Top ten Sentinel stories from 2020

During the last 12 months, The Sentinel has published 416 stories. Here is a look, starting with #10, our most read stories for the year 2020.

Rational regard: Will shelling be the new normal?



It is the word I started using about a week or so ago in informal conversations to refer to sheltering-in-place. In our homes and apartments we are much like hermit crabs, turtles and clams safely tucked within our sanctuaries from a virus to avoid infecting or becoming infected with the coronavirus.

Willowdale Winter Wonderland coming in December

When Lacey Smith moved into the Willowdale Subdivision with her husband and three kids in 2015, she heard tales from the past when residents would lavishly decorate their homes for the holidays.

"I love Christmas and we have a fantastic neighborhood!" said Smith, who has lived ...

County records 4 Covid-19 deaths, state could see another stay-at-home order

While the state's positivity numbers continue to grow at a record pace for the fourth straight day, the number of active Coronavirus cases in our area have shrunk from a high of 53 on Sunday, November 1, to 27 as of today.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today reported 12,623 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in Illinois, including 79 additional deaths. Four ...

Money Matters: Three businesses that would be great to have in St. Joseph

As St. Joseph and small towns across the country face stagnation (lack of growth) it is important that they prioritize their local economy.

St. Joseph is a desirable place to live for many reasons. We have a great school system, small town values, a low crime rate, proximity to jobs and everyday necessities, the best El Toro in Champaign ...

Active COVID case count rises to 69

The number of active confirmed COVID-19 cases in the area has risen to 69 as of this morning according to the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District dashboard. The combined total is an all-time high for the viral infection in the six communities The Sentinel covers.

With the exception of Philo, each of the five other communities saw at least one new...

Subway manager starts GoFundMe campaign to help employee

Last Thursday while at work April Patton didn't feel well. Despite the pain and discomfort, she finished her shift and continued to work several more days at the Subway located on 220 East Warren in St. Joseph before seeking medical attention. According to store manager Adam Porter, it was then she was informed that she had suffered a stroke on December 17.

With Christmas just around the corner and learning that she would not be able to return to work...

Statewide stay-at-home order, not if but when

"The numbers don't lie. If things don't take a turn in the coming days, we will quickly reach the point when some form of a mandatory stay-at-home order will be all that is left," Governor Pritzker said. "With every fiber of my being, I do not want us to get there. But, right now, that seems where we are headed."

Two St. Joseph residents found dead, suspect in custody

Early this morning, Champaign County deputies arrested Jonathon Perry, of Homer, now held in custody at the Champaign County Correctional Center, on the preliminary charge murder after deputies performed a welfare check on a residence located on Shore Drive in St. Joseph.

While searching the property around 4:15am this morning, deputies found ...

Illinois Rural Health Association hosts virtural conference in October

Despite restrictions on gatherings due to this year's pandemic outbreak, the Illinois Rural Health Association (IRHA) plans to host its 31st Annual Educational Conference next month.

The theme of this year’s conference is "Pulling Together in these Challenging Times". The two-day series of meetings with more than 20 workshops and panel discussions will be held virtually over the internet using a video ...

Our top story, numero uno for 2020

On the fence about getting vaccinated? You might not have a choice

"With at least two Coronavirus vaccines available on the near horizon, many Americans may face a new dilemma in the way of a mandated Coronavirus vaccination.

Just as in Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country, General Chang asks, "To be or not to be? That is the question which preoccupies our people...", to vaccinate or not to vaccinate? That is the question that will occupy the minds..."

Village Crier: December 31, 2020

Local news briefs for St. Joseph and Tolono

Active COVID cases remain low

According to the Champaign-Urbana Health District there are 65 active COVID-19 cases, five more than the area's six week low of 60 on Sunday, within the six villages covered by The Sentinel.

To date, there has been 73 positive cases in Ogden, 36 in Royal, 426 in St. Joseph, 6 in Sidney, 11 in Philo and 324 identified in Tolono since March of this year.

St. Joseph IGA open New Year's Day

Looking for additional snacks for tonight's countdown to 2021? The St. Joseph IGA will be open today from 6a-8p. The store will also be open on January 1, New Year's Day, from 6a-6p for last minute shopping needs.

Recycling reminder for Tolono residents

The Village posted a reminder that users should only place approved items in are recycling bins and asks that all boxes be broken down or flattened in order to make plenty of room for the increase in material due to the holidays.

Recycle bins use is for Tolono residents only. If the bins are full, residents are asked to take items back with them. Leaving boxes and recyclable material on the ground next to bins is considered illegal dumping. Illegal dumping is punishable with a $500 fine from the village. There are surveillance cameras to record activity at the bin location.

Here is a list of acceptable items that can be disposed at recycling bins.

Possible winter storm on New Year's

Federal Emergency Management Agency issued a Winter Weather Advisory for today starting at 4:03am until 12pm on January 1. In addition to Champaign County, the advisory also covers Edgar, Vermilion, Shelby, Coles, Piatt and Douglas counties.

The area is expected to see a mixture of precipitation late tonight and Friday. A winter storm system is expected to bring snow, sleet and freezing rain to the area. While the exact track and strength of this storm has not been determined, the threat for ice and snow now appears to be likely to make road conditions hazardous during early hours New Year's Day.

Current prediction calls for snow accumulations up to a half inch, sleet accumulations between one and two tenths of an inch, or ice accumulations between one- and two-tenths of an inch.

For the latest road conditions throughout Illinois visit

Forest preserve collecting Christmas trees

The Champaign County Forest Preserve District is accepting Christmas trees now until mid-January. Only undecorated trees will be accepted. Artificial trees or commercial drop-offs will not be taken as they cannot be used for the natural recycling by the Preserve District.

The tree can be dropped off any day of the week between 7am and sunset. Once you arrive at the park, there are signs to direct vehicles to the following drop-off locations:

• Homer Lake – drop trees off near the Maple Sugar Grove
• Lake of the Woods – drop trees off at the west maintenance entrance off Rte. 47.
• Middle Fork River – drop trees off at maintenance building

The trees are chipped and used for trails and landscaping at forest preserves throughout Champaign County. When the lakes freeze over, the trees are dragged onto the lake with cinder blocks attached to them. These will sink when the ice thaws to provide a natural aquatic habitat.

