Two Cents Worth: We can only continue with your support

By Nick Miller

 I’d like to discuss a few changes we are making here at the Weekly, particularly to our website. 

As many of you know, we are a small operation with only three employees, a few freelance writers, and the occasional intern or two. The operation isn’t huge, but it does the best it can with the resources it has. Many times I feel like we are playing at a much higher level than such a small group would be expected to. 

With that said, we started uploading our stories to our website last year around July as a way to spread our work farther and, hopefully, gain more readers and subscribers. However, what we have learned, and should have figured from the start, is that when people are given something for free they tend to not pay for it as well. 

Starting today, there will be no more free news on OFallonWeekly.com. While some may argue that digital is the future and that we need to post news to our site, I argue that the work of my team has value and they deserve to be compensated for their efforts. My people can’t survive on gratitude alone and so I rely on the subscribers and advertisers to make up my budget and keep the doors open. 

With this change, you will see an increase in E-Blasts to convey breaking and urgent news. So if you haven’t signed up for our E-Blasts, visit OFallonWeekly.com and sign up. They will continue to be free, however we are tweaking the content within those as well. 

Please don’t misunderstand this change as the Weekly burying its head in the sand and abandoning digital. The simple fact is that we have done a lot of research and studying and determined that while the news can, and eventually will, move online, we will have an even harder time making the needed money to operate when based online. This makes revenue from print that much more important right now as we plan, develop, and roll out what the Weekly will be one, three, or five years from now. 

So if you value local journalism and news, support the Weekly with a subscription. Urge a local business to promote themselves through advertisements. We can only continue with your support and assistance. 

Time for Spring Cleaning? Get rid of old electronics and more at Electronics Recycling Event June 1

HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital invites the public to do their part to support environmental recycling efforts by hosting an E-Recycling Event for electronics on Saturday, June 1, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. The collection vehicle will be located in the parking lot in front of the Health Center at 3 St. Elizabeth’s Blvd., O’Fallon, IL. 

“As a Franciscan ministry, we strive to be good stewards of the Earth and proudly offer collection events such as this to the community,” states Donna Meyers, Director of Mission Integration, Spiritual Care and Community Benefit. “It is an opportunity to reduce waste and treat the planet with respect.”

J&C E-Recycling will be managing the electronics recycling collection and will pay for some items including: computer towers, computer components, laptops and wire. Other items accepted include:  

• Printers

• Cell Phones

• Electric Motors

• Monitors

• Floppy Drives

• Keyboards, Mice

• Speakers

• Electronic Motors

• DVD/VHS Players

• Battery Backups

• Modems

• Computer Fans

• Batteries

• LCD Screens

In addition to the above, appliances will be also accepted including refrigerators, washer/dryers, dishwashers, freezers, small appliances (blenders, bread machines, hair dryers, etc.), TVs, lawnmowers, weed eaters, lawn tools and microwaves. 

Please note that there will be a $.50 per pound charge for TVs, (plasma, console, projection-DLP) CRT and monitors.

For specific questions on if an item will be accepted, call J&C E-Recycling at 618-233-5009. 

All donations are tax deductible. St. Elizabeth’s Mission Integration Committee thanks everyone for their donations to help us serve the community. 

Through their Franciscan ministry, St. Elizabeth’s follows in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and ecology. Below are a few more simple ways that you can do the same and become environmental stewards to the earth.

Bag it.  When you go shopping, bring your own reusable bags. This preserves resources by cutting down on the huge number of paper and plastic bags that are discarded after a single trip. 

Shop at your local farmers’ market. This will help support farmers in your area and decrease the miles you drive to buy food.

Save on water. Drink water from the tap, instead of buying single-use bottled water, which requires much more energy to produce, store and transport. Use water filters if you are concerned about your local water supply.

Think before you print. With increased access to smart phones, iPads and laptops, oftentimes a hard copy is not necessary. Switching subscriptions and bill receipts to be sent via email is another great way to lessen paper waste.  

To stay informed of this event and other events, visit www.steliz.org/calendar.

OTHS places at SWIC Computer Contest

O’FALLON – Students from O’Fallon Township High School recently participated in the High School Computer Contest at Southwestern Illinois College. The teams performed very well and placed in three categories.

