in DECA it affected everyone in DECA,” Kaspar said. You grow closer with everyone because they begin to understand. Not only did we touch our DECA chapter, our family, but we touched others with the Meehan movie night.”
    “It is a project to most people but it means a lot more to me.”
    Saam credited Gustafson for creating a calling to others to get involved. “Her enthusiasm has flowed over to other people to want to do things for a purpose.”

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    Parents stand up for home schooling
    March 26, 2014
     By Rhonda Mix
    Across the country, home schooling is on the rise, and a number of families and organizations throughout Boone and Winnebago Counties are strong proponents of the movement. Statistics across the nation show home schooling continues to expand, and despite the fact that the alternative method of teaching has been outlawed in some countries – such as Germany – the movement is in no danger of slowing down in the U.S. any time soon.
    According to the National Home Education Research Institute, there are currently around 2.2 million home-schooled students in the United States. Many parents, like Dan and Becky Reid of Belvidere, decide to home-school their children due to environmental factors or for religious reasons.
    “When we started having children, we knew we wanted to home-school,” Dan Reid said. “It was something we wanted to do so we could raise our children the way we wanted to and teach them the values we wanted them to have.”
    The Reids have five children, ages 10, 11, 14, 16 and 17.
    Becky Reid said another reason she and her husband chose to home-school was related to their Christian background and their desire to teach from a Christian perspective. Though she handles the bulk of the teaching, her husband also is involved.
    “I want to be a support for my wife,” Dan Reid said. “Even though I'm considered the principal and I can't come into the school room very much,” he added, laughing.
    The Reids believe Illinois is one of the best states for home schooling and said there is a good amount of support for families choosing this path.
    Groups such as Classical Conversations – a nationwide home schooling support organization – has offices in Rockford and Roscoe and provides tutoring for students ages 4 through 18 as well as teaching assistance for parents.
    Korey Wysocki, Foundations/Essentials Director at the Rockford branch, said the facility sees a number of families from Capron, Poplar Grove and Rockton. The facility helps home schooling families by linking them up with people in similar situations.
    “In Illinois, Classical Conversations has grown by over twenty percent each year over the past few years,” Wysocki said. “Rockford and the surrounding areas have a tremendous network of home schooling families. [Our goal] is to help support the home-school community in general, and help families find the approach that fits their style and goals for educating their children.”
    Wysocki home-schools her three daughters, ages 4, 5 and 7, and said she is an advocate the movement for several reasons.
    “I believe our traditional education system has divorced the love of learning and discovery from the actual content and subject matter of the education it wishes to impart,” she said. “The traditional system has caused us to rely on assessments – namely test scores – that in turn cause students to focus their attention on 'learning' enough content to produce a passing grade....Our traditional educational setting has now created generations of people who want to be told the correct answer, which has greatly impacted our abilities to think critically, logically and independently.”
    All home schooling parents will probably agree that the task comes with a good number of rewards and also many challenges. Teaching one's children full-time can be fun, but exhausting too.
    “Sometimes it gets frustrating when [the children] don't understand a concept, or they are not interested in the subject,” Becky Reid said.
    Sticking to a schedule and being disciplined also can be an issue, but the Reids said they “go by the book,” and take their children's education seriously. They also believe in providing adequate physical exercise and social opportunities. There are even sports teams available for home-schooled students, and though the Reids said their own children do not participate in such groups, enabling their children to be active members of the community is still crucial for them.
    “They are very involved,” Dan Reid said. “We taught them things like how to treat their neighbors, and how to help other people.”
    The couple is grateful for the opportunity to home-school and stand by their conviction that it is a wonderful alternative to the public school system.
    “I always tell Becky, 'You have taught our children to do all these things.' It's so satisfying,” Dan Reid said.
    “In America, at this time, home schooling is especially on the rise, with all the school shootings, et cetera,” said Becky Reid.
    “When we first started, there was an attitude about it, like how were our children going to adapt? But our kids constantly get comments on how well they are doing and how well they treat others,” Dan Reid said.
    Despite their decision to home-school, the Reids wanted people to know they do think there are a lot of good teachers in public schools, and maybe home schooling is not for everyone.
    “But if you really want to do it, give it a shot and go for it,” said Becky Reid. “You can do it. And give me a call when you're having a melt-down time,” she added. “We've all had them.”
    “Sometimes things like home-schooling are going to be a bit difficult to do, but sometimes those are the most rewarding things,” said Dan Reid. “The reward is so sweet. Your children are a gift from God, and they're worth it.”Wysocki agrees.
    “I want the best education my daughters can receive that best fits how they are wired to learn,” she said. “I want them to have a teacher who knows and loves them and wants the best for them, who can take whatever time is necessary to ensure they are 'getting it', who will encourage them and celebrate with them all the discoveries they make as they learn,” she continued. “As their mom, I know I'm the teacher who will be driven enough to do all those things with and for them. That's why I am a homeschooling mom.”

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    The Saga of the Lost and Found Dog Tag
    March 25, 2014
    By Gwen Jones
    Guest contributor
    The day was Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013. The next day would be Veteran's day. About an hour before church was to begin, Pastor Jessica Harren came to me and said, “I just received a message on the church's Facebook page (Capron Lutheran Church) from a fellow in France who says he found a World War II dog tag belonging to Floyd Newhouse.
    He wondered if anyone could help him locate Floyd's family.” My sister and I are part of Floyd's family; he was our father and had just died on Aug. 4 2013.
    So began the amazing story of a dog tag lost in 1944, found in 2011, and returned home in 2014. The saga of the dog tag is remarkable by itself, but the story contains an element of mystery as well.
    Francois Loivet is a 26 year old man who has spent much of his time, with his metal detector, combing the World War II battlefields in France and studying the details of the battles that were fought in his backyard as part of the liberation of Europe from Nazi occupation.
    In 1944, Floyd “Bud” Newhouse was a 26 year old driver of a tank recovery vehicle, otherwise known as a tank retriever. The job of Bud and his crew was to recover damaged Sherman tanks and repair them if possible so they could be returned to service.
    Bud was in the 3rd Armored Division, known as the Spearhead Division, 33rd Armored Regiment.
    His unit landed on Omaha beach 17 days after D-Day, and slowly proceeded inland, cutting their way through the dense hedgerows that surrounded the fields, pushing the Germans back and fending off their counter attacks as they went.
    We know from the history of the 3rd Armored Division, that the division was involved in a 5-6 day battle in mid July 1944 northwest of the city of St. Lo. Floyd was wounded by shrapnel from an air-burst on 13 July 1944.
    We know that is when he was wounded. He was likely sent to a field hospital or aid station where, as Floyd later wrote to his wife Shirley, they were unable to find the renegade fragment.
    The mystery became apparent when Francois told us that he found the dog tag, back in 2011, near the town of Le Bas Bois located almost straight south of St. Lo some 20 miles. Another battle had been fought there as well, but that happened on Aug. 2 1944.
    Floyd had been wounded about 3 weeks earlier. How was it that the probable place of Floyd's injury and the location of his dog tag were separated by some 20 miles? How did a dog tag manage to survive in relatively good condition for nearly 70 years in the soil of a French hedgerow? How did Francois manage to make contact with Floyd's family 3 months to the day after Floyd's funeral?
    The answers to two of those questions are speculative at best. Perhaps Floyd stayed with the field hospital for those 3 weeks because they couldn't find the fragment and he moved with the hospital as the division and the front moved. He was eventually flown to hospital in England for surgery to locate the wayward fragment. Perhaps it took 3 weeks to reach an airstrip capable of handling C-47 aircraft.
    He wouldn't return to his unit until Dec. 12, arriving just days before the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge. Who knows how the dog tag survived for so long. Francois said he found it in a hedgerow, so it probably wasn't exposed to farm machinery doing field work or to grazing livestock.
    As to how Francois was able to contact Capron Lutheran Church, he told us that when he typed in Floyd's name on the Internet, his obituary came up, containing the name of the church.
    For Francois, this is more than a hobby. He has uncovered many ID bracelets, dog tags and other debris of war, both Allied and German. He has worked with the DPMO, the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office near Washington.
    Part of the mission of this office is to “achieve the fullest possible accounting of our missing DoD (Department of Defense) personnel and to inform their families” (from the DPMO web page).
    He has said that he feels it is an honor for him to honor the soldiers who fought to liberate France and Europe from the Nazis. Francois sent us pictures of some of the other ID bracelets or dog tags he has found with the names of soldiers, missing or not, whose families he would like to locate.
    My brother-in-law, Jack Engelsen, was able to find the son, now living in Minnesota, of one of the missing soldiers from the Aug. 2 battle fought near Le Bas Bois. The soldier's son told Jack that he was a baby when his father was killed and so never knew him. He was thrilled at the possibility of having something that belonged to his father. That story is still a work in progress.
    This year marks 70 years since the D-Day landings on June 6, and also the Battle of the Bulge which began just before Christmas in December. For our family, the saga of Dad's dog tag, coming 3 months after his death; and then receiving the dog tag in January of the seventieth anniversary year of those two epic events of World War II has left us a bit breathless.
    As Pastor Jess said after Francois' initial contact, “Floyd is still with us; just in a new way.”