Billy Bob's closed

On December 11, the Champaign County public health agency suspended the health permit for Billy Bob's in Ogden. Yesterday, Judge Roger Webber granted a restraining order sought by the agency barring the restaurant from operating without a valid health permit.

Billy Bob's, represented by attorney Tom DeVore, will be back in court at 9am on January 12, when the TRO expires, for another hearing to force the restaurant to comply with the state's ban on indoor dining.

Judge Ben Dyer was replaced on the bench by Webber after a request submitted by DeVore, who had hoped for a friendlier court after Dyer shot down a pair of earlier attempts by DeVore to keep two other clients open, the Apple Dumplin' and Mary Ann's Diner in Champaign.

The timing could not be worse for the establishment which will now be closed during a typically profitable New Year's celebration. On their Facebook page, a message stated that the restaurant will be open "for carry-out in the near future".

Photo of the Day - December 30, 2020

Jenna Albrecht and Lacey Kaiser

Third at state!

Spartan volleyball players Jenna Albrecht and Lacey Kaiser celebrate with teammates after the team's 2-1 win over Rockford Lutheran to finish 3rd at the 2019 Illinois High School Association's Volleyball State Final in Class 2A. Finishing the season 36-5, St. Joseph-Ogden brought home the hardware after a three-set thriller, 25-11, 20-25, 25-23. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Lender makes home loan process easier for buyers

Sentinel Money Matters
Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance, Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway company and Illinois Residential Mortgage Licensee, has launched a new video promoting its easy loan process.

"Getting a home loan should not be an intimidating and difficult process, and we are continuously working to make the home financing journey - from application to closing - as easy as possible," said company president Eric Hamilton "A seamless home loan process greatly improves the customer experience, which is at the heart of our business."

Vanderbilt also enhanced its online application to simplify the process for customers on the company website.

Along with making the loan approval process easier for customers, Vanderbilt is continuing a program offering no payments for 60 days. This program automatically extends most new customers' first mortgage payment due date for 60 days after closing. While there are some additional requirements and restrictions, the program gives customers extra time to focus on paying the costs of moving in, without worrying about their first mortgage payment.

Over the last two years, the mortgage company has published an updated version of their home loan guide that contains helpful articles designed to explain the loan process to customers and valuable tips to ensure they are prepared during each step along the way.

Photo of the Day - December 29, 2020

Taking their best shot

St. Joseph-Ogden's Seth Wedig takes a shot on the Unity goal during his team's home game in 2017. After playing to scoreless finish after regulation time expired, the Spartans fell 2-1 in a shootout against the Rockets.

PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Photo of the Day - December 28, 2020

JC Ducey, Tyler Johnson and Lukas Graves enjoy an SJO football game

Tres grandes sonrisas

Former Spartan athletes JC Ducey, Tyler Johnson and Lukas Graves flash million dollar smiles as they show a little love to their favorite sports photographer from the back of a truck bed in 2013 during St. Joseph-Ogden's home football game against Marshall. The trio, who played in a state football title game together in 2006, also were teammates on the baseball field. Johnson, a three-sport athlete, played basketball while Graves wrestled his way to state finals appearances during the winter seasons. Later that evening the entire Spartan nation wore smiles as SJO rolled to a 47-0 shutout over the visiting Lions in the season opener on August 30.

Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Guest Commentary: Decisions determine our destiny

By Glenn Mollette, Guest Commentator

2021 is here, and will it be just another year?

If it's just another year then that won't be bad at all because too many will not have another year. The opportunity and privilege to have another year is the gift of life. Being alive and living your life is about as good as it gets. Aim for being alive this time next year.

Make some decisions about 2021. Where do you want to be this time in 12 months? Would you like to be ten pounds heavier? Maybe you would like to be ten or twenty pounds lighter?

If you cut back on your portions and get off the couch you can lose a pound a week on average. This is daunting but just think about where you can be the first of March if you start today? Don't start tomorrow. Start right now. Today. This minute. Throw all that junk cake and pie in the trash. This is a tough decision because we hate to say goodbye to all those holiday cookies and candies. Your body will thank you and you will feel so much better very soon.

Decide about financial habits. Millions of Americans carry credit card debt. Minimum payments on $3,000 of credit card debt is like swimming up river. If you have missed a few payments your credit card company may be anxious to hear from you. Ask them if they will consider a settlement payoff. A friend of mine owed $5,000 and his credit card company settled for a $2800 payoff. Your company might or might not but it never hurts to negotiate. You might be able to sell some things in order to erase that back breaking high interest debt.

Make some money in 2021 - if you want to. Most Americans need to make money in 2021. Work on job applications. Peruse the newspaper. Search online. Consider places you have heard about and call them, go see them. Knock on doors of opportunity. You get nowhere if you do not try. You might complete 20 or 30 applications to get one job interview. Complete the application thoroughly. Give them a reason to consider you. Put together a good biographical sketch, resume. Have a friend or two to review and edit because two heads are better than one. Have some good trusted references. Wherever you work do a good job because you want them to say a good word about you. A good word may seal the deal on your next job opportunity.

Jobs sometimes are scarce. Consider your personal knowledge and abilities and what might you do to make a dollar or two? What do you know that others need to know? What can you offer that others need or might want? Can you make something? Can you fix things? How can you help others? Creating your own life and business might be the financial and mental sanity answer for you. If you create your own work and are good at what you do, you will not run out of something to do.

Our decisions determine our destiny. Whatever decision we make we have to put into action. Faith without works is dead. May your life be good, healthy and filled with wonderful love, family and friends in 2021. Let's work together for a good year.


Dr. Glenn Mollette is a syndicated American columnist and author of American Issues, Every American Has An Opinion and ten other books. He is read in all 50 states. The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily representative of any other group or organization.


This article is the sole opinions of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of PhotoNews Media. We welcome comments and views from our readers.