A total of 100 students on 24 teams from five area high schools participated in the Software Applications, Computer Programming and Web Design categories of the contest held at the SWIC Belleville Campus.

Pictured, from left, are Team Coach Julie Knutson; students Paige Zywicki, Brigette McCormick and Sydney McAuliffe; and SWIC Business Division Dean Janet Fontenot, Ed.D. (Submitted Photo)

FIRST IN SOFTWARE APPLICATIONS – O’Fallon Township High School Team 2 students claimed first place honors in the Software Applications division of the 27th Annual High School Computer Contest sponsored by Southwestern Illinois College. Pictured, from left, are Team Coach Julie Knutson; students Paige Zywicki, Brigette McCormick and Sydney McAuliffe; and SWIC Business Division Dean Janet Fontenot, Ed.D. (Submitted Photo)

Pictured, from left, are Team Coach Julie Knutson; students Dominique Maddalino, Andrew Simmons and Coby Blaylock; and SWIC Business Division Dean Janet Fontenot, Ed.D. (Submitted Photo)

SECOND IN SOFTWARE APPLICATIONS – O’Fallon Township High School Team 1 students claimed second place honors in the Software Applications division of the 27th Annual High School Computer Contest sponsored by Southwestern Illinois College. Pictured, from left, are Team Coach Julie Knutson; students Dominique Maddalino, Andrew Simmons and Coby Blaylock; and SWIC Business Division Dean Janet Fontenot, Ed.D. (Submitted Photo)

Pictured, from left, are Team Coach Cheryl Clark; students Katie Storck and Amber Smith; and SWIC Business Division Dean Janet Fontenot, Ed.D. (Submitted Photo)

FIRST PLACE IN WEB DESIGN – O’Fallon Township High School students claimed first place honors in the Web Design division of the 27th Annual High School Computer Contest sponsored by Southwestern Illinois College. Pictured, from left, are Team Coach Cheryl Clark; students Katie Storck and Amber Smith; and SWIC Business Division Dean Janet Fontenot, Ed.D. (Submitted Photo)

Local Girl Scouts honored

O’FALLON – Local Girl Scouts were honored at a recent ceremony.

Pictured are Silver Award Recipients Caila Riggs and Anna Erickson who attended the “All That Glitters” ceremony hosted by the Girl Scout Council of Southern Illinois on Saturday, April 27, which celebrated the success of Girls Scouts in the Southern Illinois region. 

Also honored, but not pictured from the local service unit that includes Fairview Heights, O’Fallon and Shiloh are Jacquelyn Simpson, Outstanding High School Graduate Scholarship Award and future Trifecta award; Katherine Buchanan, Clarissa Pavao and Leah Walton, Trifecta Award Recipients (Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards); Mia Laing, Gold Award; Brooke Bynum and Willow Bynum, Silver Award.  

The Bronze, Silver, and Gold Awards are the highest level awards that can be achieved while a Junior, Cadette or Senior/Ambassador level Girl Scout. These young ladies have planned, worked on and completed projects that have improved their community.

O’Fallon based organization to serve survivors of sex trafficking

Jessica May 

O’FALLON – Being sold for purposes of forced labor or sexual exploitation is a brutal reality for many children across the globe – and shockingly, it also impacts the Metro East because of its proximity to St. Louis, where trafficking is considered among the highest in the nation.

Jessica May of O’Fallon is on a mission to ease suffering among victims. In August 2018, May felt as though God called her to raise awareness on the issue of sex trafficking, which ultimately led her to form Renewed Strength Ministries. 

The purpose of the ministry is to educate the community about the sexual exploitation and trafficking of young males in particular, while providing survivors with opportunities for healing and growth through a Christ-centered program where they can experience the renewal of their hearts and minds.

“It was a vision that God gave me,” May said of starting the ministry. Before she founded the organization, May did work with Covering House, a refuge for female victims of sex trafficking. 

“One day he just revealed to me that he wanted me to open a home for boys,” May said. 

May said she then went to Minnesota for a juvenile sex trafficking conference where she listened to survivor stories and learned as much as she could. Weeks later, Renewed Strength Ministries was established. 

