Tinsel Around Town encourages residents to shop local

O’FALLON – The third annual Tinsel Around Town event gathered local residents to downtown O’Fallon where there was holiday serenades, food vendor concessions and merchant specials lasting all afternoon. 

The event, which took place on Saturday, December 8 from noon to 4 p.m., encouraged local shoppers to support O’Fallon brick and mortar businesses. 

O’Fallon- Shiloh Chamber of Commerce president Debbie Martinez said that a lot of people jump on the “shop local bandwagon” around the holidays, but it’s important to remember that business owners are invested in the community year round. 

“We have to invest in them year round if we want them to continue to be here,” Martinez said. “By keeping your shopping here in Shiloh and O’Fallon, you’re supporting them.” 

Tinsel Around Town featured entertainment from the OTHS Madrigals — they roamed from business to business in downtown and serenaded shoppers. The event also featured funnel cake sales by the OTHS Band Boosters. To keep shoppers warm between their shop stops, the chamber placed different fire pits along First Street. 

Owner of Fezziwigs Marketplace, Ellen Leaf-Moore, expressed the same sentiment as Martinez in the importance of supporting local businesses year round. 

“Shopping small businesses is so important because most of the time it’s our livelihood. This is what we count on to be able to live,” Leaf-Moore said. 

She said that events such as Tinsel Around Town or Small Business Saturday are great projects that a lot of residents attend — but they may only be shopping local once a year.   

“It’s actually really important that they shop the other 11 months out of the year as well — especially for brick and mortar businesses because we have taxes we have to pay, we have rent, we have all kinds of permits that we have, we staff people and hopefully there is enough left over for us to be able to live on.”

Leaf-Moore said that spending just $50 per month in a small business brick and mortar adds a great deal of money to the local economy. 

Leaf-Moore used shopping at Walmart as an example. 

“If you’re shopping at Walmart, very little of your tax dollars stay right here and the rest of it goes to their corporate headquarters. If you’re shopping a small business like ours, so much more of your tax dollar stays here,” she said. “Tax revenue goes to our schools, local fire department, goes toward roads, police force, goes to all of those people that you are wanting to have better your communities.”

On the convenience of shopping online — “many of us have online businesses as well. When they are purchasing online, those tax dollars still stay here.” 

Owner of Refinery Salon Whitney Leidner said that shopping local is reinvesting in your own community. 

“When you shop at a local business, an actual person does a happy dance,” Leidner said. “It’s more interesting to shop at a local business. There is more of a relationship.”

Leidner said that it’s more fun to shop local. 

“We were just doing our yearly planning and we have Pretty in Pink day where we all wear pink and have the movie playing,” she said. “We do more personal and fun things. You don’t get that when you go to a big company.” 

Many O’Fallon residents chose Tinsel Around Town to complete their Christmas shopping and also took advantage of what local restaurants had to offer. 

Manager of Hollyhock House Boutique Victoria Caswell said that the shop has a great variety of gift options for shoppers. 

“We have everything from baby gifts to women’s fashion. We carry sizes extra small to 3X, so we have a little bit of everything for anyone out there,” Caswell said. 

“We are really happy to be in O’Fallon and support the community.” 

O’Fallon Police hold annual Cops and Kids event

O’FALLON – The O’Fallon Police Department held its annual Cops and Kids event, which allows local children to shop with an officer for the morning. 

The event took place on Sunday, December 9 at the O’Fallon Walmart from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Over 50 children from less fortunate families were accompanied by over 25 members of the O’Fallon Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #198. 

O’Fallon P.D. received donations from local businesses such as, Courage and Grace, Kloss Furniture, Visionary Wealth Advisors and Mike’s Pool and Spa. Money was also raised by numerous sponsors of the annual O’Fallon FOP Golf Tournament.  

The Cops and Kids event is designed to assist parents in providing their children with a nice Christmas. As officers accompanied children around the store, children were not just picking out fun gifts for themselves, they chose gifts for their brothers, sisters and parents.

O’Fallon Woman’s Club honors life of Cpl. Bernhardt at monthly flag ceremony

O’FALLON – The O’Fallon Woman’s Club and members of Girl Scout Troops from Marie Schaefer School (Troops 820, 563, 505, 913 and 637) celebrated the life and service of U.S. Army Corporal Laverne E. Bernhardt at the club’s monthly flag ceremony Saturday morning. 