Area restaurant owners have a court date for operating without a health permit

Restaurants to have day in court "Not till I get a court order," is what restaurateur Jeff Buckler told The News-Gazette on Friday, December 18, the day after his establishment, Lil Buford's in Tolono had its health permit pulled and was asked to close. "Wars aren’t won in one fight." Now he is a little more than three weeks of finding out if he picked the wrong battle.

This morning, the Champaign-Urbana newspaper reported that Buckler, and Charles Buck, owner of Billy Bob’s Under the Water Tower in Ogden, are formally charged with operating a restaurant without a valid health permit.

Billy Bob's permit was suspended on December 11. Both restaurant owners have continued to operate providing dining services without county permits.

Despite Champaign County having the third lowest positivity level among the 102 Illinois counties, under Illinois' multi-tier resurgence mitigation plan indoor service at bars and restaurants is prohibited. However, outdoor service and carry-out and delivery sales are still allowed at establishments that possess all the requisite permits by state, county and local governments.

Buckler also owns Buford's in Sadorus which currently offers carryout and outdoor service only after he ceased indoor dining earlier this month. Even in the face of fines, attorney fees and possible court order closure, Lil Buford's, which opened in October, continues to offer dine-in service today.

Fighting tooth and nail for the survival of his business, Buckler's resistance effort made the national news on Sunday. He told FoxNews "there are thousands of servers and cooks and bartenders are out of work" and that "People are starving. It's going to get bad here soon."

The two owners and their attorneys are scheduled to be in court January 21.

Several other Champaign County bar and restaurant establishments that have ignored the state's public health mandate have entered settlement agreements with the health department's enforcement after appearances in court or prior docketed dates. Merry-Ann’s Diner in Champaign, the American Legion Post 71, Apple Dumplin’ at 2014 N. High Cross Road, U; Not Too Far Bar at 203 Chapin St., Ivesdale; and Red Wheel Restaurant at 741 Broadmeadow, Rantoul, all were cited for continuing indoor dining.

The Apple Dumpling was permanently restricted from operating without a valid health permit in a decision by Judge Benjamin Dyer. In a settlement agreement by owners Jim and Kathryn Flaningam and county health officials, a permanent injunction order approved a little more than a week ago included provisions that the restaurant owners must comply with all applicable laws, including any notice of requirements issued by the Champaign County Public Health Department.

The Red Wheel's suspension barely lasted 24 hours and was reinstated after a written correction was accepted by the CUPHD and a reinstatement fee was paid. In a settlement agreement with City of Champaign and the county, Merry-Ann’s agreed to quit offering indoor dining services to the public.

Photo of the Day - December 27, 2020

Unity's Skyler Shepherd dribbles the ball to the paint against SJO
Unity falls in OT loss to SJO

Unity three-sport athlete Skyler Shepherd dribbles around St. Joseph-Ogden's Jake Pence during the Rockets home game on February 5, 2016. The Spartans in prevailed in an overtime thriller defeating the Rockets, 76-67.

Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Area COVID cases hit six-week low

The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District data shows the total number of COVID-19 cases for six villages The Sentinel covers is now down to 66, a six-week low. The county's seven-day rolling positivity, excluding University of Illinois testing is a mere 6.1% and our region is down to 9% as of December 23.

On November 15 the area's active cases nearly doubled going from 69 to 110 after tests confirmed 41 new cases. The bulk of the surge came from households in Tolono and St. Joseph. The number of confirmed cases peaked at 142 on November 22, two days after Illinois was mandated to Tier 3 guidelines.

Despite the declining number of cases in Region 6 and 20% or better availability of ICU beds, Governor J.B. Pritzker has made it clear that he has no plans in the near future to relax restriction for our region and Region 1, which have met the criteria to roll back to Tier 2 mitigation.

"Since the surge hit us, it’s been important for us to get the right trajectory of cases, and hospitalizations and ICU use, and to make sure that we get to the right level," Pritzker said during his press conference a week ago Christmas day. "Remember, there are still many hospitals around the state, that have limited ability to take in new ICU patients, or even new hospitalizations. And so we’re trying very hard to bring it down all across the state before we start to relieve the regions from Tier 3 to Tier 2."

Rather than "yo-yo" in out of stricter mitigation measures, the Governor said he is taking a wait-and-see approach for a week or two after the holiday period.

Illinois reported 3,293 new and probable cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, bringing the statewide total since the beginning of the pandemic to 934,142. The state also reported 66 new deaths, raising the overall toll to 15,865.

Illinois' case total is now at the lowest since Oct. 19, when 3,113 cases were reported. And on Thursday, the state's seven-day average for coronavirus deaths fell to 116, its lowest point since December 2.

Photo of the Day: December 26, 2020

Quarterback Keanen Swanson
Going long

Junior Keanen Swanson looks to throw a pass during St. Joseph-Ogden's home football game against Illinois Valley Central in 2017. Swanson and the Spartans, who finished 4-5 after a heartbreaking loss to Monticello in the regular season finale two weeks later, rolled to a 38-20 victory against the Grey Ghosts.
PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Roe & Co making its way to Illinois next year

Diageo, one of the world's largest beverage alcohol distributor, plans to introduce Roe & Co Blended Irish Whiskey, in Illinois in 2021.

Made from the finest hand-selected stocks of Irish malt and grain whiskies and aged in bourbon casks, the Irish Whiskey is a contemporary blend, non-chill filtered and bottled at an ABV of 45 percent (90 proof). According to Diageo, "It has the signature smoothness of Irish Whiskey with remarkable depth of flavor – a luxuriously smooth blend, with a perfect harmony between the intense fruitiness of the malt and the mellow creaminess of the grain whiskies."

Photo Provided
Last year, Roe & Co converted the Guinness Power Station into a new urban distillery in the heart of Dublin's whiskey district adjacent to where the old George Roe and Co distillery was originally located. The company has teamed up with Guinness in a new advertising campaign highlighting the importance of being good neighbors.
Named after George Roe, regarded as a pioneer in the distillery and export business during the golden era of Irish whiskey in the 19th century, his distillery was located on Thomas Street in Dublin and was a neighbor to the well-known Guinness brewery. Now a historic landmark, Roe's operation covered nearly 17 acres of ground.