While she doesn’t have a background in therapy or social work, May said simply, “I just have a heart to serve.” 

May said she especially has an affinity toward children that have suffered through traumatic experiences. 

“It really saddens me to see them used and abused the way they are — whether it’s physical abuse, sexual abuse or mental abuse, it’s just not okay and that’s not what God called us to do with our children.”

“He called us to love them and take care of them and raise them properly. And unfortunately there are thousands of kids across this country that are abused on a daily basis.”

May said Renewed Strength Ministries and its focus on boy survivors is due to an absence of attention placed on helping male victims. 

“I feel like it’s not acceptable in society to be a male victim,” she said. “I want to make sure I’m helping them bring back their voice and give them the help they need. I have a strong desire to follow where God is leading me and this is where he has led me.”

May grew up in different places around the world as she was in a military family. She came to O’Fallon in 1996 and is an OTHS graduate. She is married and has a 13-year-old daughter. 

May said that statistically, boy victims tend to be underreported. 

“They don’t identify as being victims very easily,” she said. “On average, they are 30 percent of child victims.” 

She said that currently, there are only five homes across the country that are specifically geared towards helping juvenile male victims.

“That’s just not enough,” May said. 

“As far as the Metro East area, St. Louis is actually number three as top city in U.S. for trafficking,” she said. 

Along with May, there are members of a board that make up Renewed Strength Ministries. Kimberly Vander Ven, who is May’s sister, has worked with children for 14 years and is the organization’s director of program development.

Other board members are DeAnn Silvia and Samson Siame. Samantha John serves as volunteer coordinator for the organization. 

Renewed Strength Ministries is the first of its kind in O’Fallon, raising awareness for male victims of sex trafficking. While the organization is based out of O’Fallon, May said the goal for her organization is to build a campus south of St. Louis to house 28 juvenile males in a safe environment. 

The campus and refuge will be called Eagle’s Ranch. Survivors will be able to live in a home on 30 plus acres. There will be seven homes, a chapel, school, therapy center, wood shop and more. The environment encourages healing and helps victims learn life skills. 

The program is geared at helping eight to 17-year-olds and will be considered long term. 

May said many trafficking victims live in the foster care system. 

She said the goal, especially with the older survivors, is to help them either get into a trade skill, find a job or go to college. 

“Just teaching them that life skills (are important) so they can take care of themselves and transition into adulthood,” she said.

Eagle’s Ranch will be open to male survivors all over the country and not just the Metro East. The fundraising goal for Eagle’s Ranch is $3 million. 

To find out more about donations and volunteering with Renewed Strength Ministries, visit https://www.renewedstrengthministries.org.

O’Fallon comes out for first Vine Street Market

By Annabelle Knef and Martha Stoffel

O’FALLON – O’Fallon Stations’ Vine Street Market held its grand opening on Saturday, May 11, and many residents were in attendance.

Residents shopped from various vendors selling plants and flowers, culinary items and artisanal products. Despite the rain and gloom, many stopped to enjoy live music available at the market. 

During the Parks and Environment committee meeting on Monday, the aldermen received an update on the first weekend of the Vine Street Market. 

Despite dreary weather, event organizers estimated 2,200 people attended the opening day of the market. 

Director of Parks and Recreation, Mary Jeanne Hutchison, mentioned a couple of the vendors sold out of their products early in the market.  

“The guys that had the lettuce ran out three times. The bread guy ran out in about two hours,” she said. 

The market has thirty-five culinary, grower and artisan vendors each Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to noon through October 19th. As the area gets further into the growing season, visitors will see a larger selection of produce available. A sponsorship from Avenue Realty Associates will also bring live music to each market day, a performance schedule is located on the O’Fallon Station website.

(O’Fallon Weekly Photos by Annabelle Knef)

Girl Scouts donate Blessings Bags for Bronze Award

O’FALLON – For their Bronze Award, the members of Girl Scout Troop 164 chose to help the less fortunate by making “Blessings Bags”. 