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    Country church is where everyone knows your name
    March 23, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    POPLAR GROVE – Nestled in a grove of trees is a Blaine United Methodist Church. Not unlike the bar on the sitcom Cheers, it is a place where everyone knows your name.
    The church has about 35 congregants who attend services each week and stay afterwards for friendship and fellowship. Pastor Tom Hay begins each service asking the faithful what made them smile during the week. The depth of the friendships was evident when a man spoke of his golf partner shooting a 14 on one hole. The partner was Hay. “You didn’t just smile. You were rolling on the ground laughing,” Hay responded.
    Hay is not a stereotypical minister. He has a shaved head, sports several tattoos depicting Native American spiritualism, and previously worked as a McHenry County sheriff’s deputy for 28 years.
    “Life is not a smooth straight path. It is filled with jagged turns and drop offs and climbs and you’d better be ready to adjust,” said Hay. “Faith gives you the strength to do to deal with those things in life that throw you off your set pattern.”
    Hay personifies the jagged path with many twists and turns. As a young seminary student, he left the seminary and subsequently became a law enforcement officer. Along the way, he completely turned his back on the church and God. Eventually his love of nature introduced him to Lakota Sioux spiritualism. Through this spiritual journey, he found his way back to his faith and to the ministry.
    “Becoming a minister was a dream I thought was long since gone,” Hay said. “The Lord looked at me like Israel and said ‘no you have to spend 40 years in the wilderness before I put you in a church.’ ”
    He put his life’s journey in perspective. “We travel that road, it is not an easy road but it is worth it. Jesus never said it would be easy,” Hay said. “He just said it would be worth it.”
    Hay continues to draw from his experiences with Lakota Sioux spiritualism in his Christian faith. “All things are related and come from the Great Spirit,” Hay stated. “If all things are created by God, then all things are related.”
    “In Native American spirituality, nature is held sacred. You have a responsibility to respect nature,” Hay said. “You read scripture, and man was created from the dust in the ground. And so were the animals. There is a biblical connection with our relationship with nature and wildlife. I think that is what drew me back to God and Christ.”
    Hay is the pastor of Blaine United Methodist and Hunter United Methodist Church. He described the country churches as “the way church used to be. A country church doesn’t get caught up in the rat race.”
    “It is an extension of immediate family. Everyone knows each other. We celebrate good times, and strengthen and comfort each other in times of sorrow.”
    “You go to another church and you see people you don’t know. There are some people that you never meet. That doesn’t happen at a country church. That’s what I cherish.”
    The churches host lunches throughout the year that can draw over 300 people. Blaine United Methodist hosted a St. Patricks day lunch on March 16.
    “Here it is getting to know what happened this past week. We try to carry it over to our dinners and make them enjoyable to the people coming in,” Hay said. “You get to know them and joke with them and laugh with them. Sometimes they will tell you things going on in their lives.”
    “It is like people talking over their fence in days gone by.”
    Although Blaine and Hunter United Methodist Churches each have a distinct personality from each other, the churches work together on joint initiatives.
    Most recently they became involved with the 12 hours of Christmas through the Salvation Army. The churches provided 500 gifts for teens age 13 – 15 years old. The churches are working together on a cookbook which they will sell to raise funds for to support their efforts with the 12 hours of Christmas. “We are reaching out beyond neighborhood area,” Hay said.
    “We get ‘er done. That’s the country way.”

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    School District 200 approves blending pre-school programs
    March 20, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    POPLAR GROVE - North Boone Community Unit School District 200 is one of the few districts in the region to have a pre-school program. And Superintendent Steven Baule believes the program is important to the overall education of the district's children.
    There currently are two programs: pre-kindergarten and early childhood, the latter for at-risk 3 and 4-year-old children.
    While separate, Dr. Baule said some of their programming has been integrated as both programs are based at Capron Elementary School.
    A report from Gov. Pat Quinn's office shows what can happen if at-risk children don't receive early childhood education:
    * 25 percent are more likely to drop out of school.
    * 40 percent are more likely to become a teen parent.
    * 50 percent are more likely to be placed in special education.
    * 60 percent are more likely to never attend college.
    * 70 percent are more likely to be arrested for a violent crime.
    Given that, the board of education voted 7-0 at its February meeting to blend the pre-Kindergarten and early childhood programs.
    "Blending, an inclusive practice, supports the education of both children with, and without, disabilities in the same classroom," the superintendent told the board. "The Americans with Disabilities Education Act (ADA) and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) support equal education opportunities and require schools to support the inclusion of children with disabilities through the least restrictive and natural environment."
    The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has reviewed the Indicator 6 data for District 200 regarding the percent of children ages 3-5, with individual education plans (IEPs), and their placement in the educational environment.
    Indicator 6 measures the percent of children with IEPs and where they receive their special education services, which can either be in a regular classroom or in a special education classroom.
    In 2012, it was shown that 54.55 percent of District 200 children with disabilities were in a separate class, which included a majority of the children with disabilities. The state performance plan target is 31.10 percent.
    Also, the percent of students with disabilities who were included in a regular early childhood program was 0 percent; the Illinois State Performance Plan target was 32.3 percent.
    "In working with ISBE and Starnet, providing a blended pre-school program will make North Boone in compliance with Indicator 6," the superintendent said.
    A blended pre-school program will combine children from the current early childhood program with those in the pre-school program. There will continue to be two classrooms, with a total of four pre-school sessions.

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    The 2014 Boone County Fair A celebration of agriculture and rural America
    March 19, 2014
    By Tom Ratcliffe
    Fair Board Director
    Guest columnist
    As part of Ag Week, the Belvidere Daily Republican will publish a series of articles from guest columnists from throughout the community. The article from Tom Ratcliffe is the first in the three part series.
    BELVIDERE –A successful talented young country music star, the complete Beatles Tribute band “American English”, Dueling Pianos show every afternoon, Roman riding of a team of six galloping Percheron draft horses are just a few of new attractions at the 2014 Boone County Fair, Tuesday, Aug. 5th through Sunday, Aug. 10th at the beautiful fairgrounds park one mile north of Belvidere, Illinois on Route 76.
    The Exhibitors
    The Boone County Fair is a six day celebration of agriculture and rural America dedicated to families. You can be a part of this celebration by witnessing the finest in livestock production, from the largest and most powerful draft horse to the smallest of rabbits. Literally hundreds upon hundreds of animals competing for that coveted blue ribbon whether it be a 4-H member or an open class competitor. We’re very proud of our large livestock show and proud of the fine work all our livestock superintendents do in promoting their various departments. Our draft horse, horse, dairy, beef, sheep, goat, ponies, rabbits, chickens, and hogs are some of the top county fair livestock shows in the state if not the Midwest. As you walk through the many barns and see the fine animals be sure and talk to the owners. Let them know you appreciate their efforts and hard work to put on such amazing presentations.
    And then we have what we call Non-Livestock Exhibits (or Home Ec) in our Home Economics building behind commercial building #3. Here you can see the handiwork of area residents in the form of produce from the garden or grains in the field, handmade quilts, homemade cakes and cookies, amateur photography, woodworking, posters, jewelry, it goes on and on. There are more than six thousand entries in all. Again each item vying for that blue ribbon and its’ bragging rights.
    The Vendors
    If you like to shop and you like to eat…you’ve come to the right place. We have three large buildings packed with commercial exhibits advertising the latest and greatest of new ideas and items.
    It’s like going to the mall with hundreds of small stores. These small stores extend to outside the buildings where there are hundreds of outdoor commercial exhibitors as well. And included in these are those wonderful food vendors. Everything for your taste buds is here from stuffed baked potatoes to homemade donuts to mouthwatering sweet corn to chocolate covered bacon. If it comes on a stick we have it. Many of these food vendors are local organizations working to raise money, from local Boy Scout troops to the local Lions Club. The Granges of Boone County are serving in the main dining pavilion baked ham on Thursday, fish on Friday, charcoal grilled chicken on Saturday and charcoal grilled pork chops on Sunday. And of course the breakfast stand is open all six days at 6am. There’s nothing like hotcakes on a cool summer morning. We like to think of the fair as one large community fundraiser.
    The Entertainment Pavilion
    As they say “The show must go on”. Ours goes on all day for all six days. Our ‘Entertainment Pavilion’ located beside Commercial Building #1 schedule more than 50 hours of free entertainment with 25 entertainers performing during the six days of the fair. And if you have talent and like to perform then you’ll want to enter the Boone County Fair Talent Contest at the Entertainment Pavilion on Saturday (under 14 at 9:30 a.m.) (14-21 at 12:30 p.m.). You could win up to $100 and get a chance to compete on the state level in Springfield in January representing Boone County at the State County Fair Convention. You never know…you could be “discovered”.
    More Free Entertainment
    Other free entertainment on the grounds all six days features one of the best family musical groups in the country. Back by popular demand for their fourth year at the Boone County Fair from Salt Lake City, Utah the nationally known “Mama’s Wranglers” featuring a family of six who all play fiddle, as well as other instruments, along with singing and dancing. On this same stage (south side of the Home Ec building) will be the Amazing Magic of Lance Gifford. And after Lance enjoy the antics and comedy of the Dueling Pianos. All three acts perform at least twice every afternoon on the Home Ec Stage.
    Enjoy a magical day sitting under a shade tree in Boone County watching Mr. D’s Magic & Illusion Show daily. The ever popular Banana Derby is back with the monkey jockeys racing on dogs. You won’t want to miss the Elephant Encounters Show where you may get a chance to ride a real elephant. And back by popular demand ‘The Goose Man’ and his frolicking flock of featured friends (a dozen soda pop drinking costumed geese) will be roaming the grounds daily.
    New this year performing in the horse and pony arenas Wednesday through Saturday will be “Percheron Thunder” which is a team of six beautiful majestic black Percheron draft horses being driven by Jason Goodman standing on and straddling the backs of the rear pair of horses as they gallop at high speed around the arena. Witness firsthand during this 30-minute show the inherent athleticism of these heavy horses and learn of their historical significance.
    Other daily entertainment and free venues include a restored early 1900’s Boone County one room schoolhouse, the history filled Grange Museum, the Log Hoggers chainsaw wood sculpture competition, Magic Mike strolling magician, a 200 plus antique tractor display, the popular 4-H’s Wee Farm petting zoo and Alpine Bank’s Kid’s Days games at 10am Wednesday and Thursday in the Gazebo/Memorial Park area behind commercial building #3 where children under 12 can win trophies and other prizes competing in sack races, egg toss and other games. And all this is free with your paid admission.
    The Midway
    You won’t want to miss the excitement of our giant midway put on by DRS Skinners’ Amusements out of Crystal Lake, Illinois. They’re always featuring new exciting thrill rides, along with an elaborate light show on their large Ferris wheel. The younger ones in the family will love their large and colorful kiddies’ ride-land. Take advantage of reduced carnival ride prices on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons.
    Grandstand Entertainment
    Our headliner on Saturday evening at 7:30 p.m. in front of the grandstand this year will be officially announced on Tuesday, April 15th. All we can say now is that he’s a country music singer with two number one hits under his belt. He’s sold nearly 2 million singles and half million albums in the past three years. He just released the title single from his soon to be released third album. We’re told he puts on a dynamic show with a lot of energy.
    Fifty years ago the Beatles invaded America…in 2014 they invade Boone County. On Wednesday evening in front of the grandstand the Chicago band “American English” will magically create the complete Beatles tribute performing songs from 1963 -1970 with precise attention to every detail including costumes, instruments and special effects. Step back in time and relive the 60’s with “American English”.
    Friday morning from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in front of the south grandstand bleachers will be the exciting ATV Racing by Kickabuda promotions. Watch local drivers in a wide variety of classes race each other for the checkered flag. It’s fast! It’s furious! And it’s free!
    New at 1:30 p.m. Friday in front of the grandstand watch for free “Mutton Bustin’ Ride-Off Qualifications”. What is Mutton Busting? It’s where young children attempt to ride sheep bareback for a few seconds in hopes of winning a huge trophy. The top ten qualifiers will get to compete in the “Mutton Bustin’ Finals” Friday evening at 7 p.m.. After the sheep come the bulls…
    Friday evening brings out those tough cowboys from around the country riding those very mean bulls during our Next Level Pro Bull Riding Competition. You can even enjoy barrel racing competition before the bull riding finals. There are hilarious clowns, bright lights and loud music. Get ready to rumble! No Bull!
    All day Thursday starting at 10 a.m. is the Truck and Tractor pulls going well into the evening with mini rods, super stock tractors, 4x4’s and semi’s. If it’s more crashes than pulls you want then come out Sunday for either the 1 p.m. or 6 p.m. Demolition Derby shows. Don’t get too close, the mud will be flying.
    At 12 noon on Tuesday and Wednesday enjoy watching the trotters compete in several Harness Races each afternoon on the half mile track in front of the grandstand. There’s no charge for seat in the grandstand so pick your favorite and cheer them on. The soda is cold and shade feels good.
    Wednesday at 5 p.m. you won’t want to miss the ever popular Antique Tractor Parade. Watch these restored beauties from days on the farm past. Deere, IH, Case, Farmall, Oliver, Massey Ferguson, Allis-Chalmers, plus many more will line up and strut their stuff in front of the grandstand. And it’s free.
    And of course the whole six day affair gets started Tuesday evening when several local young ladies will be competing for the Miss Boone County Fair Queen title along with 20 other even younger girls vying for the ‘Little Miss’ title on Tuesday evening starting at 7 p.m.. It’s a Queen Pageant at its finest packed with entertainment and not to be missed. And it’s free! And get there early to get a seat!
    The Volunteers
    As you can see we have six full days planned for you and your family. All our directors, superintendents, grounds crew, members from local service clubs and civic organizations, local citizens and the five hundred plus Grange members in Boone County have put in countless volunteer hours to bring you one of the best fairs and fairground parks in Illinois.
    The Park
    The Boone County Granges which have owned and operated the fair since 1957 have always had the policy of “making the fair bigger and better each year” which has given us the beautiful park we have today. A park now made up of 153 acres with a wide range of livestock barns and exhibit halls along with paved streets with plenty of free parking surrounding the grounds. A park that is busy nearly every weekend with all kinds of events from April 1st to Nov. 1st. Boone County now has a fair that consistently draws an average of 190,000 visitors making the Boone County Fair one of the top county fairs in Illinois. We’ve come a long way since that first fair on Route 76 in 1964. This will be our 51st fair at this location and we couldn’t be more proud and honored of the fair we are inviting you and your family to enjoy.
    The Grange
    What is the Grange? The Grange, a.k.a. Patrons of Husbandry, is the oldest national agricultural organization. The National Grange, founded in 1867, has its headquarters in Washington D.C. in its own privately owned building a couple blocks from the White House. The Grange has evolved into a family community service organization with its roots in agriculture. There are 2100 local Grange chapters in the United States in 25 states with nearly 200,000 members. Want to join? Give us a call. We’d love to have you and your family be a part of our Grange family.
    There are seven local chapters of the Grange in Boone County. There is Beaver Valley Grange, Big Thunder Grange, Capron Grange, County Line Grange, Flora Grange, Leroy Grange and Prairie Grange.
    Members from each of these Granges make up the county (or Pomona Grange) which owns the fairground and elects the four executive officers of the Boone County Fair Association. The four officers are: Lyle Lee, President; Jack Ratcliffe, Vice-President; Chris Schmuggerow, Secretary; Dayle Paulson, Treasurer. Each Grange selects four members to be directors on the fair association board with the Pomona Grange having two directors on the board. Al Henninger (former Board President) is an Honorary Director.
    Contact Us
    The fair administration office located at gate 2 at the fairground is open Monday and Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. every week. The office phone number is (815) 544-2900. The fair website is Tickets for grandstand shows go on sale Saturday, July 12th at 8 a.m. at the ticket office at gate 1. If you have any questions we’ll be happy to help you any way we can. We want these six days of summer to be your best days of summer. See you at the fair!