Currently, Roe & Co is available in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York, Maryland and Washington, D.C. and one of several major brands, including Johnnie Walker, Crown Royal, Bulleit and Buchanan's whiskies, Smirnoff, Cîroc and Ketel One vodkas, Captain Morgan, Baileys, Don Julio, Tanqueray and Guinness, distributed by Diageo.

The distillery is located at 92 James's Street in Dublin, Ireland where tours and tasting events are held Thursday through Saturday from 3p-8p.

Free technology training program offered by UIUC Research Park

The University of Illinois Research Park and American Family Insurance have partnered together to create a free part-time technology training program for people looking to expand their knowlegde or migrate to a more technology based career.

ILLINOIS REBOOT is a coding pre-academy that will introduce students to fundamental skills needed in programming and database management. Participants will gain a strong foundation in data science literacy while being introduced to UNIX, SQL, Python, GitHub, and Agile project management principles.

The training, which starts in February, will be taught in two-hour blocks. There are eight required classes and four elective courses incorporated in the program which runs through March 9.

Upon successful completion of curriculum and program requirements, participants will be awarded a University of Illinois Research Park Tech Badge certificate.

No previous programming experience is necessary. Participant must have access to an Internet-capable computer with a major operating system and reliable WiFi. For those without access to reliable connection, EnterpriseWorks incubator will also be an option for onsite use for participants who need dedicated service. Tablets, phones and other mobile or smart devices are not usable for completing assignments.

Participant in the program must also have the ability to download and install software on the workstation. While programming skills are not required, a technical aptitude or experience working with digital or computer technology is recommended.

For more information prospective student can email Rebecca Motley at To apply for the program, complete the online application located here no later than January 13, 2021.

Photo of the Day - December 23, 2020

Henry Dust runs at the 2007 cross country sectional

Rockets qualify for state

Unity's Henry Dust [496] runs ahead of Monticello's Josh Clark through a muddy section of the course at the IHSA Cross Country sectional competition at Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School on Saturday, October 27, 2007. The senior finished the rain soaked course in 17 minutes, 12 seconds. Dust's 38th place overall finished helped the Rockets' cross country team qualify for the Class 1A state championship race for the first time since the 2000 season after their 5th place team finish.

Photo: PhotoNews/Clark Brooks

Village Crier: December 23, 2020

Area roundup for St. Joseph, Ogden, Royal, Philo, Sidney & Tolono

Dairy Barn pick up December 28

The Sidney Dairy Barn online shop is open for business at While the location is closed for indoor dining, new online orders will be available on Monday, December 28, from 3-6pm. Tire Swings, Tornado home kits, freezes, shakes and more are available.

Go-Fund-Me to help April set up

Subway manager Adam Porter created a GoFundMe page for assistant manager April Patton, who suffered a stroke last week.

"I started this campaign because I know she is going to miss a lot of work and I wanted to try to relieve some of the stress financially," Porter said. "I hope that we are able to help reduce some of her stress and help out her family."

Contributions and donation to help the mother of three while she is unable to work and for medical expenses can be made here: April Patton GoFundMe.

Lil Buford's Wednesday's special

Today's special is a breaded or grilled tenderloins with hand cut fries at the 102 N Long location in Tolono. Meals are available for dine in or carry out. Call for more information at 217-485-5500.

Tolono garbage pick-up will run as scheduled

Chris' Service Company be picking up on Friday, Christmas Day, as normal. For more route information call (217) 684-2465.

RC Fest set for next summer

RC FEST: CREATORS OF CHAOS will be held at Tolono's East Side Park July 31 through August 1. The event features radio controlled car races to raise awareness for donating blood. All proceeds goes to Community Blood Services of Illinois.

2020 was the tenth year of the event created by Tolono resident Adam Munds.

"I got the idea because there was a need for a RC event and I needed platelets when I was born. So blood donation was very close to me," Munds said.

Munds' event this year had 186 entries. With competitors coming from Detroit, Michigan and North Carolina. He said he is expecting teams from Massachusetts, North Carolina and South Dakota to take part in this summer's fest.

Mean Mugz Bar & Grill offering spicy deal

Mean Mugz at 121 Sout East Ave in Ogden has a hearty Po'Boy meal deal for today and tomorrow, December 24. Order a Classic or Cajun burger, a chicken or steak Philly sandwich, or a catfish and a 64oz Rigg's Growler-to-Go for just $20. Call (217) 582-8029 to order for carryout or more information.

Health permits suspended

Permits for two Sentinel area eateries were suspended by Champaign County public health officials for operating in defiance of the state's pandemic mitigation efforts. Lil Buford’s at 102 N. Long in Tolono, and Billy Bob’s at 105 E. Broadway in Ogden join Merry-Ann’s Dinner in Champaign; the American Legion Post 71 in Urbana; Apple Dumplin’ at 2014 N. High Cross Road, U; Not Too Far Bar at 203 Chapin St., Ivesdale; and Red Wheel restaurant at 741 Broadmeadow in Rantoul on a list of county bar and restaurant operations cited for continuing indoor service despite warnings multiple warnings.

Philo Tav announces holiday hours

The Philo Tavern will be closed for Christmas Eve and Christmas but reopen for normal business hours on Saturday.

According to their Facebook page "... due to COVID and public health regulations, we are unable to provide our usual Christmas Eve special of free fried chicken. This was hard for us to do, as this year is the year that our customers deserve THE MOST appreciation for all you’ve done for us."

"We know that without you, we wouldn’t exist and for that, we sincerely thank all of you and wish you all to have a fun and safe holiday!"

SJCOC to hold Christmas Eve services

The St. Joseph Church of Christ host Christmas Eve services at 4:00p, 6:00p, and 11:00p. Each serivce will include a candlelight ceremony in the service. Masks are strongly encouraged, especially as you are making your way to your seat, and seating will be at recommended social distance. The 4:00p service is almost full, according to the latest post on Facebook. There is still ample space in the 6:00p and 11:00p services. The 6:00 services will be live streamed. Interested worshipers can find the link on the SJCOC Facebook page.

Subway manager starts GoFundMe campaign to help employee

Last Thursday while at work April Patton didn't feel well. Despite the pain and discomfort, she finished her shift and continued to work several more days at the Subway located on 220 East Warren in St. Joseph before seeking medical attention. According to store manager Adam Porter, it was then she was informed that she had suffered a stroke on December 17.

With Christmas just around the corner and learning that she would not be able to return to work until the doctors find out why the nine-year veteran at the sandwich shop suffered the medical episode, Porter started an effort to help the mother of three financially.

April Patton GoFundMe Page
"We, as a team, decided to donate all of our tips to her from this pay period, which ended up being around $250 for her," Porter said, who learned during the interview that Patton won’t be able to work for over a month according to her doctors. "She’s really great to work with because she is super hard working, she does everything perfectly and puts effort into all aspects of the job. She’s such a caring person who wants the best for everyone and always has a positive attitude."

Porter, who started managing the St. Joseph location five months ago, has known Patton for three years. He said she and two of her children, who also work at Subway, are like family to him.

Realizing his star employee will be overwhelmed with medical expenses, he decided to create a GoFundMe campaign to help Patton and her family.

"I started this campaign because I know she is going to miss a lot of work and I wanted to try to relieve some of the stress financially," Porter said. "I hope that we are able to help reduce some of her stress and help out her family."

In his campaign pitch he wrote: "She is a great employee and deserves the world and every little donation helps. The doctors are still running more tests to try to figure out what exactly happened. She can’t work while she is in the hospital, and I wish she can focus on her recovery rather than financial issues since she will be out of work for a period of time that is not yet known."

In less than 24 hours the campaign has received $360 of the $3,000 goal. Residents and customers who would like to contribute to the fund or would like more information can follow this like to the GoFundMe campaign.

Editorial: Governor needs to drop mitigation regions

Group projects. I detested them in college. Why? Because 90% of the time your group is held back by one or two folks on the team with their own agenda or are just annoyingly uncooperative.

When Governor J.B. Pritzker announced the regions for his resurgence mitigation plan, I knew us folks in Champaign County were getting the short end of the stick, much like in group projects in school. County government leaders should have voiced their disapproval being lumped into Region 6 with areas of the state - much like those students in your group who don't do their part to ensure that A for the assignment or project - in the governor's plan.

We are far enough along in the pandemic to understand how the spread works and it is high time the governor dismantle the regional set up he created. He and the Illinois Department of Public Health need to migrate his mitigation from a regional basis to a county by county level.

As of today, our county 7-day rolling positivity without the University of Illinois' saliva test is at 6.1%, well below the 8% rate that would put us back to Tier 4. If you factor in the university's test, Champaign County is at an impressive 1.7%.

Thanks to being lumped in with Iroquois, Ford, Vermillion, Macon, Moultrie, Douglas, Edgar, Shelby, Coles, Cumberland, Clark, Fayette, Effingham, Jasper, Clay, Richland and Lawrence counties, as a region we are 3 points higher at 9.1.

In our group Crawford, DeWitt, Macon and Piatt, all with their 7-day positivity 6% or lower, are doing their part to help move us back to less restrictive mitigation measures. The good kids, those four counties plus Champaign, are being punished for all the bad kids in the group.

Who are the bad kids? Let's see, there is Cumberland County leading the way at 18.3% - actually surprised it is not Clay County, but that's another story - and four others in the thirteens, more than twice that of good kids on our corner of the state. Edgar and Vermilion counties' positivity is 13.6%, while Effingham and Richland are trending at 13.4%.

Champaign County should be back to Tier 1, Tier 2 at the very least. Residents in the county, many reluctantly, have done their part.

Switching to an individual county positivity measure would not only reward residents for the vigilance and efforts in stopping the spread of COVID-19 in their communities, it would help kickstart the economy in many areas of the state, get people back to work and help motivated poorly performing counties make a great effort into complying with the state's mandates. Restaurants could return to limit indoor seating and sport teams could start training together for the upcoming spring and summer seasons. We could go back to small group events and more. After all, we earned the privilege.

Just as importantly, the state wins, too. With restaurants and bars open, it will benefit from the tax revenue, fewer unemployment claims and can focus enforcement of mitigation mandates on underperforming counties.

Dear Governor Pritzker, let some of the people in Region 6 go.

Photo of the Day - December 22, 2020

Jennifer Pridemore reacts

Rockets score!

Jennifer Pridemore (center) reacts with hundreds of other Unity fans on a Chuck Krause to Andy Eisenmenger touchdown pass that put the Rockets within two points of a victory on the road in November 2002. The two-point conversion attempt on the next play failed giving St. Teresa a 10-9 playoff victory. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Share your Christmas spirit with others this season

By Glenn Mollette, Guest Commentator

Years ago, our church group was out Christmas caroling. We weren't far from the church and our leader led us out to the back of Mr. Castle's house to sing to he and his wife. His wife came to the door and greeted us with a smile and was gracious.

We sang to her when suddenly through the window we saw her husband appear in the family room with a big towel around his body. He obviously had just gotten out of the shower. He came into his family room unknowing that 20 carolers had all eyes on him. Several of the women began to chuckle. I just knew we were all about to see something we had not planned on.

Sitting down on his sofa he put his feet up and was preparing to relax. The volume of laughter from a couple of his adult friends grew louder when Mr. Castle looked up and saw us. He immediately made an "Oh no" expression while shaking his head a bit and jumped up and departed to another part of the house.

We sang to his sweet wife and moved on down the street with a new visual that I still remember to this day. I'll always remember what a good spirit he and his wife had and that we all left feeling uplifted by them.

This week I walked to the back of a local nursing home to look through a window to see a friend. Ms. Southard is 99.

My wife and I visited in her home recently. She was agile, mentally sharp and dancing around like she always does. Her attitude always lifts us up. She did say on that very day we were there, "I don't want to end up in a nursing home. I told my son I don't ever want to be in one."

Two weeks later while closing her curtains she made an awkward step, fell and broke her leg. Surgery was required and also rehabilitation. Her insurance plan would not pay for her to go to the local rehabilitation hospital but instead put her where she never wanted to be, a nursing home.

I found out from a nurse which room she was in and how to find the right window to look through. The nurse said she would meet me at the window and let Ms. Southard know I was there. I dreaded what I might see but wanted to wish her a Merry Christmas. Knocking on the window I was delighted that she was sitting up and started laughing and waving at me. We exchanged Merry Christmas the best we could yelling through a window. While I almost wanted to cry seeing her there, I was so encouraged by her good spirit.

The spirit of Christmas is inside you. This spirit is greater than you and I and pulls us through the awkward and the very difficult times of life.

The Christmas season we celebrate is one of hope and celebration. The story of Jesus is the story of God's hope coming to us in the little baby a long time ago.

2020 has certainly been a year we've needed hope. Vaccines for Covid-19 are coming and 2021 is going to be a better year.

May your spirit be rekindled. Share your spirit with others and may the year ahead be one of the best ever for us all.


Dr. Glenn Mollette is a syndicated American columnist and author of American Issues, Every American Has An Opinion and ten other books. He is read in all 50 states. The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily representative of any other group or organization.


This article is the sole opinions of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of PhotoNews Media. We welcome comments and views from our readers.


Photo of the Day - December 21, 2020

Cat (Foreman) Hesterberg goes up for a shot
SJO's Cat Foreman takes a shot over Tuscola's Rachael Buckner in the second half of their non-conference game on January 5, 2008. Foreman, who was unstoppable that Saturday afternoon, drained a career-high 20 points. Despite her also game-high effort, the Warriors squeaked by St. Joseph-Ogden on the Spartans' home court to a 67-63 win. (Photo: PhotoNews/Clark Brooks)

Photo of the Day - December 20, 2020

Unity's Nate Lewis shrugs off Decatur St. Teresa's tacklers

Rockets fall in road playoff game

Unity's Nate Lewis (15) shrugs off Decatur St. Teresa's tacklers Ryan McShea (6) and Mike Kormelink (15) in second round IHSA football playoff game in Decatur. The Dawgs beat the visiting Rockets 10-9 back in November of 2002. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Cha-ching! Illinois minimum wage climbs to $11/hr January

In 12 days, starting on January 1, 2021, new minimum wage rates will go into effect in Illinois. The statewide minimum wage rate increases to $11 per hour and to $6.60 for tipped workers. Despite the turbulent effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the business economy this year, most Illinoisans saw two minimum wage increases -- first to $9.25 in January and then to $10 in July.

"We want to make sure that workers earning minimum wage are aware that the $1 increase should be reflected in their pay checks for any time they work after the first of the year," said Michael Kleinik, director of the Illinois Department of Labor. "While we fully expect employers will pay the new wage, we also want workers to be aware of the change."

State minimum wage news In 2019, Pritzker signed legislation into law a plan to increase minimum wage rate to $15 per hour and $9 for tipped workers by 2025. The new law kept in place allowances for employers to count gratuities to offset wages for workers such as food servers who regularly earn tips. Tipped employees may be paid 60% of the hourly minimum wage. Officials say these workers must still earn the minimum wage after receiving tips or the employer is required make up the shortfall.

Before the increases over past 12 months, the state's minimum wage rate was $8.25 and $13 per hour in Cook County. Currently, Chicago's minimum wage is $13.50 per hour for "small employers" and $14 for "large employers." Chicago, thanks to an ordinance approved by the city council in November 2019, will reach the mandated $15 per hour by the state almost four years earlier in July of next year.

According to a 2017 report by the National Employment Law Project, 41 percent of all workers in Illinois currently earn under the living wage of $15 per hour. That fact was backed up in a more recent study by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute at the University of Illinois said more than 1.4 million adult hourly workers in Illinois make less than $15 per hour. Illinois was the first state in Midwest to officially move to a $15 minimum wage standard.

Employees with problems regarding the minimum wage can file a complaint with Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) or call (312) 793-2800. It is illegal for your employer to fire or retaliate against you in any way for asking about minimum wage compensation. Should you feel you have been treated unfairly for asking or complaining about your wages, you should the IDOL, the US Department of Labor or speak to a local attorney specializing in employment law.

Employers in Illinois are required to post the "Your Rights Under Illinois Employment Laws" posters in a conspicuous location where notices to employees are normally displayed.

If you feel you are a victim of illegal discrimination, you should contact the Illinois Department of Human Rights, contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or an attorney.

Letter: Hats off to SJO staff, students, and the community

Lettr to the Editor

To the editor,

Hats off to SJO staff, students, and the community that supports them for keeping it possible for the kids to go to school this first semester. Special recognition goes to the students who have shown great maturity through challenging times and the loss of a dear classmate. High school is a treasured time and you have handled all of this change with cooperation and grace. We all look forward to you being able to be kids again soon and watching your games, meets, and performances once more.

Thank you, also, to the staffs of the grade school and middle school. You had a great job in creating both a safe learning environment and parent-friendly technology for remote learning. I never felt like I was putting my kids in harm’s way by sending them to school. There is no greater gift to a mama than peace of mind about her children’s safety.

Our kids have been well taught and cared for despite teaching under the threat of your own health and in ways that required more from you than we can imagine. Teachers, you have been the spine keeping all of this operational and we cannot thank you enough. Hope you enjoy this well earned break.

Cheers to a peaceful and healthy 2021!

Sue Santiago
St. Joseph

Have something to say? Send us your letter to the editor to

Number of active COVID-19 cases continue decline locally

With Christmas eight days away, the number of positive COVID-19 cases in The Sentinel area continues to decline. As of today between the six villages there are 81 active cases, which is just two cases shy of the four-week low of 79 on December 7.

Decembe 17 Covid report The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today reported 8,828 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus in the state, including 181 additional deaths. One of the decease was a female patient from Champaign County in her 70s. As of Wednesday evening, 4,751 Illinoisans were reported hospitalized. Of those, 1,056 patients were in the ICU and 575 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.

Area residents are relieve to see the positivity decline. As of Thursday morning, the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District was reporting three cases in Ogden, Philo and Sidney with 4 each and no reported cases in Royal. In the low 50s much of the past week, St. Joseph is down to 46 cases and Tolono has 24 in the are covered by the 61880 zip code.

"I do think it’s positive to see so many people willing to wear a mask to try and help slow the spread though," said Kendra Pence, of St. Joseph. "I know many don’t necessarily like the masks or believe they totally help, but I think they are helpful and I’m thankful and feel more comfortable when I see people wearing them. In many counties around us, you don’t see a lot of masks, so it is refreshing to see people here willing to try and do their part to slow this thing down!"

Overall, the average statewide positivity rate is down to 8.4%, which is more good news considering some parts of the country are experiencing a surge in new COVID-19 cases. Weeks before Thanksgiving on November 13 that number was at an alarming 13.2%.

"I think we’re seeing the decrease in positivity rates because there are more people staying home with the current restrictions and as they do venture out they are wearing masks," says Brian Booher, of Tolono. "I hope we can continue to decline and allow for some of these restrictions to be relaxed more, especially as a vaccine has been released and people in the area are getting it."

Three of the state’s 11 regions are already below the criteria initially set by Governor J.B. Pritzker to move back to Tier 2 mitigations, which would bring back indoor dining and allowing bars to operate with restrictions again.

Susan McDonald Santiago, from St. Joseph, thinks there are several reasons why the number of cases is shrinking. She narrowed it down to three.

"It comes down to people taking it seriously and caring about their community," Santiago said. "Knowing this is short term and having modern technology also helps."

Mike Tankersley, from St. Joseph, said he is not really sure why our region is doing better.

"I think maybe we’re just being a bit more careful recently given the dire warnings of what the winter months might bring."

Meanwhile, Abby Schopp, owner of For Love of Hair, people are doing what it takes to spend the holidays with loved ones. She believes surge came before Thanksgiving.

"My personal opinion is because we had our surge right after Halloween when it started getting cooler," she said. She noted that many people were very cautious or still in quarantine for Thanksgiving and most of her clients we being incredibly safe and practicing as many COVID friendly habits as they possibly could. "We had such a huge amount of canceled and rescheduled appointments in the beginning of November and shortly after Thanksgiving.

"We have also had many people push their December appointments back to January in an attempt to isolate so they can safely see their families for Christmas celebrations. People really are trying their best and I optimistically hope that's why we didn't have a Thanksgiving surge."

Photo of the Day - December 16, 2020

Spartan girls fall at home
Josey Fruhling dribbles past a Danville player on her wait to the basket during St. Joseph-Ogden's home game on January 28, 2012. The Spartans (20-9) fell 43-38 in the non-conference game against the Vikings, who improved to 9-14 with the victory.

PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Veterans organizations support Biden pick to head the VA

The Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) and Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) are supporting President-elect Joe Biden's choice for Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Denis McDonough.

McDonough, who is a devout Catholic, a bond he also shares with Biden, served as chief of staff during Obama's entire second term, also worked as deputy national security adviser. If confirmed, Denis McDonough will be responsible for the healthcare and benefits of millions of veterans.

If confirmed, the WWP says they are looking forward to working closely with McDonough.

"We will continue to be a resourceful and knowledgeable partner to the VA in providing the programs and services so essential to effective transition back into civilian life for our nation's wounded, ill, and injured veterans and their families," the organization stated in a release.

"Throughout his time as Deputy National Security Advisor and later as White House Chief of Staff, Mr. McDonough helped address complex issues facing military servicemembers, veterans, and their families, bringing a whole-of-government approach to issues facing the Department of Defense and VA," said WWP CEO Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Mike Linnington. "Having spent time with Mr. McDonough in Afghanistan in 2009, and again in the Pentagon between 2013-2015, it's clear he cares deeply for this critical work."

While a number of military organizations had hoped for a veteran from the Iraq or Afghanistan wars, the PVA wants to see goals and overall vision for the VA that McDonough, who did not serve in the military but was tapped no doubt for his seasoned experience navigating bureaucracies on Capitol Hill and at the White House.

"Our members need a VA Secretary who will effectively address the barriers to care that they and other veterans face. Veterans also deserve a secretary who will be transparent and partner with PVA and other veterans service organizations in a fully open and collaborative manner to take on the tough issues facing VA," said PVA Executive Director Carl Blake, reminding the public that the VA healthcare system is the preeminent provider of healthcare for their members, who are all veterans with spinal cord injuries or diseases. "This includes the need to provide a system of care for all veterans that is safe, harassment-free at all levels, accessible to any veteran seeking care, and efficient in delivering timely, quality care and benefits.

"If confirmed, we look forward to working closely with Mr. McDonough on these issues." Several veterans groups were hoping Biden would choose a veteran of the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. McDonough did not serve in the military, but rather has long experience navigating bureaucracies on Capitol Hill and at the White House.

IDOA cover crops discount application now available

Applications for the Fall Covers for Spring Savings Program became available online yesterday. Funding of eligible acreage will be on a first come, first serve basis according to a press release from the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA).

This year, applicants will be required to certify that their cover crops are approved through their local Farm Service Agency office before applying. Applicants will also need their current FSA-578 and federal crop insurance policy number(s) for the 2021 application process which can be downloaded here. Applications will be available until January 15, 2021.

Ag and crop news The goal of the program is to encourage farmers to plant additional acres of cover crops that are not covered by other state or federal incentives. It allows eligible farm operations to receive a premium discount of $5 per acre on the following year's crop insurance for every acre of cover crop enrolled and verified in the program. The program is only applicable for those with coverage through the United States Department of Agriculture Risk Management Agency (USDA-RMA) crop insurance program.

"Cover crops are a great way to keep soil anchored, salvage nitrogen, capture carbon and create weed suppression," said Jerry Costello II, IDOA Acting Director in September. "In the long run, cover crops will help Illinois farmers reduce the need for fertilizer and reach the goals of the Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy."

The discount program debut last year to promote additional acres of cover crops that are not covered by other state or federal incentives. The IDOA will to verify that acres applied for through this program are planted in cover crops.

Confirmed applications will be forwarded to the USDA-RMA for processing and for application of premium discounts to 2021 crop insurance invoices.

For more information interested parties can contact IDOA at (217) 782-6297.

Another year gone by, we've told a lot of stories

Monday marked the beginning of the third year of operation for The Sentinel. At approximately 1:15p, after nearly three months of research and planning, I published the first Sentinel story on December 14 in 2018.

The last 12 out of the past 24 months has been surrealistic. Between the COVID-19 pandemic, an offer to buy The Sentinel and covering just one sporting event since February 28, like 90% of the population on this spinning mass of rock I can't wait for this year to be over. I know normal is still ways off but it needs to hurry up and get here.

I haven't had the Corona or the vaccine. I'm thankful for not getting both at this point. I'm feeling pretty confident that if I make to January 1 without either, 2021 will be a piece of chocolate cake with orange icing and sprinkles.

I enjoy being a journalist, meeting people, telling their stories and doing my best to keep loyal readers informed. The past year has been an awful time in the news business. It has been rough a row to hoe between the COVID pandemic and the proliferation of slanted news outlets that intentionally omits or misrepresent facts to further an agenda of division that is testing the core values of our nation.

The Sentinel is a labor of love. I'll likely never see even a modest financial return on the sweat equity that allowed me double the number of stories I published during the past year. While business owners are skeptical about using online papers to reach a wider audience with their brand, the Coronavirus pandemic has essentially flushed the traditional advertising model, which paid for the production of weekly and daily papers, down the proverbial crapper.

Despite the pandemic, The Sentinel has published more than twice the number of stories and articles, 398 to be exact, than in the previous year. In the past 12 months the online publication has added a Photo-of-the-Day series, published over a dozen Spartan Spotlights featuring SJO students from the Class of 2020, and added a Coronavirus Dashboard to track the number of cases locally. In June, The Sentinel added the villages of Sidney, Philo and Tolono to its area of coverage.

The most-read story in the past year, On the fence about getting vaccinated? You might not have a choice has been read over 12 thousand times. The Sentinel's story announcing the Illinois Rural Health Association virtual conference in October is the second most popular story followed by our story on the double homicide in St. Joseph.

In case you missed them, we also published six pieces on money and finance from Jake Pence. Jake is the President of Blue Chip Real Estate and a consultant for Fairlawn Capital, Inc.. A 2019 graduate from the Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois, he graduated from St. Joseph-Ogden High School in 2016 where he was a three-sport athlete for the Spartans.

I'm looking forward meeting the challenges for the next 12 months. Sheltering-in-place gave me the opportunity to refine my web design skills. Over the next nine months will undergo a gradual makeover to become even more refined and more user friendly.

Finally, I would like to encourage readers to send your Letters to the Editor. Tell us why we should support local candidates for village and township elections, congratulate or thank a neighbor. We welcome your opinion on masks, restaurants ignoring or following Illinois' Tier 3 mitigation, or if schools should be open or close. Remember is YOUR sentinel watching over our communities.

Hope to see here again next year!

Clark Brooks, Publisher

Bright Beginnings Learning Center opening soon

While they don't expect to open their doors for a few months, owners Carolyn Jones and Nicole Uher are looking forward to welcoming students and families to their new preschool and daycare facility in St. Joseph. The two women, both with roots in the village, hope to open the Bright Beginnings Learning Center sometime this June.

Located at 501 Peters Dr. in St. Joseph, the owners plan to offer child care services for kids from six weeks old through age twelve. The duo are remodeling and working hard to prepare the facility for mandatory inspections by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), the public health district and the State Fire Marshall. Uher expects the inspection and permit process to take 90 days.

St. Joe business news "We will only be opening half of the building to start," said co-owner and director Nicole Uher, who has been working with Jones on the project for the past two years. "In this phase there will be four classrooms: one infant room ages six weeks through fourteen months, one toddler room ages fifteen months through three years, one preschool room ages three years through five years, and one after school/summer room for children ages five years through twelve years."

Uher says they will offer an after school program for children ages five through twelve.

"We will have one of our staff members walk over to St. Joseph Grade school and pick up the children in our program, then walk back with them to our facility," Uher said. "While in our care children will be able to complete homework, play games, and play outside on our playground all supervised by staff of course."

"We believe children learn best through play and communication with their peers"
Children enrolled at the school will also be allowed to attend our program on days out of school and during breaks in the spring and summer.

Uher had been licensed home child care provider for 5 years. She credits her start in the profession back to when she was a teen offering babysitting services.

Meanwhile her business partner, Jones, who was raised in St. Joseph, has been doing licensed home childcare for over 20 years.

"We looked all over Champaign county for the perfect place for our new adventure. There are tons of buildings out there, but it takes something special to run a daycare as there are many requirements by DCFS and Public Health that have to be followed," Uher said. "When we stumbled across this building on Peters Drive, we knew instantly it was meant to be as it was located in the perfect location near the schools.

"Also, it was built in a wonderful layout that is needed for our business."

Uher later learned that her grandfather farmed the land where the structure now stands.

"My Dad and Grandpa have since passed away so getting this land back in the family is very special to me," she explained. "(Considering) my Dad was also raised in St. Joe so it was on my list of places to consider."

It was quickly a no-brainer for the pair who made to make an offer to purchase the property.

"We first looked at this land in November of 2019. We made an offer fairly quick after, but it took about a year to get things settled as there were drainage issues that needed to be corrected before we could take ownership."

Once DCFS completes their inspection, Uher said they will make the final decision on how many children we are able to serve in each class. She anticipate having the capacity to provide services for 62 children in phase one of Bright Beginnings' operation.

The business, which is independently owned and operated, will accept CCRS and DCFS vouchers for families who qualify for their programs.

Bright Beginnings will follow a curriculum that is approved by Illinois Early Learning Standards. There will also be many play based activities.

"We believe children learn best through play and communication with their peers," Uher said.

The center is not taking applications or issuing guaranteed spots at this time. The owners plan to initiate that once they have secured all the permits needed to run as a licensed facility. In the mean time, Bright Beginning has created a wait list for parents interested in enrolling their kids. For more information concerning enrollment send an email to

Photo of the Day - December 15, 2020

Jordan Brooks takes a charge

Taking the charge

St. