Illinois

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When you think of an auction you might think fast-talking auctioneers and excited participants raising their hands or shouting out bids. COVID-19 has silenced this practice. But one northern Illinois church is continuing with its annual sale while helping local artists during the process.

The Unitarian Universalist church in Rockford is holding an online auction, marketplace and art fair. The event is normally for the church family only, but this year is open to anyone who visits their website.

Provided by Christine Swanberg.

Welcome to WNIJ’s Thanksgiving week Poetically Yours. Poetically Yours showcases poems by northern Illinois poets. This week’s poem is by Rockford’s first ever poet laureate Christine Swanberg.

Swanberg’s published works span over several decades. Her writing has appeared in many anthologies and journals like Beloit Poetry Journal, Louisville Review, Spoon River and Earth Blessings.

https://www.facebook.com/RKFDAreaArtsCouncil/photos/a.317104908324029/3799671296734022

A northern Illinois Boys & Girls club received a grant that will help bring an attraction that’s typically outside -- inside the building.

The Rockford Fairgrounds Unit Boys & Girls Club of America is putting a mural in one of its rooms with the help of what’s called an Our Journey Action-Grant formerly known as an Our Journey Micro-Grant.

Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco

A Rockford police officer has been cleared in the shooting of an unarmed black man fleeing a traffic stop back in October. 

Winnebago County State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross announced that Rockford Police Officer Dominik McNiece was legally justified in his shooting of 21-year-old Tyris Jones. 

Thanksgiving At Miss Carly's Going Strong

22 hours ago
Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco

COVID-19 isn’t stopping a northern Illinois homeless outreach shelter from providing a Thanksgiving meal this year. Carly Rice is the founder of Miss Carly’s. Last year, she said they cooked over 50 turkeys.

“We were cooking turkeys for like a week. And it was a frantic frenzy to make sure we had enough plates and forks.”

This year, due to COVID-19, Miss Carly’s plans to pass out Thanksgiving-themed sandwiches with a side of cranberry sauce on the side. 

Spencer Tritt

Illinois has had a shortage of teachers for years now, and that extends to substitutes. But, during the pandemic, that pool of subs has dwindled even further. That made it challenging for in-person schools to have socially-distanced classrooms staffed at all.

Chris Mehochko is the regional superintendent for Kendall and Grundy counties. Regional education offices serve as the hub for subs, helping them with licensing and background checks.

Grand Jury Returned Indictment Against Tyris Jones

Nov 20, 2020
Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco

A Rockford man shot by a police officer last month now faces murder charges.

Winnebago County State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross announced that a Grand Jury had returned an indictment against 21-year-old Tyris Jones for first degree murder.

Jones was charged with the September murder of 25-year-old Demavalee Macklin. Rockford Police Chief Daniel O’Shea says that this is just one of the many gun fire deaths in the region.

14th District Congressional GOP Candidate Jim Oberweis is seeking what's called a "discovery" recount in his race against Democratic incumbent Lauren Underwood.

This would have election authorities examine up to 25% of precincts to determine if votes would have gone a different way. Campaign spokesman Travis Akin explained.

“If you are within 5%, you have the opportunity legally to ask for a discovery recount," said Akin. "We will be paying for some of those precincts with funds that we’ve raised for this express purpose.”

https://www.linkedin.com/in/carandus-brown-9b960173/

Welcome to WNIJ's Poetically Yours. Poetically Yours features northern Illinois poets. This week's poem is by Carandus Brown.

Brown is a devoted Christian with hopes to encourage people to find Jesus for themselves. 

City of Rockford

The mayor of Rockford is seeking reelection in 2021.

Mayor Tom McNamara made the announcement this week, touting successes such as growth downtown, in the health care industry, and at Chicago Rockford International Airport. A central campaign message is his desire to make further improvements in those areas.

“We have had great progress these last four years and we want to build on that progress," he said. "We know there is so much more work to be done.”

The Winnebago County Health Department Thursday announced seven new deaths in the county from COVID-19. Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell said there has also been a significant increase in cases throughout the region.