Normally Blessings Bags are handed directly to people who could use a hand up, however, those situations may not be safe for fifth graders. Instead, the girls asked the American Red Cross on Scott AFB to help us distribute our blessing bags to people who can use them.  

After writing letters to get permission from District 90 schools and the O’Fallon Public Library, the girls created donation boxes and flyers to ask their fellow students and community for items to fill the blessings bags. Following their collection, the troop met up to fill the bags. They successfully created 175 Blessings Bags that will be distributed throughout the local VA hospitals.  

The troop would like to thank Mr. Courtney Hinton, who came their school to talk to the girls about the mission of the Red Cross. The girls filled up his Red Cross emergency vehicle with all of their Blessings Bags.  

In the process, the troop learned a lot about volunteering and are looking forward to their Silver Award as Cadettes. (Submitted Photo)

Mia Laing earns the Girl Scout Gold Award

O’FALLON – Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois is pleased to announce that Mia Laing from O’Fallon has earned the Girl Scout Gold Award – the highest award a Girl Scout can receive. For her Girl Scout Gold Award project, she created 26 art canvases corresponding with Biblical scriptures representing each letter of the alphabet to help inspire others at her church. 

“I strive to engage people of all ages to find meaning in scripture and to find motivation and a new perspective through the Word of God,” she said. 

Laing mentored younger members of her church to design and paint the canvases, while also discussing their faith together. She then hung the canvases in a church community building, where they could be seen during Girl Scout meetings, as well as by preschool students and visitors at weddings and other community events. She even made a corresponding book for the preschool.

“Youth members have come up to me and said thank you for involving them,” she said. “I saw people engaged and wanting to improve their relationship with Christ.”

Laing noted that, along with helping strengthen her faith community, her Girl Scout Gold Award project helped her grow as a leader as well.

“I learned to always be determined and to keep my head held high,” she said. “Most importantly, I have gained more confidence in myself to be myself in every situation.” 

Mia is the daughter of Mary Beth and Jim Laing. She graduated from O’Fallon Township High School in 2018 and is currently attending Truman State University where she studies Psychology. 

The Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest award a Girl Scout can earn, recognizes a Girl Scout’s commitment to excellence as she develops skills and values to meet present and future challenges in her life. To earn the Girl Scout Gold Award, a Girl Scout Senior or Girl Scout Ambassador must design and carry out a project that fulfills a need within a girl’s community, creates change, and is sustainable.  The project must be completed with a suggested minimum of 80 hours of work.  Only about 5 percent of eligible girls earn the prestigious Gold Award.

O’Fallon to hold annual Memorial Day program

O’FALLON –The City of O’Fallon will hold a Memorial Day Program on Monday, May 27, at the O’Fallon Veterans’ Monument, 737 East Wesley Drive, O’Fallon.  

The guest speaker this year is Major General Samuel Mahaney, Chief of Staff, AMC. There will be participation from the OTHS AFJ ROTC, VFW Post 805, First Baptist Church Adult Choir, and Miss O’Fallon Adriana Scagliarini, among many others. 

The names of 24 newly-inscribed veterans will be introduced at this time.  

The program will be begin at 11:30 a.m. 

Veterans are encouraged to wear their medals and decorations that day.  Please bring your own lawn chairs.  

In case of inclement weather, the ceremony will be held in the First Baptist Church on East Highway 50.

New aldermen sworn into office

By Martha Stoffel

O’FALLON – O’Fallon’s new aldermen were sworn in at the beginning of Monday’s meeting by City Clerk Jerry Mouser. 

Five of the newly-elected officials, Ward 1 Dennis Muyleart, Ward 2 Jessica Lotz, Ward 4 Todd Roach, Ward 6 Tom Vorce and Ward 7 Nathan Parchman, are serving their first term as aldermen. Both Ward 5 aldermen, Christopher Monroe and Gwendolyn Randolph, were appointed prior to the election due to the resignation of the prior aldermen during their terms, but were elected to continue their positions. Monroe was elected to fulfill the remainder of a two-year term, and Randolph was elected to a full, four-year term. Ward 3 alderman Kevin Hagarty is the veteran alderman returning to the dais after running unopposed in the April election. 

