Around The Town

JHS Class of 1983 Reunion

Photo by Brian Nyberg

The Jacksonville High School Class of 1983 held its 40-year class reunion on Saturday, Aug. 5 at The Hangout, 901 W. Superior Ave. in Jacksonville. Those attending represented several states and at least one foreign country. The Class of ‘83 was the first class to graduate from the “new” JHS — the redesigned and expanded former Armstrong Junior High School opened in the fall of 1982. The class’ sophomore and junior years were at the former high school building, located at 500 W. State St. in Jacksonville.

The Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary hosting H.O.P.S. sale Sept. 22 and 23:

The Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliarywill be hosting their yearly H.O.P.S. (Holidays On Parade Sale) event on Sept. 22 from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sept. 23 from 8 a.m.-noon at the Morgan County Fairgrounds in the 4-H Building.

There will be decor and more for sale covering all sorts of holidays throughout the year.

Donation of items may be dropped off on Sept. 18, 19 and 20 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at the 4-H Building. No clothing or electronics, please!

If you have any questions, call 217-245-7124.

Proceeds are used to fund The Salvation Army Youth Programming of Jacksonville.

MCS Community Services announces the start of the LIHEAP Energy Assistance Program:

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is available for income qualified households beginning October 2, 2023.

MCS Community Services, as administrator of the Energy Assistance Program in Morgan, Cass and Scott counties, is pleased to announce that funds are available to assist income-eligible households with their natural gas, propane and/or electric bills and furnace assistance for inoperable heating systems.

The program will begin October 2, 2023 for seniors (60+), the disabled and families with children under the age of six years.

Beginning November 2, 2023, households that are disconnected from their utilities, have a disconnection notice or have less than 25% in their propane tank can start applying for assistance.

Al other income eligible households can start applying December 1, 2023.

The application end date is now changing to August 15 instead of May 31. Applications will be taken on a first-come, first-serve basis through August 15, 2024, or until funding is exhausted. Households that receive a one-time benefit may return during this period for a Reconnection Assistance benefit.

Additionally, a homeowner whose existing heating system is not operational or has been red-

tagged as hazardous may apply for Furnace Assistance during their priority group period. Applications will be taken on a first-come, first-serve basis, as funding permits.

Households must be at or below 200% of the federal poverty level to receive a benefit from the LIHEAP Program. The 30-day income guidelines for LIHEAP are based on Federal Poverty Guidelines, State Median Income and the number of persons living in the household. The guidelines are as follows: 1-$2,430; 2-$3,2887; 3-$4,143; 4-$5,000. Larger households should call the office for current guidelines or go to

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provides one-time benefits to income eligible homeowners and renters to help with energy bills and for reconnection of energy service. Propane customers who are part of the priority group are encouraged to apply when the program opens in October. Propane prices typically increase during the winter months so by applying early propane customers will see their LIHEAP benefit go further.

Applications can be taken in-person at locations in Jacksonville, Beardstown and Winchester, by appointment only. Applications can also be taken over-the-phone, by appointment only, with documentation to be sent into MCS Community Services by using the office drop box, emailing, faxing or regular mail delivery. Details will be given out during the phone application.

To submit an application, you MUST submit ALL documentation required:

1. Proof of gross income from all household members for the prior 30-day period

beginning with the date of application.

2. Proof of Social Security numbers or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number

(ITIN) for all household members. Individuals without an SSN or ITIN can still apply and MCS Community Services will advise accordingly.

3. A copy of current gas, electric, and/or propane bills issued within the last 30 days.

4. All household members over the age of 18 claiming zero income are required to provide proof of how they are surviving, such as: proof of job search, denial or appeal of disability claim, denial of unemployment, written proof of help from family, application for or receipt of DHS services (SNAP, TANF, medical card, etc.), proof of enrollment in school, etc.

5. A copy of rental agreement (if renting) showing that utilities are included, the monthly rental amount and landlord contact.

6. Other documents may be needed based on your household situation. If you have questions regarding this, please call our office.

Based on program guidelines applications may be denied due to program ineligibility, lack of documentation or lack of funding availability.

Please call MCS Community Services at 217-243-9404 or 1-888-288-4413, beginning October 2, 2023, for outreach locations and schedules, and for information on what documents are needed to apply and different ways to submit your documentation.

Illinois Council of Convention & Visitors Bureaus reveals 2023-2024 board of directors:

The Illinois Council of Convention & Visitor Bureaus (ICCVB) is thrilled to announce the newly elected Board of Directors for the term 2023-2024. This esteemed group of tourism experts and professionals will be at the helm of ICCVB, overseeing its financial direction, legislative advocacy policies, educational initiatives, and the enhancement of member services, all aimed at bolstering tourism in the State of Illinois.