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    Emotions high as Poplar Grove denies special use permits
    March 18, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    POPLAR GROVE - The Poplar Grove Village Board has voted 6-0 to deny issuing two special use permits needed to develop a 304-unit mobile home park on two parcels along South Poplar Grove Road.
    But the issue isn't over.Jim Hursh, attorney for the developer, said after Monday's March 10 board meeting that the next stop would be circuit court for a review of the decision.
    Emotions ran high among many of those in a standing-room only crowd that packed two large rooms at village hall.
    Village President John Neitzel more than once asked residents not to applaud when a speaker said something they liked.
    He also admonished a man who criticized Hursh after the attorney said there were procedures to be followed and that they had clearly been met. He asked that emotions be set aside and that those procedures be considered.
    "How dare you come to our town and say that," the man challenged. "You don't even live here."
    Not in Poplar Grove, perhaps, but Hursh said he was a lifelong resident of Boone County and lived on Beloit Road.
    Neitzel called for order and reminded those in the audience that no one had interrupted them while they were at the podium. He said the same respect should be shown the current speaker.
    Eighteen people addressed the issue with 17 of them in opposition to the mobile home park. Petitions signed by more than 300 men and woman against the project were turned in to Village Clerk Martha Suhr.
    Mark Petersen and others were concerned about the impact on the school district and public services. Others addressed the park being in a flood zone, further deterioration of Poplar Grove and damage to personal property by storm water.
    "Protect our people, our taxes and our future," resident Glen Herrmann said.
    Doug Clark said he had seen a drastic downturn in the village. His fear was that what he referred to as "a trailer park" would not draw the right kind of people.
    A vote for denial
    The village's planning commission voted last month to recommend approval of rezoning the parcels from LI, light industrial, to R-5, mixed residential district. But it recommended denial of issuing special use permits for the 10 and 51-acre parcels because the proposal did not meet all of the six criteria needed for that to happen.
    All the administration committee did in a subsequent meeting was to pass the matter on to the village board for final action.
    Village Trustee Don Bawden read from a lengthy prepared statement, reviewing each of the six findings of fact and saying the proposal did not meet them.
    Neitzel repeated some of what Bawden said, also noting that lots in the proposed park were in wetlands. He also said the recreational area was in a 100-year floodplain while no drain tile survey had been filed, which was required.
    After the votes, he said, "This board has to follow the letter of the law and that's what we have done tonight. While a couple of speakers reminded trustees they were put in office by voters, Neitzel said, "Public opinion does not come into play when we follow the letter of the law."
    The crowd left, somewhat noisily, before the meeting concluded, causing Neitzel to ask them to "keep it down."

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    Police department rolls out new SUVs, tactical unit
    March 16, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – Mayor Mike Chamberlain, states attorney Michelle Courier and the Belvidere police department revealed on Wednesday, March 12 three police vehicles that they were able to purchase with forfeiture money. Because of the Belvidere Police Department’s participation in the regional Drug Enforcement Agency, the department has been aggressive about tracking down the drug trade at the source. The vehicles were on display at a press conference held at Jack Wolf Auto Group in Belvidere.
    The police department purchased two SUVs that will be used for the department’s K9 unit as well as a tactical unit. The department will also receive a new dog for the K9 unit to replace one of the department’s dogs is retiring. Although the cost of the vehicles cost over $150,000 taxpayer money was not used towards the purchase of the vehicles.
    “Look at these vehicles that are over $150,000 in cost. It took untold hours of hard work and investigation to make the seizures,” Mayor Mike Chamberlain said. “We sell the (seized) vehicles on e-bay. It is very helpful to us to be able to do that.”
    “Today is a happy day in the city of Belvidere. It is a win-win situation for everyone.”
    “I think it is great that these vehicles are paid for by the criminals,” third ward alderman Tom Ratcliffe added.
    “We actually have criminals paying for narcotics enforcement,” Deputy chief of operations Dave Ernest stated. “It doesn’t get any better than that. The biggest thing is not one penny of tax dollars was spent. I think that is what makes this whole process exciting.”
    The tactical unit replaces a worn out ambulance that was donated to the police department by Lifeline Ambulance 18 years ago,” Police department chief Jan Noble said. The previous tactical unit was no longer reliable transportation and not suitable in an emergency situation. Noble expects the new tactical unit to be used once or twice per month.
    “What is great about this vehicle that it replaces a 20 year old vehicle,” Ernest said.
    “We cannot have an emergency response vehicle that doesn’t work.” The last time the previous tactical unit was used was in November when a gang member was killed.
    In addition to being used to conduct raids, the tactical unit will be used to conduct investigations and protect crime scenes. “We can conduct investigations here in the vehicle,” Ernest added. “It has heat and air conditioning which is great for our witnesses and victims when we are out on the scene. We will be able to get out of the elements.”
    The Belvidere Police Department has an officer who also serves with the DEA. Because of the police department’s DEA membership, the Belvidere police department is able to go outside of its borders to execute arrest or search warrants in neighboring cities such as Rockford, Carpentersville, Elgin and Poplar Grove.
    “We are so fortunate that our mayor, city council and chief allow us to go farther. What good is it to take out a doper here? Tomorrow there will be another one,” Ernest said. “We track it back to the root.”
    “Our focus is to go back to the root. We are very aggressive which is why our crime rate has dropped for the last 7 years which is pretty remarkable.”
    Ernest expressed pride that some drug dealers avoided Belvidere because of the aggressiveness of the police department in arresting drug dealers and seizing their assets. He said that their message to members of the drug trade is “come to our city and you are going to prison.”