Bernhardt was born in O’Fallon on August 10, 1920 and was inducted into the U.S. Army at Scott Field on October 12, 1942. He received basic training at Fort Lewis, Washington and then went to California for desert maneuvers before going overseas for duty in January of 1943 during World War II. He was attached to Company A, 337th Infantry, 85th Division and was awarded the Purple Heart for injuries he sustained on May 18, 1944. 

On October 13 of that same year, Bernhardt was killed in action when struck by an enemy mortar shell fragment near Bologna, Italy. His body was temporarily buried in a military cemetery in Italy before he was returned to O’Fallon on August 20, 1949. His services were held the next day at the O’Fallon Evangelical and Reformed (UCC) Church and his full military honored burial was at College Hill Cemetery in Lebanon.

Local eye surgeon speaks to Shiloh Middle School students

SHILOH – Dr. Michael Stock of Ideal Eye Surgery in O’Fallon spoke to Shiloh Middle School seventh and eighth graders about the effects of artificial blue light on eyes on Tuesday, Nov. 20. 

Julie Carson, SMS Language Arts teacher, said that the presentation was inspired by informational text that students were reading in her classroom. Carson said that her students were “astonished” at additional research on the topic. 

“The presentation was very informative and Dr. Stock was great with the students,” Carson said.

Shiloh trustees approve plan for village facilities to be used in emergencies

SHILOH – At the Shiloh Board of Trustees meeting on Monday, the board approved a memorandum of understanding between Scott Air Force Base and the Village of Shiloh for Klucker Hall or the Shiloh Senior Center to be used as alternatives sites for the Emergency Family Readiness Center. 

The memorandum would allow for the base to utilize the Village facilities in the event that the facility on base is unable to be used because of an emergency situation. 

Fire engulfs Shiloh home

A fire destroys part of 9 Linden Drive

A fire engulfed a Shiloh home, 9 Linden Drive, early in the morning on Friday, Nov. 30.

Neighbors who witnessed the fire indicated that flames could be seen as early as 4 a.m. Fire fighters arrived to the scene at approximately 4:30 a.m.

Witnesses say that the two occupants, the owner Charlotte Edwards and her husband George Edwards, were able to get out safely and no one was injured.

Drivers were diverted from Lebanon Avenue on to side streets that had no outlet, frustrating drivers during their morning commute.

The cause of the fire remains unknown at this time. This story will continue to be updated by the O’Fallon Weekly. 

Fire fighters worked diligently in the early morning hours of Friday, Nov. 30

Fulton Jr. High begins new broadcasting program Panthercast News

Students got a chance to receive some first-hand training from high school students with the OTHS’s “Panther Beat” news program.

O’FALLON – Alex Herrell, Assistant Principal of Fulton Jr. High, recently spearheaded a broadcasting program for the middle school called Panthercast News that is modeled after OTHS’s Panther Beat. 

Herrell said that in the 2017-2018 school year, students shared with him in interest in having a student- led news broadcast program.

“I figured we had even more students with interest in journalism or video production, so I was excited to get this started at Fulton,” he said. 

As Herrell previously sponsored a news podcasting program at Shiloh Middle School, he knew what it would take to get the program on its feet and wanted to get it started as quickly as possible. 

With the help of a Fulton eighth grade Language Arts teacher Mrs. Derstine, Herrell started a DonorsChoose page to get some basic broadcasting equipment, including: a laptop, microphone, cameras and lighting. 

“We were fortunate enough to get the project funded and the kids are quickly getting used to the new equipment,” Herrell said. 

Herrell said that he also got in touch with Kristin Strubhart, the teacher who oversees the high school’s Panther Beat, and she was able to arrange for a few pieces of their older equipment to be donated to Fulton’s new program. 

One of Strubhart’s Panther Beat student, Ethan Weld, went to Fulton one afternoon to teach students how to use the equipment. 

A group of FJHS Panthers recently participated in the JournalismStL conference at SLU to learn more about journalism and news broadcasting.

“She also put me in touch with JournalismStL, who hosts a journalism conference at SLU each Fall,” he said. “We were able to take some of the students to this year’s conference where they learned some great information about journalism, interviewing techniques, and video editing.”

While the Fulton students were the youngest kids represented as the only junior high in attendance, Herrell said that they still had fun and learned a lot about broadcasting. 

After the conference, the Panthercast News students went to the high school to get a crash course in some advanced technology that they use to put on Panther Beat. 

“I could see it in some of their eyes that they were already imagining themselves as future anchors at OTHS,” he said. “It was a valuable experience and we are very grateful to Mrs. Strubhart and the Panther Beat crew for their guidance as we get our program up and running.”