The council and public received a presentation from Director of Parks & Recreation, Mary Jeanne Hutchison, regarding the May 11th opening and on-going marketing of the Vine Street Market, to be located at O’Fallon Station downtown. The market will include thirty-five vendors each Saturday from May 11 – October 19 from 8:00 a.m. – noon. Hutchison indicated the vendors will change throughout the season. A sponsorship from Avenue Realty Associates will also bring live music to each market day, a performance schedule is located on the O’Fallon Station website. 

Council approved a senior living facility, a new development for the property formerly Vetta Sports and final plat additions for the Illini Trails and Milburn Estates subdivisions. Keystone Place at Richland Creek is a proposed senior living facility to be located at 1050 Fountain Lakes Drive. The proposed development will have fifty-three independent living units, seventy-five assisted living units and twenty-four memory care units. Community Bible Church has filed an application to change the planned use at the old Vetta Sports building located at 590 Hartman Lane. The church will use the existing facility and parking lot for church services, offices and meetings. Their plans include interior changes to create a 7,000 square foot sanctuary, classrooms, and 7,000 square foot fellowship room. They are also planning to make alterations to the exterior, including the addition of a steeple. 

Five resolutions for contracts related to upcoming road projects were also approved Monday night. A contract with Geotechnology for $25,000 and a contract with Rhutasel and Associates, Inc. for $28,000 were approved for engineering services related to the upcoming, summer project for Simmons Road between the Milburn School Road and Porter Road roundabouts. A contract with Lake Contracting, Inc. for $234,852 was approved for various curb and sidewalk replacements to be done throughout the city as part of the 2019 concrete replacement program. A contract with Christ Brothers Asphalt, Inc. for $1,119,941.80 was approved for the 2019 street resurfacing program. The final contract approved was with Sonnenberg Asphalt Co. for $145,740 for parking lot sealing and striping of sixteen different city properties. 

There was some confusion during the April 15th meeting after an amendment was made and approved by council regarding the development known as Advanced Veterinary Center, LLC, to be located at 706 and 800 East Highway 50. It was determined an additional vote was needed at this week’s council meeting to finalize approval of the project. There was some discussion prior to the vote as a sign indicating one of the properties was for lease went up after the April 15th meeting. City Administrator Walter Denton clarified that the property still meets the proposed ordinance, as it will be leased for office space. Denton indicated the applicant was still planning on using the larger property on the east end of the lot as a veterinary clinic. Alderman Jerry Albrecht, Mark Morton, Todd Roach and Dan Witt voted no to approve the project but did not indicate why. 

City Council gets organized and prepares to welcome new members

By Martha Stoffel

O’FALLON – The Committee of the Whole meeting held Monday provided training for aldermen and committee assignments for the next two years. Mayor Herb Roach also announced the city has received the official results from the April 2nd election. Aldermen will be sworn in at the May 6th City Council meeting. 

New committee member assignments are as follows:

• Finance Committee: Chair – Mark Morton, Vice Chair – Nathan Parchman, Chris Monroe, Jessica Lotz, Ray Holden and Dan Witt

• Parks & Environment Committee: Chair – Jerry Albrecht, Vice Chair – Gwen Randolph, Mark Morton, Dennis Muyleart, and Tom Vorce

• Public Works Committee: Chair – Dan Witt, Vice Chair – Ross Rosenberg, Matt Gilreath, Gwen Randolph, Dennis Muyleart, and Todd Roach

• Public Safety Committee: Chair – Kevin Hagarty, Vice Chair – Jessica Lotz, Matt Gilreath, Ross Rosenberg and Chris Monroe

• Community Development Committee: Chair – Ray Holden, Vice Chair – Todd Roach, Jerry Albrecht, Tom Vorce, Nathan Parchman, and Kevin Hagarty

Deputy City Clerk Maryanne Schrader provided the council information on a variety of topics, to include the Open Meetings Act (OMA), Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and a review of the parliamentary procedure using Robert’s Rules of Order. 

Human Resource Manager April Mitchell reviewed various human resource policies for elected officials, covering topics like gifts, computer and email usage, identity and privacy protection policy, social media, and sexual harassment. Mitchell also covered alderman pay of $200 per council meeting and $125 for a special meeting (like the City Council retreat to be held on June 15th). 

It was also announced at the beginning of the meeting that an additional vote regarding the development known as Advanced Veterinary Center, LLC, to be located at 706 and 800 East Highway 50, will need to be made at the next council meeting. There was some confusion during the April 15th meeting after an amendment was made and approved by council. The final vote on the amended motion was not made, so council will correct the oversight next week. 

Young entrepreneur opens his own snow cone stand

By Kate Crutcher

O’FALLON – During the hours after school, Nicholas Sherman opens up his snow cone stand in his neighborhood. The young entrepreneur began selling the icy treats a few weeks ago after he saw a void in the community.

“I used to go to the big snow cone stand in town, but they closed and moved away. I wanted to bring it back for my neighbors and for myself,” Nicholas Sherman said. 

Each snow cone costs $2 and there are six different flavors to choose from. 

Fortunately, for O’Fallon, Nicholas is planning on being opened during the summer months to share his delicious summer treats, for any customers wanting one.

First National Bank of Waterloo holds spring shred day, donates to food pantry

O’Fallon area residents were lined up to take advantage of First National Bank of Waterloo’s free annual spring shred day event on Saturday, April 13, in the Schnucks parking lot.

Throughout the morning, more than 16,575 pounds of paper were shredded, filling the truck. 

“It is such a secure way to clear the clutter, as well as helping to save the Earth. We also try to use the event to help the community. As part of the shred event, we accept donation items for the O’Fallon Community Food Pantry,” said Laura Mergelkamp, First National Bank of Waterloo’s Marketing Director.

ABOVE: Anita Hall and Ashley Gustin from First National Bank of Waterloo’s Schnucks Banking Center are pictured with the large number of donated items collected for the O’Fallon Food Pantry. Additionally, the bank presented a check for the cash donations they received. 
(Submitted Photo)

The bank also holds an annual fall shred day for those who couldn’t attend the recent event.

O’Fallon to have fireworks display on Sunday, July 7

By: Annabelle Knef

O’FALLON – For the first time in over 30 years, the city of O’Fallon will have its very own firework display, which will take place at the Family Sports Park on the evening of Sunday, July 7. 

O’Fallon Mayor Herb Roach said when he was running for office, he kept a list of all the different suggestions and ideas that he heard from people to bring the community together. 

One idea he heard was for the city to have a Homecoming event. “Last year we brought together City Fest, which replaced what was once Homecoming in the past,” Roach said. 

Roach said he then began thinking of the feasibility of a firework display in the city of O’Fallon. 

“We haven’t had one here in O’Fallon in over 30 years.”

The city began looking at different sites where the display could take place and they invited different licensed firework companies. 

The prime site everyone felt the most comfortable to host the display, according to Roach, was the Family Sports Park in the area across from the firehouse. 

The city chose Quincy based firework company and operators Fireworks Authority Inc. Roach said they not only have a great reputation, they also gave the city a low quote in a figure under $15,000. 

Roach said the company reviewed the site, along with the Parks and Recreation Department, O’Fallon Fire Department and O’Fallon Police. 

The company submitted a drawing that dictated the amount of space needed for a safety clearance and the Family Sports Park was well qualified for the space allotment. 

“We are excited about doing it,” Roach said. “Everybody we have talked with is excited about it.” 

Roach said while the sports park is able to fit several hundred cars for parking, the city will soon correspond with nearby businesses about parking availability on the night of July 7. 

Roach said a lot of community members won’t need to travel to the sports park for the firework display, they may be able to see it from their back yards. 

Roach said the firework display “will pull the community together as one.” “This is what we did with City Fest and that is what we are trying to do with this.”

Roach said the reason the firework display is not on the Fourth of July is due to factors such as schedules for the Parks and Recreation Department and the firework company partnering with the city. 

The Parks and Recreation Department is built a year in advance for certain summer activities such as sporting events, according to Roach. He said firework companies such as Fireworks Authority Inc. are sometimes booked two or three years in advance, especially around the Fourth of July holiday. 

The firework display will take place later in the evening on Sunday, July 7, around 9 p.m. and will last approximately 20 minutes.