“We’re reporting new cases of 234, our total case count throughout the pandemic is 15,719.”

Martell and Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara said there is going to be a significant step-up in enforcement against businesses that violate mitigation rules. Some measures include daily ticketing, closures and ineligibility for business relief grants.

Yvonne Boose

Some northern Illinois poets had to write outside the lines for a unique Woodstock art exhibition. 

“As It Happens” is an art show on display at Woodstock’s Old Courthouse Art Center. Various poets wrote pieces at different stages of visual artists’ works but the poems are much more than words on paper. 

Artist Carol Hamilton worked with the Woodstock poetry group Atrocious Poets to come up with the concept for the exhibit. She shared her observation.  

Spencer Tritt

Illinois is in the middle of a severe teacher shortage, which also extends to substitute teachers. That problem has gotten much worse during the pandemic.

Amanda Christensen is the DeKalb County Regional Superintendent. Her office is the hub for subs, helping with background checks and licenses.

“I think that there's a greater drain on the system, and we certainly are not keeping up with the need,” she said.

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The pandemic has caused lost sales in several industries across northern Illinois, but one turkey farmer said sales are on track for his business. He admitted he’s seeing changes in other areas.

Robert Kauffman is the president of Kauffman Turkey Farms in Waterman. He said he wasn’t sure how the pandemic would impact his business. 

“I didn't know what to expect,” he admitted. “But I do know we're doing much more over-the-counter sales right now. More people are coming in buying products.”

Susan Stephens

The Kishwaukee College Board voted to extend its president’s contract through 2024. It gives Laurie Borowicz a $10,000 base salary increase to $200,000 per year. The college also upped her employer contribution retirement match from 1-1 to 2-1.

Bob Johnson is the president of the Kishwaukee College Board of Trustees. He said she deserved the upgrades.

The Illinois Municipal League wants the State to form a working group of mayors and other local officials to better coordinate coronavirus response. 

The League says local leaders are being asked to enforce coronavirus measures without necessarily having enough assistance from state government to back their authority. IML Executive Director Brad Cole said on their own, these officials may have difficulty addressing violations from residents and businesses.

Northern Illinois University

A Northern Illinois University researcher is working on a less uncomfortable way to test for COVID-19. 

The standard test for COVID-19 involves shoving a long swab deep up a patient’s nose and analyzing the resulting sample. Chemistry Professor Beth Gailliard’s method would instead have a patient gargle a bottle of water and spit it back into a tube. NIU Chief of Staff to the President Matt Streb said the test is still in development, but could make the testing process less unpleasant. 

You don’t have to get out of your car to get a flu shot on Wednesday. That's because Mercyhealth and Molina Healthcare of Illinois are hosting a free, drive-thru community flu clinic at the Javon Bea Hospital on Rockton Avenue in Rockford.

 

Kelly Sprayberry is a nurse and spokesperson for the event. She said the process is quick.

"Should only be two to three minutes," she said, "however the wait may be longer depending on the line."

Anyone who is 18 or older may get the vaccine, as long as supplies last. Sprayberry said you do not need insurance.

Winnebago High School Athletics

For the first time in over 20 years, cross country coaches Janet and Joe Erb were nowhere to be seen at the regional meet for the Winnebago High School girls team. Then again, some of their runners weren’t there either.

Just days before regionals, members of the team and coaching staff came in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

Susan Stephens

Northern Illinois University will be offering free COVID testing Monday through Wednesday to students, employees, and the community. 

NIU Chief of Staff to the President Matt Streb said it’s particularly timely with the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

Yvonne Boose

Welcome to WNIJ's Poetically Yours. Poetically Yours showcases poems from northern Illinois poets. This week's poem is by Bear Wolf. 

Wolf is a Shawnee Gypsy Jew social justice humanist who lost count of his tattoos somewhere around 20. This world makes no sense to him, so he makes music and poetry.

Here's his poem "Wake Up Call, (Blue Horizons Are Just the Beginning.)"

Blue may have won 

But America is still lost 

 

The cost of living 

Is making a killing 

Rampant racism 

Races through our veins 

The stains of red 

Goodly Creatures, LLC

This week’s episode is with Katrina Syrris. She leads a double life. By day, Katrina is a high school theater teacher at St. Edward Central Catholic. By night and weekends, she owns and operates Goodly Creatures -- her theater production company.

She’s a producer, a director, a playwright -- the list goes on and on. 

Host Peter Medlin talked to Katrina about being an artist during the pandemic. Goodly Creatures lost their studio space during COVID so she’s had to pivot online both for her theater company and her high school classes.

Underwood Wins 14th

Nov 12, 2020
underwood.house.gov

The Associated Press on Thursday called the race for the seat in Illinois' 14th Congressional District for incumbent Democrat Lauren Underwood. She defeated Republican Illinois state senator Jim Oberweis. 

In response to the AP call, Underwood issued the following statement: "I am honored to be reelected to represent Illinois' beautiful 14th District in Congress. This was a tough race under some very difficult circumstances, and I want to say thank you to my supporters, the voters, and our elections officials for their diligent work."    

Chase Cavanaugh

A newly proposed scholarship would give Rockford Public School students an opportunity for free tuition and fees at Northern Illinois University.

Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara said the impact of the Rockford Promise scholarship program for the Rockford community is beyond just education.

“We know that educational attainment is an education in and of itself is directly tied to public safety. It is directly tied to neighborhoods; it is directly tied to economic development,” he said.

https://kishwaukeeunitedway.com/

A local chapter of a worldwide community organization is finishing up its annual fundraising event with a virtual celebration on Thursday Nov. 12.

Kishwaukee United Way’s fundraising event “Taste: Bottles & Brews” went online this year.  

The silent auction started Nov. 5. Gretchen Sprinkle is the executive director of Kishwaukee United Way. She explained that more bidders joined the online format than had for in-person auctions held in past years, but said fundraising this year hasn’t been easy.

Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco

Due to the climbing positivity rate of COVID-19 in Winnebago County, this week the Rockford Mass Transit District is implementing restriction on some of its services.

 

 

Last month Rockford city bus drivers went down to City Hall to call for improved safety precautions on the buses. This month RMTD responded with some slight changes, but Jodi Williams, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1333, said she’s still worried. 

 

https://www.thewssr.org/

A Rockford poet is showing fellow writers how to bring their words to life in a new poetry workshop series.

Christopher D. Sims said he’s done spoken word poetry for over 20 years. He’s now partnering with Rockford performing arts venue The West Side Show Room in a workshop series called Graffiti Flow: Write and Perform Spoken Word Poetry. He mentioned that a friend introduced him to the venue's artistic director Mike Werckle.  

In Youth We Trust 2021 Grant Cycle Is Open

Nov 11, 2020

The Community Foundation of Northern Illinois has a unique program that teaches high school students in Boone, Ogle, Stephenson and Winnebago counties about the grantmaking process and how philanthropy works. It’s called In Youth We Trust.

Jennifer Smith is the engagement director for CFNIL. She said the kids look at all aspects of grantmaking and then award grants to adults and youth alike. 

Flickr user / kristin_a (Meringue Bake Shop) "Vote!" (CC BY 2.0)

Many races in Illinois won’t see results until next Tuesday. 

Winnebago County received many more mail-in ballots than previous years due to the coronavirus. The backlog of ballots is keeping election authorities busy trying to clear it. Winnebago County Clerk Lori Gummow said it’s important to not fall for fake reports since final election results aren’t out yet. 

https://www.facebook.com/TheNextPictureShow

A northern Illinois arts center kept creativity flowing by challenging artists to ponder a basic technique  for a new art exhibition. 

Mike Glenn is the executive director of The Next Picture Show in Dixon. Glenn said he’s a writer so he likes to make the artists dig deeper when they create for exhibitions.  

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