“The main focus of each newscast is to highlight Fulton students and staff and some of the awesome things they are doing at Fulton.”

In addition, Herrell said that the kids hope to report on news stories that affect the surrounding community and the world. 

The second edition of PantherCast News will be held this week and Herrell said he welcomes parents and the community to view it. The link to the newscast is: https://goo.gl/wu3zqR

Shiloh Cub Scout troop presents flag to board

(O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Annabelle Knef)

SHILOH – The Shiloh Cub Scout Troop 40 presented a flag to the Shiloh Committee at a meeting on Monday, Nov. 26. 

The troop painted and designed the three by five foot flag and spoke to the committee about the meaning of the United States flag. Pack 40 includes both boys and girls from around the Shiloh community. 

Mayor Jim Vernier said that he used to be in Cub Scout Troop 40. 

“We never made any flags like this,” Vernier said. 

Cub Scout Troop 40 then lead the meeting in the Pledge of Allegiance and followed by giving their Cub Scout oath.

(O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Annabelle Knef)

(O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Annabelle Knef)

Safe Families helps kids in need feel special, have stability

The O’Fallon – Shiloh Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals met Thursday at
Gateway Classic Cars to build bicycles for
Caritas Family Solutions and compile duffle bags for children entering temporary foster care through Safe Families for Children Metro East.

Ellen Mossman, Family Coach and Intake Supervisor for Safe Families in the Metro East, stuffed bags for children in need on Thursday, Nov. 15.

According to Mossman, Safe Families for Children is a movement of volunteers who come alongside families in crises. 

“Safe Families seeks to come alongside parents in crises while they get back on their feet by providing a loving, temporary home for children. Our efforts help prevent child welfare, prevent abuse and neglect and help families be strong and stable,” she said. 

In order to keep kids out of the state foster care system, Safe Families provides host families that are screened and approved by the program. Host families take in children for short periods of time, allowing families to eventually reunite, stronger than before. 

On Thursday, Mossman packed duffel bags with a stuffed bear, a blanket that said “You Matter,” a book, crayons and personal hygiene products for the children who may have arrived with nothing in hand. 

“It was so important to me because frequently children come into a hosting and don’t have a bag of their own to feel special,” Mossman said. 

Originally from Georgia, Mossman is now a resident of Shiloh along with her husband Ryan, her sons Blake and Camden and her daughter Addison. Mossman originally came to the area when her husband was stationed at Scott Air Force Base. They decided to stay in the area after he retired. 

“I have a degree in Social Work, have worked in child protection and as a director of social services at a long term care facility,” Mossman said. “My passion has always been to help families in need.”

As a Family Coach and Intake Supervisor for Safe Families, Mossman helps families in need reach their goals and provide encouragement. 

“I supervise other family coaches and have also hosted children in my home,” she said. “I provide support to the host families and visit children during their hosting. I also am in charge of Intakes for the Metro East area.”

“I really have enjoyed helping families get back on their feet, and getting to meet so many amazing people through the Metro East area.”

Central 104 discusses options for issuing working cash bonds

O’FALLON – The Central School District 104 Board of Education discussed options for issuing working cash bonds during their regular meeting held on Tuesday, Nov. 13. 

Steve Adams, a financial advisor from PMA Financial Network, talked to District 104 about options for the issuance of working cash bonds. 

“I have been running some scenarios based on conservative numbers as in EAV (estimated assessed value) growth and what that does to your overall bond and interest levy,” Adams said.

Adams said that a scenario “that really hit home” was one in which the district would get about $1.375 million — with payback over three years. 

“It still lowers your overall levy based on a two and a half EAV increase annually,” he said. “Of course, we know if it goes up more than that, it will lower that bond and interest levy.”

Adams said that he is aware of properties that could be coming around the school district in the next year or two could “significantly impact” the district’s EAV.

“After all these decreases in the past years, to see that (EAV) ticking up is a really good sign,” Adams said. “These bonds would get you to where you need to go.”

Adams said that cash bonds carry a 30 day wait period, “so if the board decided to move forward with the bonds, you may want to pass that resolution to start that clock.”

“We need to have these to the county clerk by the end of February at the latest to be on next year’s levy.”

Adams said that he will continue to work closely with the district as they move forward with the discussion of working cash bonds. 

In other business…

• Superintendent Dawn Elser said that the school district recently received school report cards for both Central Elementary and James Arthur Middle School (JAMS). Elser said that under Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), they do it “a bit different” in that it’s recording not only just scores, it’s recording growth.