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    A sure sign of spring – bikers are out
    March 13, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – With an end in sight to the long winter as temperatures rose to the mid-40s, many bikers could not resist the temptation to take their motorcycles out for a spin on Monday, March 10.
    “I have PMS – parked motorcycle syndrome,” Rocket Randy Frickman said. “Bikers hate winter.”
    “Everyone has the itch to get out on the road,” Joanne White of Belvidere added.
    With bikers out on the road, it is important to remember to keep an eye out for bikers and share the road. “People need to watch for them. Especially right now with the salt on the road it gets dangerous for motorcycles. They can hit the pea gravel and salt. The bike can slide out from under them,” White said. She usually waits until after the heavy April showers wash away salt and gravel before going out on the motorcycle with her husband Tim. “People need to be extra careful.”
    The Motorcycle Safety Foundation offers tips that all car and truck drivers should know about motorcycles.
    Over half of all fatal motorcycle crashes involve another vehicle. Most of the time, the car or truck driver, not the motorcyclist, is at fault. There are a lot more cars and trucks than motorcycles on the road, and some drivers don't "recognize" a motorcycle – they ignore it (usually unintentionally).
    Because of its narrow profile, a motorcycle can be easily hidden in a car’s blind spots (door/roof pillars) or masked by objects or backgrounds outside a car (bushes, fences, bridges, etc). Take an extra moment to look for motorcycles, whether you're changing lanes or turning at intersections.
    Because of its small size, a motorcycle may look farther away than it is. It may also be difficult to judge a motorcycle’s speed. When checking traffic to turn at an intersection or into (or out of) a driveway, predict a motorcycle is closer than it looks.
    Motorcyclists often slow by downshifting or merely rolling off the throttle, thus not activating the brake light. Allow more following distance, say 3 or 4 seconds. At intersections, expect a motorcyclist to slow down without visual warning.
    Motorcyclists often adjust position within a lane to be seen more easily and to minimize the effects of road debris, passing vehicles, and wind. Understand that motorcyclists adjust lane position for a purpose, not to be reckless or show off or to allow you to share the lane with them.
    Turn signals on a motorcycle usually are not self-canceling, thus some riders (especially beginners) sometimes forget to turn them off after a turn or lane change. Make sure a motorcycle's signal is for real.
    Maneuverability is one of a motorcycle's better characteristics, especially at slower speeds and with good road conditions, but don't expect a motorcyclist to always be able to dodge out of the way.Stopping distance for motorcycles is nearly the same as for cars, but slippery pavement makes stopping quickly difficult. Allow more following distance behind a motorcycle because you can't always stop "on a dime."
    When a motorcycle is in motion, see more than the motorcycle – see the person under the helmet, who could be your friend, neighbor, or relative.
    If a driver crashes into a motorcyclist, bicyclist, or pedestrian and causes serious injury, the driver would likely never forgive himself/herself.
    As winter turns into spring, expect to see more motorcycles on the road. “I have been ready since December,” Michelle Frickman said. “I am ready to get out on the bike and let the wind go through my hair.” 

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    Camelot of Belvidere changes lives of students
    March 13, 2014
    By Rhonda Mix
    Camelot of Belvidere, located at 7133 Garden Prairie Road, opened this past August at what used to be Kishwaukee Elementary School. The new school is helping change the lives of a number of students throughout Northern Illinois.
    Camelot Education has been in existence for more than 30 years, and provides a network of schools across the United States for children who may have had difficulty in more traditional school systems; such as children with health impairments, learning disabilities or behavioral challenges.The 30,000 square-foot facility in Belvidere is a therapeutic day school that currently welcomes children ages 3 through 21 from 13 districts. A few of these districts include schools in Boone, Winnebago, McHenry, Ogle and DeKalb counties.
    “Camelot Education helps out students who may have been struggling in their home schools,” said Kay Moravek, former principal of the Belvidere facility. Moravek recently transferred to the Mount Prospect Campus and Craig Reveter, former director of operations at the DeKalb campus, has taken her place.
    “Belvidere is our seventh campus in Illinois,” Moravek said.Reveter said he was shocked and flattered to be named principal of the new Belvidere facility.
    “I was more flattered than anything,” he added.
    There are currently 98 students enrolled at Camelot of Belvidere. The student enrollment limit is 110.
    Curriculum at the school is tailored to the needs of students, however, Reveter said the goal is to keep time in the classroom as typical as it would be in a student's regular home school.
    “We are very hands-on with the kids,” he said. “I'll step into the rooms myself if I'm needed.”
    Classrooms use SmartBoards for interactive instruction and average class sizes are around 10 children per teacher. The school houses a gymnasium, a library and parent resource center, an art room, music area, occupational therapy room, speech therapy room, social work office and a student leadership and government den.
    It also offers pet therapy, family counseling and student access to the Chicago Area Alternative Educational League, where students may participate in competitive sports and educational activities.
    Reveter said Belvidere has taken great care of the school building and Camelot Education is appreciative.
    “We are blessed to be in a facility that has been taken care of so well,” he said.
    One of the goals of Camelot Education is to help children who may have had difficulties learning at other educational centers find success, and staff members strive to bring out the best in each student.
    When it comes to behavioral problems in the classroom, for instance, Reveter said the school tries to take a different approach with students than other educational facilities may follow.
    “We are not here to suspend them or kick them out,” he said. “We approach the behaviors head-on and try to get a conversation going with the kids. We let them have their own voice and share their feelings, so they can get back into the classroom.”
    Staff members at Camleot of Belvidere believe talking with students is especially important because Reveter said students in today's technology-driven world of cell phones and computers have a hard time communicating in general.
    “This is a new generation of students, and their communication skills are not the best,” he said. “We let our students talk to us. This teaches them to be able to talk to adults when they are upset. We are here to give students a voice and to provide stability and structure.”
    The school also is very family-oriented and staff members try to keep a personal relationship with parents and students.
    “I know every the name of every student who walks through this door,” Reveter said. “I will also speak with their parents regularly.”
    One of his goals as principal is to implement new programs at the school.
    “I want to expand a vocational program,” he said. “Bring in an auto mechanics shop for the young men, or options for young ladies such as cosmetology or CNA classes. When they graduate from high school, they are going to need these skills,” he continued. “We want to let the students know they can achieve whatever they put their minds to. We love our students here and want to give them a voice. The bottom line is, their voice needs to be heard.”

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    Grange spaghetti dinner to benefit new 4-H food stand
    March 12, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - A large crowd turned out Saturday night for a spaghetti dinner, co-hosted by the County Line and LeRoy Granges, to benefit the new 4-H concession stand on the county fairgrounds.
    The fair in August 2013 observed its 50th anniversary at the fairgrounds, off Illinois 76, and the old, wooden 4-H food stand had been around for most of those years.
    So 4-H officials and others decided to join in the fair celebration by building a new stand. That did happen and the new, 1,500-square-foot building was open in time for the fair.
    Earlier that year two of the seven county Grange organizations got together and had a fund-raising spaghetti dinner to help with the project, estimated at that time to cost $50,000. The 1963 dinner raised about $2,000, said Butch Peters, president of LeRoy Grange.
    On Saturday March 8, the two Granges had another spaghetti dinner, this one at the VFW Post in Belvidere, and the goal was the same: benefit the 4-H food stand.
    Teri Keegan, project manager, said $80,000 had been raised so far with another $10,000 needed to finish the building. There's some concrete work yet to be done and a few inside touches. "Then we'll be done," the current fair board member and former 4-H leader.
    This year's dinner lasted from 4-7 p.m. and near the end there was a 50/50 drawing as well as a raffle for quite a few donated gifts.
    Diane Cleland won the 50/50 prize, splitting $400 with the Granges. She gave $100 back to those organizations and the remaining $100 to her 4-H club, the LeRoy Commandoes in Capron.
    Peters served as the emcee and announced the various winners of the raffle items, with LeRoy Commandoes member Wyatt Rudolph hand-delivering the treasures to the tables around the room.
    Olivia Johnson, the 2013-14 Boone County Fair queen, has been making the rounds of various Grange events and others since August. Saturday, she helped in the serving line.
    "It has been a great experience," she said of representing the county in so many places. "I'm sad that it will be coming to an end in a few months. So I'm trying to make the best of it."
    Fair pageant director Sharon Geske coordinates her schedule and issues invitations for her to attend various events and activities. While Johnson has a busy schedule, she said, "I try to put that first."
    The new 4-H food stand has provided workers with much more space and updated equipment with which to work. Roll down windows with screens, a stainless steel serving counter and a walk-in cooler are among the improvements that greeted volunteers in August 2013.
    A tent that had been in the rear of the building was replaced by a covered pavilion with picnic tables. Susie's Garden Patch donated a flagpole in memory of her father, Dave Silberhorn, who was a 4-H supporter.
    "This really has been a community project," Keegan said at the time.
    And Saturday, Peters commended her for taking it on.

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    Belvidere Cemetery is center for family, city history
    March 11, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – The Pomona Grange held their March meeting at the Boone County Historical Museum on Wednesday, March 5. Sam Larson, sexton at the Belvidere Cemetery was the featured speaker.
    The cemetery, which was officially established in 1847, is a treasure trove of Boone County and family history. Larson helps people conduct genealogical research. The cemetery is in the process of creating searchable records on
    Seth Whitman is buried at the cemetery as well as Revolutionary War soldier Thomas Hart. Hart was one of the first people buried in the newly established cemetery. Although the cemetery was established in 1847, the area was used as a community burial ground and has some burials from the late 1830s.
    John Lawson was a former slave in Virginia and fought for the Union during the Civil War. In later years he worked as a janitor at Belvidere High School where he was very well liked by the students who raised money to send him to visit his “Virginy” before he died.
    Larson told the Grange members that the cemetery tells the story of the 1918 influenza epidemic. Walking through older sections of the cemetery reveals entire families that died within days of each other. Larson spoke of sons and daughters returning to Belvidere to care for ailing family members, only to be stricken by the influenza as well.
    The cemetery has a grave marker for a young woman who went to Camp Grant in Rockford during the influenza epidemic. According to the marker, the woman was a nurse and felt it was her duty to go there and help out with the patients. The nurse also caught the influenza and died.
    The Pettit Chapel was commissioned in honor of Dr. William Pettit. Pettit and his wife were Belvidere natives who moved to Cedar Falls, Iowa where he practiced medicine for 27 years until his death at the age of 48 in 1907.
    His death is an interesting glimpse in history as it is almost inconceivable that someone other than a child prodigy could become a doctor at the age of 21 in today’s era.
    Pettit’s wife returned via train to Belvidere with 60 people for his funeral. Mrs. Pettit was surprised by the lack of a facility to hold the service and she made it her goal to build one.
    As Mrs. Pettit’s brother had a Frank Lloyd Wright designed home, the chapel was commissioned to the famed architect. In order for the prairie style chapel to be viewed from throughout the cemetery, a Potters field had to be relocated. The chapel was built for $3,000. “It is priceless now,” said Larson of the chapel which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
    Following the introduction of funeral parlors in the 1920s which eliminated the need to use the chapel, it was converted to storage space and quickly fell into disrepair through the test of time and vandalism. In 1977, the Belvidere Women’s Club took over a project to restore and rehabilitate the chapel.
    Since then, the chapel has been home to three weddings. Larson told the Grange members the story of a man who was searching for a suitable site for his upcoming wedding. When he went to tour the Pettit chapel, he was surprised by its cemetery location. He told his bride, “I have good news and bad news. I found a place for us to get married. It’s in a cemetery.”
    The bride was a good sport and thought it was a good spot to celebrate the beginning and ending of their life together.

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    Decision nears to hire architect for animal services building
    March 11, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - The Boone County Board may decide in April which architectural firm is hired to build a new animal control services department building.
    Four firms are being asked to submit proposals for a 3,000 square-foot building to be constructed on county-owned land on the east side of Illinois 76, just south of Spring Creek Road, which houses the county highway department complex.
    The proposals would include future additions that ultimately would produce a 6,500-square-foot building.
    Mark Schmidt, senior principal for Knapp Schmidt Architects in Wisconsin, presented his feasibility study to the health and human services board at its March 6 meeting.
    A 2,600-square-foot building, one of several options in the report, would replace the current county facility at 1230 S. Appleton Road.
    The 3,000-square-foot building also would include space for cats, a few more dogs and a sallyport. The absence of room for cats has been a continuing concern of department Supervisor Roger Tresemer and programs director Jacqui Mitzelfelt.
    Schmidt, whose company is one of the four finalists for the job, was asked to leave the room while the committee discussed what steps should be taken next. One possibility was to consider recommending to the full county board that Knapp Schmidt be hired for the entire job.
    Out of fairness to the other three firms that still were interested in the project,, committee member Kenny Freeman said all of them should be given an opportunity to submit proposals. They won't be reinterviewed and their proposals would use information contained in the feasibility study Knapp Schmidt did for the county, at a cost of $3,500.
    "That will put us back another month," committee Chairman Paul Larson said. "But it will give us time to investigate the utility work."He was referring to the cost of hooking into the city of Belvidere's water and sewer lines, which are in the area and already serve the nearby Maple Crest nursing home.
    Committee members agreed that well and septic were not the best option for the building.
    Before the unanimous vote was taken to proceed, committee member Bill Pysson raised the question of where the money would come from to construct the new building. He suggested the county finance committee look at how to finance a $500,000 construction cost for the 2,600-square-foot building in the feasibility study.
    "I question whether the $5 (increase in the dog registration fee) will be enough," he said.
    Earlier in the meeting county Administrator Ken Terrinoni said early returns on the recently imposed, higher registration fee, show it generated $3,000. But he told the committee it still was early in the new fiscal year and not to be worried at this point.
    Resident Robert Christianson, who has been advocating a new animal control building, said from the audience that financing should be considered right away, because interest rates are starting to go up.

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    Viette crowned as Mr. Thunder 2014
    March 9, 2014
    By Stephanie Hyzer
    BELVIDERE – Fourteen seniors participated in the Mr. Thunder scholarship competition at Belvidere North High School on Saturday, March 1. The participants competed for the title of Mr. Thunder as well as a $500 scholarship that comes with the crown. Ben Viette was crowned as Mr. Thunder 2014 and Carlos Villarreal was name first runner-up.
    Following his crowning, Viette passed his crown to journalism instructor Mike Doyle to honor Doyle for everything he does to support the Mr. Thunder competition. Doyle is set to retire at the end of this school year.
    The Mr. Thunder competition is in its sixth year at Belvidere North. This year’s audience was the largest in the event’s history and raised over $2,000.
    This year’s competitors were Jerald Barrett, Josh Cook, Kyle Hartfiel, Chase Hill, Jake Howe, Jimmy Joseph, Riley Magnuson, Carlos Villarreal, Alex Nash, Jake Pawlowski, Spencer Short, Erick Suarez and Ben Viette.
    The competition consisted of a group dance, gym wear, minute-to-win-it games, talent, formalwear and fishbowl questions. Members of the community judged each category.

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    Fourteen graduate from Citizen Police Academy
    March 9, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – A different sort of graduation ceremony was held at the Public Safety Building on Wednesday, March 5. Fourteen residents graduated from the Citizen Police Academy and received the congratulations from Mayor Mike Chamberlain, Police chief Jan Noble, Deputy chief of police chief Mark Pollock, Deputy chief of operations Dave Ernst, and police officer John Fish.
    The program graduates attended weekly sessions since Jan. 15. The Citizen Police Academy teaches a comprehensive view of the Belvidere police department. Sessions include classes on the police department structure, the gang unit, the use of deadly force, crime scene investigation, the volunteer in police service (VIPS) program, and traffic enforcement. The participants were able to use the PRISM system which is a computer system that shows various shoot/don’t shoot scenarios that is used to train officers on the use of deadly force. Attendees also had the opportunity to process evidence and make molds of footprints and hands.
    “It was a fun time,” said Kristie Witthun. “I learned about dangerous intersections in town and what you can do as a volunteer for the police department.”Graduates of the citizen police academy will have the opportunity to join the VIPS program. Currently 51 residents volunteer with the police department. VIPS assist the police department by helping direct traffic during parades, special events such as Hometown Christmas or Pioneer fest, and the medicine dispensary turn in.
    Many of the Community Police Academy graduates completed paperwork on Wednesday night to sign up for the VIPS program. “I figured when I met this group and I knew that we would get three quarters or more who would volunteer,” said Fish. “They are a good group.”
    “This same class will be offered every year so as the classes grow so does the number of volunteers,” Noble added. The use of volunteers has saved the police department thousands of dollars in overtime expenses as well as freed up police officers so they can patrol the city and respond to calls.
    VIPs are on call and help the police department when additional personnel are needed. “A month ago we had a house fire we called the VIPs to come out and relieve the officers who were on shift. They (the police officers) were able to go out on patrol and take the calls in the city,” Fish said. “Our VIPS guarded the fire hoses and blocked off traffic.”
    “This program is a vibrant program that shows community involvement in many different levels,” Mayor Mike said. “It has been a godsend to our community in terms of neighborhood watch and volunteering to help us control police overtime so we don’t have to call tired officers back to work for things like parades and special events.
    ““It is evidence of how a successful community operates.”
    Barb Otts has been a member of the VIPS program for three years. “I love helping people,” Otts said. She praised the relationship that she has developed with the Belvidere police department. “They are a wonderful group of police officers and everyone makes you feel welcome. They make it worth it to help out the community.”
    Before participating in the community police academy, Witthun did not realize a volunteer program existed with the police department. “It is a good feeling knowing I helped my community,” Witthun said. She has her bachelors in law enforcement from Rasmussen College. “I would love to be a police officer.”
    Members of the VIPS help block traffic with the city’s many parades and special events. “We are parade city,” Witthun said.
    “It is no longer the city of murals. It is the city of parades,” Otts added.

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    Plunging ahead for Special Olympics
    March 6, 2014
    By Rhonda Mix
    Some people might call it crazy, especially with the wicked winter weather the Midwest has been having this year. Yet hundreds of Boone and Winnebago residents braved the cold Saturday and headed out to Rock Cut State Park's Olson Lake to take part in the Law Enforcement Torch Run Polar Plunge – a statewide event wherein participants jump into frigid lakes as part of a fundraising event for the Special Olympics. Among the teams that competed were family members of Special Olympians from the NASR Belvidere Park District.
    It was not only Boone and Winnebago Counties that participated. People also traveled to the event from towns and cities across Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin.
    While onlookers watched, 448 participants lined up at noon and waited for their turn to race or dance into the arctic lake.
    In order to have a go at hurdling themselves into the water, individuals as well as teams wearing creative and festive costumes, were required to raise a minimum of $75 in donations.
    Payton Rink of Roscoe, and her father, Shawn, said they were taking the plunge for family friends.“It's for a good cause,” said Payton, who had participated in one other Polar Plunge.
    “It'll be bad getting dressed after though,” she added, laughing.
    “The water is not the bad part,” said Shawn, adding that this year's plunge was his fourth. “It will be the wind and the air after.”
    “It's going to be terrible,” said Austin Jacobsen, a Rockford resident also plunging for his fourth year. “Every year it gets colder and colder.”
    Though the wind was whipping and the air was chilling to the bone, the enthusiasm of all attendees – whether onlookers or participants – provided a warm and motivating atmosphere. Some people too afraid to brave the water themselves were lucky enough to have a family member volunteer to go in their stead.
    “This is my first time jumping,” said Rockford resident Jimmy Dulca. “I'm jumping for my wife. She works for the Easter Seals and is too scared to jump herself.”
    Several tents were provided for people to escape the cold, including a tent where participants were invited to attend the after-plunge party and enjoy a free lunch.
    Plungers received special sweatshirts and people who raised more than $500 were entered in contests, one of which included a prize which was probably most welcome at this time of year – a four-night trip for two to toasty Cancun Mexico.
    All proceeds from the event benefited Special Olympics athletes in Illinois.Perhaps the best reward for participants was the knowledge that they were sacrificing themselves to the elements for good reason.
    “It is fun and it's for a good cause,” said Jacobsen. “It also gets everyone aware of helping out people with disabilities.
    ”The event raised more than $114,000 for the Special Olympics.