2023-2024 Illinois Council of Convention & Visitor Bureaus (ICCVB) Board of Directors

Dave Herrell, Chairman; Visit Quad Cities

Jayne DeLuce, Immediate Past Chair (Chair, Nominating Committee); Visit Champaign County

Brittany Henry, 1st Vice-Chair (Chair, Education Committee); Jacksonville Area CVB

Cory Jobe, 2nd Vice-Chair; Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau

Bob Navarro, Treasurer; Heritage Corridor CVB

Cort Carlson, Secretary; Aurora Area CVB

Scott Dahl, Director At-Large (Board Liaison, Sports Illinois); Springfield CVB

J.D. Dalfonso, Director At-Large (Chair, Legislative Committee); Discover Peoria  

Beth Marchetti, Director At-Large (Board Liaison, Meet Illinois); DuPage CVB

Krisilee Murphy, Director At-Large (Board Liaison, Market Illinois); Elgin Area CVB

Randy Newcomb, Director At-Large (Board Liaison, Finance & Administration); Galesburg CVB

Lynn Osmond, Director At-Large; Choose Chicago

Maureen Riedy, Ex-Officio (UMCVB Board Representative); Visit Lake County

Ashlee Spiller, Ex-Officio (Board Liaison, Tour Illinois); VisitSI

About ICCVB: The Illinois Council of Convention & Visitor Bureaus (ICCVB) represents the 37 DCEO-certified convention & visitor bureaus in all parts of Illinois. Working with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Office of Tourism, ICCVB enables members to be more effective and efficient in attracting visitors to their communities. Visit ICCVB’s website for more information. 

JPSF awarded $5,000 matching grant for 2023-24 Teacher Grant Campaign:

The Jacksonville Public Schools Foundation was generously awarded a $5,000 matching gift from the Illinois Masonic Children’s Assistance Program in support of its 2023-24 JPSF Teacher Grant Program fundraising campaign. This gift will help the campaign to make its goal of raising $10,000 to support District 117 teachers possible.

The JPSF Teacher Grant Program annually raises funds to support innovative and creative educational ideas which teachers wish to implement into their curriculum. District 117 teachers apply for the grants which are then evaluated for award.

The Illinois Masonic Children’s Assistance Program provides an array of grant, training, scholarship and outreach program options to help support children and young adults. Jacksonville’s Harmony Lodge #3 A.F. & A.M. was instrumental in assisting with the JPSF’s grant request.

Pictured L-R are Harmony Lodge #3 A.F. & A.M. Treasurer Jeremy Coumbes, JPSF Executive Director Leslie DeFrates, Harmony Lodge #3 A.F. & A.M. Worshipful Master Brad Smith, and JPSF Board of Directors President Bob Chipman.

Jacksonville School District Educator of the Year Award announced:

Recipients of the Jacksonville School District 117 Educator of the Year Award made in honor of Bill Russell were named on Monday, August 14 at District 117’s opening celebration.  Selection for this award is a collaborative effort between Jacksonville School District 117, the Jacksonville Education Association (JEA) and the Jacksonville Public Schools Foundation. The award has been made since 1988 and recognizes a district employee who has made an extraordinary impact on students, faculty, and the community, who has demonstrated innovative approaches and initiative, and who has defined the ideal.

This year, two recipients were selected: David Rubin de Celis (a JHS math, business and ELL teacher); and a shared award for Amy Pieper (a 4th grade North Jacksonville Elementary teacher) and Dale Homolka (a JHS art teacher). Rubin de Celis was honored for his wonderful dedication to students and commitment outside of the classroom to student success, and Pieper and Homolka were recognized for their extraordinary work as president and vice president of the JEA during the pandemic.

Pictured L-R are Amy Pieper, Dale Homolka, Leslie DeFrates and David Rubin de Celis.

SIU Medicine breast cancer survivor, employee to model at NYC Fashion Week:

Community activist, local school board member and SIU Medicine deputy director Erica Austin will model at this year’s New York Fashion Week in September at the (R)Evolution fashion show. Austin, who recently underwent breast cancer surgery, will walk the runway for Dana Donofree, a breast cancer survivor and the designer and founder of AnaOno, an international intimates clothing line for women with breast cancer. (R)Evolution features models who are patients with a breast cancer diagnosis. Since 2017, these shows have raised more than $280,000 for metastatic breast cancer research.

“I’m grateful to be able to turn my story into something positive to help other women,” says Austin of her upcoming modeling debut. “Early detection and research to find a cure are critical, especially for Black women who have a higher mortality rate.” Austin is the deputy director of SIU School of Medicine’s Office of External Relations. Approximately 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer during their lifetimes, and the mortality rate for Black women is 40% higher than for white women, according to the American Cancer Society.

Austin has received numerous awards for her dedication and advocacy in the Springfield community. She founded a nonprofit for youth, The L.Y.N.C. (Leading Youth, Networking Communities); serves on several boards, including Springfield District 186 School Board; and is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. In 2020, Austin was instrumental in the implementation of COVID-19 testing centers in Springfield.

Past SIU Medicine models in the fashion show include Susan Danenberger, owner of Danenberger Family Vineyards, and Tami Russell, Springfield Police officer and president of Police Benevolent and Protective Association Unit 5. Danenberger will walk the runway again this year.

The fashion show is part of the Plastic Surgery Foundation’s twelfth annual Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) Day, which aims to raise awareness and educate women about their post-mastectomy breast cancer care options. Breast reconstruction surgery after breast cancer is considered a reconstructive procedure and is covered by health insurance, regardless of when a woman chooses to undergo reconstructive surgery.

“Many women aren’t aware of the options for breast reconstruction after mastectomy, or that insurance must cover the cost of reconstruction,” said Nicole Sommer, MD, a plastic surgeon at SIU Medicine who specializes in breast reconstruction. “BRA Day inspires women to educate themselves on care options and make the decision that is right for them.”

BRA Day is a collaboration between the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the Plastic Surgery Foundation, plastic surgeons specializing in breast surgery, corporate partners and breast cancer support groups.

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