“I think the good thing that we can take out of this report card is that both schools were showing growth,” Elser said. 

• In other action, Elser confirmed that Central Elementary received the “commendable” rating while JAMS received the “under performing” rating. To be an exemplary school would mean that a district cannot have any underperforming subgroups and also must be in the top ten percent of performing school’s in the state.

“It’s really a targeted group of kids that is under performing. It’s not really a picture of the whole school and what is happening,” Elser said. 

There are expanded “subgroups” within ESSA – one subgroup must consist of at least 40 students. Elser said that the under performing designated subgroup was the Hispanic subgroup within the district.  

Elser said that good news to come out of the designations is an additional $15,000 in state funding that the district can put into programs at JAMS. 

• Elser said that a “tentative” discussion for a four to six classroom addition at JAMS has begun. 

 “We’re starting to see some new growth in our district with the apartment complex that is going to open up at the end of November and the subdivision across from the fire station,” Elser said. “I just want to continue to have conversations if it ever becomes a need for possible addition of Joseph Arthur.”

Elser said that while it isn’t a firm cost, it would be an approximate $3 to $4 million project.

“Theres nothing imminent but we don’t want it to get too far away from us and then all of a sudden get tremendous growth,” she said. 

Principal of JAMS Tron Young said that all academic classroom space is being used at the school. 

There are four sections of fifth grade and three sections of sixth grade with the average classroom size approximately 23 students per class. However, Young said that numbers balance out in seventh and eighth grade classrooms with an average of 18 or 19 students. 

“Right now we have just enough space with how we are functioning,” Young said. 

• In other action, Central School District 104 is currently in search of a IT director employee. 

Central Elementary School teacher Michelle Schindler was recognized by the Board of Education as the employee of the month. She is pictured with Central Principal Jayson Baker. (O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Annabelle Knef)

• Central Elementary School teacher Michelle Schindler was recognized by the Board of Education as the employee of the month. 

“Michelle’s classroom keeps growing and growing, she has had different aides in there,” Elser said. “She has persevered through all of that.”

Shiloh District 85 receives commendable ESSA designation, approves estimated levy

SHILOH – In the Shiloh District 85 meeting on Monday, board member Alex Herrell said in his curriculum and technology committee report that both Shiloh Elementary and Shiloh Middle School received the “commendable” designation in a report card under the newly implemented Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). 

Superintendent Dale Sauer said that he is preparing to apply for an Illinois Public Safety grant within the week. The grant would equal an amount of $2,700. He said that District 85 was recently awarded a Library grant of the amount of $750.

Board members at the Nov. 19 meeting approved the resolution of the estimated levy. Sauer said that the “best news” is that the estimated assessed value (EAV) of Shiloh school property value is “trending up.” 

Sauer said of the EAV — “if that increases in general, the tax rate goes down.” 

Sauer said that the next plan for the board to put emphasis onto is the replacement of the oldest portion of the elementary school roof that dates back to 1985. 

“The 1985 roof happens to be leaking right now,” Sauer said. “After that we have a 1998 roof and beyond that our oldest roof becomes (SMS).”

The project will cost approximately $45,000 and will be outlined in the levy. The board will save the money over three years before beginning the project. 

Sauer said that parent- teacher conferences were recently conducted and that the feedback from parents and staff were “very positive.”

“I can’t underestimate the power of parents and teachers coming together for the good of the child,” he said. “I want to thank all of those parents for coming.”

• In other action,  enrollment at SMS is currently at 316 students, according to principal Darin Loepker. “That is up three from the last month,” Loepker said. 

• Loepker said that the middle school band will be participating in the O’Fallon Christmas Parade on Saturday, Nov. 24. 

OTHS presents fall play “If Today is the First Day of the Rest of My Life”

O’Fallon Township High School presented their annual fall play, “If Today is the First Day of the Rest of My Life” on November 15, 16 and 17 at the Milburn Campus.

The play followed a community college’s advanced photography class that is trapped in a mining ghost town by an avalanche. Help doesn’t seem to be on the way, either, as they discover they have gangsters holding a secret summit conference for their company.    

The performances began at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.


O’Fallon Station opens with holiday extravaganza

O’FALLON – The Festival of Trees Extravaganza took place at the newly constructed O’Fallon Station Pavilion as part of a fundraiser for HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Foundation on Friday, Nov. 16.

The Festival of Trees will feature holiday trees and wreaths that have been designed by local decorators within the community. The decorated trees are sponsored by local businesses with proceeds to benefit the HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Foundation.  

The Extravaganza was a kick-off reception that provided attendees and sponsors with a first look inside of O’Fallon Station as well as the opportunity to be the first to view the collection of decorated trees and wreaths. The event featured catered food from 1818 Chophouse and local entertainment. 

O’Fallon Mayor Herb Roach said that there was a lot of great, last minute work put into having the O’Fallon Station ready for the Friday evening event. He said that Mary Jeanne Hutchison, the O’Fallon Parks and Recreation Director, “pulled that effort together.” 

“I also think the night was successful for raising funds for St. Elizabeth’s,” Roach said. 

HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Foundation Director David Garris said that Friday night’s Festival of Trees Extravaganza was an amazing holiday celebration. 

“We are honored that HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Foundation was chosen to benefit from the proceeds of the event.  These proceeds will be used to enhance health care services and programs and fund equipment at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital.  We truly cherish the growing relationship we have with the City of O’Fallon and the Chamber of Commerce,” Garris said. 

The Festival of Trees celebration will continue through the holiday season to support and drive business to the local shops and restaurants in downtown O’Fallon and will include:

November 17- 25 – The Festival of Trees

November 24 – O’Fallon Annual Christmas Parade, 5 p.m. 

December 1 – Christmas Hand Lettering for Beginners Class – O’Fallon Station – 10 a.m.

December 8 – O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce’s Tinsel Around Town 

December 8 – The Kissing Ball – O’Fallon Station – 10 a.m.

December 8 – Carriage Rides (visit ofallonparksandrec.com for more information)

December 15 – Carriage Rides (visit ofallonparksandrec.com for more information)

Roach said that there are many ideas for the future use of the O’Fallon Station Pavilion.

 “I think the event was a good opening activity for the Pavilion. It brought a lot of people downtown on a Friday night that normally wouldn’t have been there.” 

OTHS Swimmers put up records in 200 Medley, Diving

Sierra Workman (left) and Hannah Barnes (right)

Two OTHS Girls Swimming and Diving team records were replaced on Friday, Nov. 9 at the O’Fallon YMCA, according to the girl’s diving coach Rosemarie Simpson.

Simpson said that members of the 200 Individual Medley Relay team from 2016 had their records finally replaced on the record board. The record holders were Nicole Moran, Natalie Edwards, Sierra Workman and Hannah Barnes and they had a time of 1:52.85. 

OTHS senior Jacquelyn Simpson, also the diving coach’s daughter, recently beat the 11 dive record with a score of 348.85. Her record was also replaced on Friday. 

Simpson said that the records being replaced is “great motivation” for the girl’s team.  

Jacquelyn Simpson

“What a great way to show them that if they work hard enough, maybe their name can be on the board,” Simpson said. 

On Saturday, Nov. 10, the girl’s swim team participated in Sectionals in Springfield, IL. 

OTHS girl’s swim head coach Suzanne Gibson said that the team finished third at the Sectionals meet. Out of the 12 events offered, OTHS girl’s medalled in 10 out of the 12. 

Gibson said that sophomore Kylie Clark lead all scoring for OTHS with two individual medals and two relay medals. Sophomores Sophie Tamblyn and Sophia McLeod followed closely behind, also earning two individual medals and two relay medals each. Senior Captain Sarah Smith medaled in one individual event and two relays. 

“The meet was such an amazing culmination to three plus months of blood, sweat and tears – literally,” Gibson said. “The girls had time drops and earned personal bests in every event they swam, so it was such an amazing experience from that perspective.” 

Gibson said that in terms of the whole season, the OTHS girl’s worked hard on muscle development and making aerobic gains in areas outside of the pool. 

“This new training coupled with our swim training really sped up the process of getting the girls strong and in shape, so we experienced significant time drops from the very first meet through the remainder of the season,” she said. 

OTHS to present “If Today is the First Day of the Rest of My Life”


(Submitted Photo)

O’FALLON – OTHS is set to present their annual play “If Today is the First Day of the Rest of My Life” on November 15, 16 and 17 at the Milburn Campus.

The play is about a community college’s advanced photography class that is trapped in a mining ghost town by an avalanche. Help doesn’t seem to be on the way, either, as they discover they have gangsters holding a secret summit conference for their company. 

The performances are set to begin at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $5 for students with an ID and $7 for adults. Concessions will also be available.