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    One book helps one school read together
    March 6, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    POPLAR GROVE – The students, staff and parents from Poplar Grove Elementary School are all members of a community-wide book club as they participated in the One Book, One School Program. Through a $2,000 grant issued by Target, the school was able to purchase copies of The World According to Humphrey for each family and entire staff.
    During February, the students and their families read together a chapter each night of the tale of a classroom hamster named Humphrey. Each night a different child takes Humphrey home and he gets to know each child individually.
    “It is very kid friendly and makes kids giggle,” said Nichole Taylor whose sons Deacon and Xander are kindergarten and second grade students at the school.
    “My students loved the book,” said third grade teacher Becky Giesecke. “What I love about this program is when the whole school reads a book there is a lot to talk about.”
    “It builds our community and gives us something to talk about as a school.”
    The students talked about the book with their parents, siblings, classmates, teachers, as well as the janitorial and lunchroom staff. Every day during the morning announcements, the school principal, Kristi Crawford would ask trivia questions about the previous night’s reading and the students would have classroom discussions or activities about what they read the night before.
    Giesecke had her third grade students write letters about the hamster. One boy wrote “I think it is really funny how Humphrey thinks he is talking to everyone, and he is really just squeaking.”
    Although in the book Humphrey thinks he is having entire conversations with the students or the janitor as they talk to him about their lives. They only hear squeaks in response to their conversations with the class pet. “The fact that the kid saw the humor in it cracked me up,” Giesecke said.
    Through the process, the students helped develop a love of reading. “Xander was giggling and begging if we could continue reading the book. It was so exciting for him to finish the book,” Taylor said. “He was so interested in all the details.”
    “Mom I cannot wait, can we pleeeeeease read the rest of the book,” Xander begged his mother as he anxiously wanted to know what came next.
    “To have a child so excited that they beg their parents to keep reading might bring in a new generation of readers,” Taylor added.
    The program was spearheaded by Giesecke and kindergarten teacher Kristi Franseen. Giesecke first experienced the program as a parent when her children attended the recently shuttered Kishwaukee Elementary School which participated in the One Book One School Program. Giesecke was so inspired by the program and what it did for her children and their family that she wanted to bring to Poplar Grove Elementary.
    “I loved sitting with one book as a family. Every night for months we read together as a family,”Giesecke stated. “It snowballed from there.”
    “The whole idea is to get families to read something together and sit down together as a family,” Giesecke said. It is typical for parents and families to read to young children, but the family reading time diminishes as children learn to read on their own. “You lose that reading out loud together. It is a way to remind families to read together.”
    As the school finished reading the book together, the teachers surprised their students with a second book from the Humphrey series. The school had enough money remaining from the initial book purchase that they were able to purchase a second book, bookmark and pencil for each student. The school purchased three different titles from the nine book series so that children had a different book from their siblings. The staff worked hard to ensure that even the sets of twins received a different book from the series than their doppelganger.
    “My boys were so excited to know they were getting another Humphrey book,” Taylor added. “It was so exciting to see them happy about it.”
    “Our goal was that if you get a child or family hooked on a book or series hopefully they would be excited and want to see if there were more books in the series,” Giesecke added.
    “We would like to make this an annual tradition. Our next project would be to research grants for next year,” Giesecke said. The school can also receive monetary donations from the community to the One School One Book program. The PTO paid for a lifetime membership for the school to belong to the national “I feel like the more books we can get in the kids hands, the more we share the love of reading.”
    Although the book is about a classroom pet and the positive impact he has had on the students and the school, the effect that Humphrey has had on the Poplar Grove community is even greater.

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    The Water Project showcases Belvidere talent, spirit
    March 5, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – When Haley Gustafson decided to spearhead The Water Project for the DECA club at Belvidere High School, she fully immersed herself into the project that raised over $15,000 for Water.Org. In the process, she helped to bring together an entire community on a worthwhile cause.
    “It brings you to a new level in recognizing how lucky you are. You don’t think that some people don’t go to school or have a nice home. Never do you really think that some kids don’t have enough water,”
    Gustafson stated. In organizing The Water Project, which was held at the Community Building on March 1, students throughout District 100 became aware of the stark conditions that people in developing countries face in having access to safe water.Gustafson met over the summer with community unity school district superintendent Michael Houselog to pitch the idea for the project and met with the school principals who jumped right in to pledge their support and school involvement. “I don’t remember an event that every school in the district has been involved or every kid has had a chance to be involved,” Gustafson said. She was inspired by the students from Seth Whitman Elementary School who held a penny drive and raised $290 for Water.Org.
    “We got a very generous donation to Water.Org,” said Gustafson regarding an anonymous donation that she and DECA board advisor Maureen Koteles received. “We were both blown away at how generous and humble some people were.”
    “We believe in the organization. To find someone else who saw it in the paper and read about it and was motivated by what we put out there was inspiring,” Koteles added.
    The Water Project included art exhibits, musical performances, vendors, and a book fair. Haley McCoy and Jaqueline Rodriguez are members of the Care Club at Belvidere High School. The pair taught attendees how to make a rain maker. “I was really happy to get involved. I feel that it is important to help the community and people around you,” McCoy said. “I wanted to help out. It is really going to affect people’s lives in a positive way.”
    “I think it is really a neat experience how our DECA club and Care club are contributing to these organizations and helping others around us,” Rodriguez added.
    “It is great to see these students lead and do more than just one thing. They are able to harness power and resources to make Belvidere such a better place,” said DECA advisor Ken Saam. “For so many people to provide their Saturday to showcase their talent and contribute to a cause like this shows what a great community Belvidere is.”
    Dan Kane, executive director of Boone County Conservation District demonstrated the interaction between surface and ground water. “I think people should understand how the systems work that our surface water and ground water are connected. What we do on the land surface can impact the ground water.”
    The lesson and purpose of The Water Project was beautifully illustrated with Jasmine Boswell who attended the event with the Belvidere South Middle School Choir. “I grew up loving to sing,” said Boswell. “We can help save the world by doing what we love.”
    To learn more about, go to and watch the video.

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    Candlewick Lake Watershed plan to be finished by June 1
    March 4, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    CANDLEWICK LAKE - A plan whose goal is to improve the Beaver Creek/Candlewick Lake Watershed is expected to be finished by June 1.
    It is being prepared by the consulting firm of Olson Ecological Solutions, which held another community meeting Wednesday Feb. 26 in the recreation center at Candlewick Lake.
    Those involved with updating the process were consultants Joe Rush, Rebecca Olson and Nathan Hill, Candlewick Lake resident Chuck Hart, who is chairman of the lake management committee, and Candlewick Lake residents Rich Witt and Bonnie Marron.
    In October 2012, the Candlewick Lake Association Board of Directors began pursuing the possibility of getting a planning grant through the Clean Water Act. The goal was to benefit the body of water known as Candlewick Lake as well as everything else in the watershed, including Boone Lake and Beaver Creek.
    More than one year later, in December 2013, the $83,333 planning grant was approved. Sixty percent, or $50,000, would come from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with 40 percent, or $33,333, coming from Candlewick Lake through resident dues.
    Now Candlewick Lake has received preliminary approval for an $80,000 implementation grant, again with a 60-40 split, to move ahead with yet-to-be-named projects aimed at improving the watershed.
    Consultant Olson said the hope is to have a project ready for implementation this spring, with others to follow.
    Part of the purpose of the Feb. 26 meeting was to have stakeholders come up with prioritized, doable projects for the consultants to consider and then rank. There will be a follow-up meeting in May, with the plan being finished by June 1.
    Large watershed
    The Beaver Creek/Candlewick Lake Watershed includes more than the community of Candlewick Lake. It extends north of Illinois 173, takes in a large area west of Caledonia Road, property west of Illinois 76 and extending south to Beaver Creek.
    In the past year Olson said she and other consultants had looked at storm water runoff and water quality in the watershed. They focused on non-point sources of pollution beyond the usual culprit: runoff.
    The IEPA also has studied Candlewick Lake and found problems with sediment and phosphorous.
    Consultant Nathan Hill said development on the books north and west of the community could lead to increases in pathogens, sediment, nitrogen and phosphorous. He said the plan needs to focus on what can be done to prevent pollution before it gets into the lake.
    In response to a question from the audience, he said storm water retention ponds are helpful, but they focus on quantity of water, not quality.
    Hill said next steps would include going on stream walks to see how much erosion is going on. They will look at the extent of lakeshore erosion and determining what's flowing into the watershed.
    The idea is to create a doable plan that will lead to a reduction in pollution coming into Candlewick Lake and the surrounding watershed.
    Hart talked about the importance of volunteers and how their participation can lead to a reduction in the amount of cash the association has to provide as its portion of the grant expense. "We can eat up the 40 percent through volunteerism," he said.
    He encouraged residents to attend meetings of the lake management committee on the second Tuesday of every month. In the near future members of the committee will walk Boone Lake and learn how to document information needed for the grant.
    Consultant Rush said he and others had talked with landowners outside of Candlewick Lake, where development is slated.
    "They want to see what's going on," he said. "We have a good relationship with them right now; there hasn't been anything real negative."

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    Sheriff's candidates stress need to work with citizens
    March 2, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    CANDLEWICK LAKE - Boone County sheriff's candidates Phil Beu and Dave Ernest stressed they "can't do it alone" during a question and answer session on Tuesday Feb. 25 in the recreation center at Candlewick Lake.
    A large crowd turned out to hear the veteran law enforcement officers pitch their credentials as they try to replace the incumbent, Duane Wirth, who's retiring after 36 years on the job.
    They will vie for the Republican nomination in the March 18 primary election.
    Both focused on needing residents' help to make the unincorporated area as safe as possible.
    Questions ranged from controlling gangs to working with Candlewick's private public safety department to having more patrol cars in the community of close to 6,000 residents.
    Ernest, deputy chief of the Belvidere Police Department, cited its zero tolerance for gangs. He said the department, with its own gang unit, once joined county state's attorney Michelle Courier in filing a lawsuit against the Latin Kings gang. Now any of them seen associating with other gang members are subject to arrest.
    "Harvard hates us because a lot of our gang members have moved over there," he said, referring to the nearby northern McHenry County city.
    Beu, a retired sheriff's lieutenant, said gangs over the years have not been as aggressive in the unincorporated area, as they have been in the city. "Times have changed," he said. "We need to look at that, to work with the city gang unit."
    Candlewick is a private, gated committee with its own security force.
    Ernest said the sheriff's office and Candlewick security have to work closely together. Belvidere police forged such a relationship with the Belvidere Park District, he said, because the police department only is so big and can't be everywhere.
    "It's about relationships," he said.
    Cooperation necessary
    While with the sheriff's office, Beu, who retired two years ago, said he met monthly with Candlewick's chief of security to discuss issues. "Candlewick to me is its own city," he said, adding that its public safety department knows the goods and the bads, the trouble spots. "There has to be cooperation," he said. "We can't do it by ourselves; we come in from the outside."
    Both were asked what they thought about Candlewick Lake.
    Ernest replied that it's has issues and therefore is no different than anywhere else in the county. "We need the support of citizens," he said. "When you see something wrong, call us. Candlewick pays the same taxes, if not more, than anyone else. Citizens are the key."
    The Candlewick Lake-Poplar Grove area is one of the highest call areas in the county, Beu said. "This is where the population is outside the city of Belvidere," he said.He reiterated a goal to revise coverage zones so there are more patrol cars in Candlewick. "We will put more cars where the calls and the people are," he said.
    One resident asked about having a substation in Candlewick Lake. Beu said that was tried in the past but he didn't think the need was there. "Maybe things have changed," he said. "Seeing patrol cars is a deterrent; working with your security (force) is important."
    "We need to partner up," Ernest said. "I don't believe there are any boundaries. We have served several search warrants out here; we have gone to Carpentersville, Elgin and Rockford. We need to be aggressive."

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    Union, NBCUSD 200school board reach tentative agreement
    March 2, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    POPLAR GROVE – While North Boone educators were meeting with parents and community members at the North Boone Fire District #2 station on Feb. 26 to discuss the educators’ points of concern with the proposed contract and to hear the community’s viewpoints, a second meeting was taking place a few miles away between negotiators from the union, school board and federal mediator.
    While the town hall style meeting was still in full swing at 7:40 p.m., a flurry of text messages alerted the teachers that a tentative agreement was reached between the North Boone Educators Association and the North Boone Community Unit School District #200 and signaled a sudden end to the town hall.
    “As we were speaking with parents, we receive text messages saying that we reached a tentative agreement,” Mike Winebrenner, eighth grade Social Studies teacher at North Boone Middle School said. “We are all very excited.”
    “The three major issues were solved and given to us. It is a good and fair contract. We will have just cause, there is no merit pay and no two tier schedule,” Renee Roen, secretary from NBEA, said.
    “They were all taken care of,”The teachers responded to news of the tentative agreement after the meeting. “I am thrilled to death,” Tami Doetch, reading specialist at Manchester Elementary, said.
    “I am grateful that a tentative agreement has been reached. A lot of time and energy has been spent on this contract. We want to do what is best for students,” Kristi Franseen added. “It has taken energy away from our teaching and now we can put our attention where it needs to be.”
    Despite the near unanimous vote to authorize the strike, many teachers expressed relief that the strike was averted. “I never wanted to strike and it was never about money. It was about the talking points. It would have been worth it for what it was for,” Kim Krawczyk, North Boone High School math teacher said. “I hope it is really true.”
    “I am feeling thrilled because nobody wanted to go on strike. I felt like it would be a negative thing for the community and were hoping it would not get to that point,” Franseen added.
    “With it this cold out, we have been outside,” said Winebrenner. “We are very excited we don’t have to do that.”
    Krawczyk looked forward to focusing on education instead of a potential strike. Her students have been asking daily about the impending strike. She told her students “I can’t talk about it. Let’s continue on with education and have everything back to normal.”
    Christopher Cummings is a parent who spoke at the town hall meeting regarding his concerns of the automatic pay rate increases based on tenure. Cummings expressed support of the teachers. “We have come to know and respect a lot of teachers in the district,” he said. ”I feel very strongly that their hearts are in the right place.”
    “I believe what they are asking for is fair and they deserve it,” added parent Terri Wlodeimierski.
    NBCUSD200 superintendent Steven Baule responded to an inquiry on the tentative agreement. “The Board feels that the agreement reached is fair and is hopeful that both the NBEA and the full Board will ratify it,” Baule stated.
    The teachers will meet on Friday, March 1 to vote to ratify the contract.

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    Hug an athlete run warms the heart
    Feb. 27, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – If running or walking a 5k on Sunday, Feb. 24 wasn’t enough to warm the participants of the NASR Belvidere Park District event, then the finish line was certain to warm them up.
    The NASR Belvidere Park District held its first annual Hug an Athlete 5k at Doty Park. At the finish line, Special Olympians cheered the 127 runners and gave them a hug. Tom Lichty came in first place with a time of 18:00 minutes. Close on his heels was Gonzalo Gomez who crossed the line at 18:04. The top female finisher was Kristin Strupp at 21:20. The Belvidere track and cross country coaches will want to keep their eye open for Carlee Fridly who was the top finisher in the age 1 – 10 division with a time of 28:06 and an impressive average pace of 9:06 per kilometer.
    As the runners came across the line, some of them could only muster a fist bump or a high five. After taking a few moments to catch their breath and recover, many of them returned to the finish line to ask for a hug from Jerod Dworzynski , Carter Fridly, Janelle LaGrassa, Ashley Mahon, Ethan Ries, and Hailey Spurgeon.
    Christine Young, one of the handlers for Bekah and Kye, the comfort dogs from Immanuel Lutheran Church and School was there with the dogs before running in the event. “It is nice to do special things for special kids,” said Young. “The dogs are involved in a lot of their activities. It is awesome to give back to them.”
    Ryan Majewski ran the race in honor of his brother Kyle who is part of the program. “It was a relief to finish,” said Majewski. “I hadn’t run in awhile.”
    Ries’ mom was teary eyed seeing the turn out and love and support shown to the Special Olympians. “This is the world. It is enormous.”
    Dworzynski had his doubts that many would show up for the run. He summed up the emotions of the day perfectly by saying “It was awesome.”

  • Strike photo 1.JPG
    Teachers set strike date; pack school board meeting
    Feb. 27, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    POPLAR GROVE - Negotiations for a new contract in North Boone Community Unit School District 200 continued earlier this week and if no settlement was reached, teachers are scheduled to go out on strike Monday, March 3.
    That date was set Feb. 24 during a rally outside the District 200 office building on the north side of Poplar Grove. Then a standing room only crowd of mostly teachers packed the monthly school board meeting, though only four chose to speak.
     Initially, as a chorus of picketers chanted "no two-tier," a statement was read by Deb Torrison, vice president of the North Boone Education Association. She announced the strike date and said the association's position on a new contract was based on "what's fair for teachers and the district."One of the most talked about issues is the union contention that the district's proposed pay plan for new teachers is creating a two-tier system.
    The district's proposal calls for a new teacher to be paid $37,883.06 in the 2014-15 school year. It would stay the same in the second year. That compares to the NBEA proposal of $37,323.22 next year and then increasing to $38,029.56 in 2015-16. While the initial figure is $559.84 more than what is proposed by the NBEA, association officials contend new teachers are limited to a total 2 percent merit-based raise over their first four years of employment.
    Earnings are limited "That creates a two-tier salary schedule that substantially limits the lifetime earnings of new teachers," officials said. "It would take 32 years for a teacher to reach the top salary of $74,258.38, on the schedule the board proposes for new teachers."
    Compare that with the contract that expired June 30, 2013, under which teachers are still working. That had a top salary of $84,130.85 that would be reached after 20 years of work. In Belvidere Community Unit School District 100, the top salary is $93,088, which is reached after 18 years' service.
    As part of the two-tier arrangement, association officials claim the district is proposing flat amount raises for 98 percent of the current staff.
    "Flat amount raises punish loyal teachers who have been with the district throughout their careers," NBEA said in a statement. "The proposed flat amount raises result in experienced teachers being unable to keep pace with inflation."
    School district officials counter that the board is not proposing merit pay. Rather, it is proposing that teachers rated as poor do not receive automatic raises.
    "The board proposal raises the base salary for new teachers more than twice what the union proposal does," they added.
    North Boone currently ranks seventh among 11 regional districts for teachers' starting salaries. "The ranking will hold steady and may improve with the board's proposal," officials said.
    Board Vice President Denise Balsley said the board "greatly values the contributions of our teachers. “The board is dedicated to working collaboratively with the teachers to provide an excellent education for our students, while responsibly managing taxpayer dollars."

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    Pomona Grange benefits from chili luncheon, craft show
    Feb 26, 2014
    By Bob Balgemann
    BELVIDERE - Boone County Pomona Grange had plenty of help Sunday putting on its annual chili luncheon and craft show at its building in the county fairgrounds.
    Six of the seven Granges that belong to Pomona were on hand to help make the chili, bus tables, take tickets, keep the dessert table stocked and otherwise be good hosts for another large turnout of supporters.
    Community service is part of what the Granges are all about and it was those activities that benefitted from Sunday's proceeds. All of them participate in the annual county fair while the individual organizations have their own projects, such as college scholarships for high school seniors, Safety Town for kids every June and more.
    LeRoy Grange was in charge of cleanup that day but member John Kennedy said it wasn't all that difficult. "Most clean up after themselves," he said. "There's been a steady crowd since about quarter to 11."
    He and his wife, Sandi, joined the Grange earlier in February. "We saw a lot of advertising about them and the good things they do," Sandi Kennedy said. "They all help the community; it's grass roots."
    The Kennedy's moved to Boone County 17 years ago from the city of Chicago, where he taught public school for 31 years. Fifteen of those years were spent at an inner-city school, which he termed "an experience."
    LeRoy Grange member Barb Mulholland regularly attends Grange fund-raisers. "Not only to eat but to volunteer, too," she said. "Sometimes I donate food but I didn't have to today."
    One of the new LeRoy Grange projects is the food tent at the annual tractor pull, which is held in June, member Liz Gay said. "It's all about community service projects," she said of the Grange's primary function.
    Among the visitors were Marcie Pedraza and her 3-year-old daughter, Edie, who moved to Belvidere one year ago from Chicago.
    "I saw it advertised so I decided to give it a try," Marcie Pedraza said of the chili luncheon. "I also visited the craft show and bought a few things." Coming to the event "was a good decision," she said.Other fund-raisers are coming up.
    County Line and LeRoy Granges will have a spaghetti dinner from 4-7 p.m. March 8 at the VFW post on Appleton Road. Cost is $8 for adults and $5 for children under 10 years of age. Proceeds will go toward the new 4-H food stand, built last year at the fairgrounds.
    Flora Grange will have a breakfast March 16 at the Moose Lodge on Beloit Road and a roast beef dinner April 13 at its hall on Stone Quarry Road.
    Craft show busy place
    The craft show on the upper level of the Grange hall was a busy place Sunday, with a steady stream of the curious checking out a multitude of different arts and crafts.
    Garden Prairie resident Bob Dieterlen's array of handmade wooden creations drew the interest of many. A semi-retired contractor, he started this hobby about 30 years ago when he made rolling pins.
    His repertoire has expanded since then to include chairs, spoons and pizza paddles. While he has appeared in the past at the Boone County Conservation District's fall festival and Genoa Days, this was his first visit to the Grange event.
    "The fall festival got me into the chairs," he said of those creations, which are replicas of Civil War officers' folding chairs. "This is what I do to relax," he said.
    Viva Treasures is a mix of collectibles created by new Belvidere resident Candi Tracy. "I've done crafts my whole life," she said. "Mom was a crafter, too."
    Her table included little shoes, made of Swarovski crystals, which can be used as ring holders; glasses, shoe banks and sand dollars and more.
    "I'll bling anything," she said. For the uninitiated, that means make it sparkle.
    Across the room Sheri Cannataro, owner of the Cannataro Honey Farm in Marengo, was showing what a hive looked like while wearing protective bee attire.
    She was asked about newspaper stories on there being fewer honey bees and answered that was true. The reasons are "the chemicals we use and the environment," she said. "Everyone wants a perfect lawn and others are suffering because of that."
    Her table included homemade honey and goat milk soap.
    Cannataro Honey Farm is in its fifth year, located at a former sheep farm in Marengo.

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    North Boone Board of Education releases highlights of teacher contract proposal
    Feb. 26, 2014
    POPLAR GROVE –In an effort to provide transparency regarding the ongoing teacher contract negotiations, the North Boone Board of Education is sharing the highlights of its proposed offer to the teachers’ union. The Board is confident it has put together a competitive and fair package for the teachers while remaining within its financial means.
    North Boone Community Unit School District has three top priorities – to provide a top-notch education for its students, to reward good teachers and to continue to be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars. The District is projecting a $750,000 deficit in 2014 and a $1 million deficit in 2015.
    “For the first time in more than a century, we are experiencing decreased funding each year from the state,” said Don Ward, Board of Education president, “If we accept the union’s contract proposal, we will run out of money in less than five years.”
    The Board shares the following highlights from its proposed compensation package:Teachers are not being asked for a salary cut or freeze. The Board’s proposal provides for between 6-14 percent raises over the life of the contract.
    Teachers are only being asked to contribute an additional $10/month toward escalating health care expenses.
    The District continues to fund pensions at more than 10 percent of salary. Teachers contribute less than 1/2 a percent to their pension.
    Stipends for coaches and activity sponsors are increasing 40 percent to become more competitive with neighboring districts.
    New teacher base salaries are increasing more than 3 percent, making North Boone’s starting salary higher than most conference districts.
    It’s important to the Board for the community to understand the facts and clear up any misconceptions.
    Myth: The Board is Proposing Merit Pay
    FACT: The Board is not proposing merit pay. It is simply proposing that teachers rated as poor do not receive automatic raises.
    Myth: New Teachers Will Have Lower Salaries
    FACT: The Board proposal raises the base salary for new teachers more than twice what the union proposal does. The proposed base salary for new teachers is $37,883.
    Myth: North Boone’s Competitive Ranking Will Fall
    FACT: North Boone is ranked seventh out of 11 regional districts for teachers’ starting salaries. The ranking will hold steady and may improve with the Board’s proposal.
    Myth: The Board Aims to Dismiss Senior Teachers with Higher Pay to Save Money
    FACT: Should a reduction in force be necessary in the future, the Board wishes to be able to retain the best teachers regardless of seniority.“The Board greatly values the contributions of our teachers,” said Denise Balsley, Board of Education vice present.
    “The Board is dedicated to working collaboratively with the teachers to provide an excellent education for our students while responsibly managing taxpayer dollars.”
    For further information regarding the North Boone Board of Education proposal, please visit

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    Belvidere comes together to support Water.Org
    Feb. 25, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    Imagine if you had to walk two hours each way to get access to water. And you had to wait hours in line in order to fill up your containers with water that may not be sanitary. And then you had to trudge back with home with the additional weight of the water containers.
    Imagine living without indoor plumbing or even an outhouse, you were forced to relieve yourself outside in a crowded slum.
    Imagine going to a school that does not have a washrooms.Imagine if you only earned the equivalent of $2 per day as a day laborer and lost several days of work per month because you had to spend that time collecting water.
    Imagine having a bucket of water with which you use to bathe once a week.
    Imagine having to share that same bucket of dirty wash water with others in the community.
    This is the stark reality of many of the nearly one billion people who do not have ready access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Half of hospital beds in the world are occupied by patients suffering from diseases associated with lack of access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene.
    In the 1980s, a child under the age of 5 died every 6 seconds due to diarrhea. Through the efforts of organizations like Water.Org, the situation is improving. More recently, a child under the age of 5 dies every 21 seconds due to diarrhea.
    Water.Org is a nonprofit developmental aid organization. It works with local partners to provide aid to developing countries. It helps build community wells. It works with local lenders to provide low cost loans to provide for home water connections and toilets.
    This group that provides hope to improve the lives of millions of people in developing countries is the one that DECA is supporting through two fundraisers. On Feb. 26, Second City will perform at the Performing Arts Center at Belvidere High School. On Mar. 1, students from all area schools will showcase their talents at the Community Building with performances, science projects, a book fair, and food sales.
    "Our touring company is honored to be able to assist in bringing wider recognition to the ongoing water crisis and the work being done by and to be part of the effort toward finding solutions that work in ending it," Joseph Ruffner, the Producer for The Second City Touring Companies said.
    “This is one of the first times that a student has brought all of the district schools together for an event,” said Maureen Koteles, owner of the Belvidere McDonalds Restaurant and a member of the DECA board of advisors. “It is about awareness for something that we take for granted.”
    To learn more about, go to and watch the video.

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    DECA Club to host Belvidere Water Project fundraiser
    Feb. 25, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – The DECA Club of Belvidere High School is sponsoring its most ambitious fundraising project to date. The Belvidere Water Project will feature two events to support Water.Org.
    Second City will come to the Performing Arts Center at Belvidere High School on Feb. 26. On Mar. 1, students from throughout District 100 will showcase their talents at the Belvidere Community Building.
    “This is a lot bigger than what we usually do,” said Haley Gustafson . “Usually it is more stuff in the school. This one is more community wide.”
    DECA is a community service business leadership club that has chapters at high schools and colleges throughout the United States. Ken Sam is the advisor at Belvidere High School.
    Board advisor Maureen Koteles began working with DECA several years ago when the club undertook the Kenya Project to raise money for school supplies for a community in Africa. “I started working with them then,” Koteles said. “I have been working with them ever since.”
    As the club began to brainstorm for its 2014 community service project, DECA members approached Koteles for assistance. “ is one of my charities. I presented the idea and they loved it,” Koteles said.
    “When we heard about building wells, we decided that was the organization we wanted to raise money and awareness for,” Gustafson stated.
    “From there an event was born,” Koteles added.
    Second City is a leader in improve comedy sketches. Many alumni go on to perform on Saturday Night Live and movies. Second City alums include John Belushi, Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, Bill Murray, and Jason Sudeikis. “We wanted some sort of a kick-off event leading up to Saturday event,” Gustafson explained of the club’s decision to host The Second City fundraiser.
    The Second City troupe will perform Happily Ever Laughter. The show draws on classic material from The Second City archives as well as scenes ripped from the morning headlines. It is guaranteed to be a night of levity.
    Tickets for the show are $15 and seats are still available. “In Chicago it is $60 and a 2 drink minimum to see the same group,” said Koteles.
    On Mar. 1, students from throughout Belvidere will come together to spread awareness of the issue of clean water and sanitation in developing countries throughout the world. “It is about awareness for something that we take for granted,” Koteles added.
    “The elementary schools will have art displays of African animals that live in or near water. There will be a wide variety of musical performances. The Beloit High School Jazz Band will perform some numbers,” Gustafson stated. “Central Middle School will perform a segment of Honk, which is their spring play.”
    To buy tickets for Second City's performance, visit
    The Second City performance will be Feb. 26 at 7:30 p.m. at the Belvidere High School Performing Arts Center. The community-wide festival will be held Mar. 1 from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. at the Belvidere Community Building.
    “It is impacting a lot of kids and they are learning something that is bigger than their own world,” Koteles added.

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    Chloe Brunke dances triumphantly in life’s rain
    Feb. 23, 2014
    By Tricia Goecks
    BELVIDERE – On Dec. 3, 2010, Ellen Kaduk received the phone call that no mother wants to receive. Her 18 year old daughter Chloe was in a car accident and was being airlifted to OSF St. Anthony Hospital in Rockford and the prognosis was grim.
    “They told me to come quickly,” Ellen said.
    Chloe Brunke was the passenger in a vehicle that spun out of control and stopped in the middle of the road. A Ford F150 then T-boned the car. Chloe was the only one injured in the car accident which left her with a traumatic brain injury similar to shaken baby syndrome. Amazingly, there was not a scratch on her.
    The popular Belvidere North senior who was a star on the varsity soccer team spent the next few weeks in an induced coma. During this time, Ellen was not allowed to even touch her daughter because even the simple act of touching Chloe would overstimulate her.
    Ellen received the best Christmas gift possible when Chloe came out of her coma on Dec. 23, 2010.
    Due to the severity of the accident, Chloe was unable to do anything. The vibrant athlete was trapped inside her body and had to relearn how to breathe, speak, eat, drink, and walk. “I had to relearn everything over again,” said Chloe. “Literally everything.”
    An expressive and talkative girl, she was frustratingly silenced. “People had to ask me a bunch of questions and I could move my head, but that was it,” Chloe said. “It stank.”
    While at OSF St. Anthony Hospital, Chloe underwent brain surgery to insert titanium screws. “My mom likes to joke that I have a screw loose,” laughed Chloe.
    Chloe was transferred to the Rehabilitative Institute of Chicago (RIC) where she relearned many of the activities that are controlled by the brain stem. Ellen barely left Chloe’s side for the first six months.
    A crowd of over 100 people gathered at the Kaduk home to welcome Chloe home following her release from the RIC. There was not a dry eye in the auditorium when Chloe walked with assistance across the stage at Belvidere North nearly six months after her accident to receive her high school diploma. Her entire graduating class gave Chloe a standing ovation as she graduated with high honors.
    Since then, Chloe has continued her physical therapy and enrolled in college. Her plans to go to Arizona on a full ride scholarship were set aside. Chloe attends Rock Valley College and continues to receive top grades. “I took a nutrition class and I found out that was not my calling,” Chloe said. “I am still very smart,” she said adamantly.
    “I went in the complete opposite direction and am studying criminal justice. I want to be a profiler or a probation officer. I have not decided which one yet, but that will come.”
    At RVC, Chloe is starting to make some new friends and her classmates have been supportive of her. “I have always had my spunk. I am starting to regain some more friends because of my spunk,” Chloe said.
    Although Chloe speaks slowly and deliberately, she expressed frustration that her words do not come out as quickly as her thoughts. When asked if it was frustrating for her when words cannot come out quickly or people try to finish sentences for her response was “oh my gosh, yes.”
    In January, Chloe and Ellen opened Blingy Gal Boutique at 405 S. State Street in Belvidere. The store is perfectly girly and blingy with jewelry, clothes, shoes, purses and gift items.
    “Stop by the store and meet Chloe,” urged Ellen, whose mother’s love for her daughter is obvious. “She is the inspiration for this store.”
    A sign on the wall embodies Chloe’s spirit perfectly. “Life. It isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
    “I have always wanted to go to Paris,” Chloe added wistfully. “But that is in the future.”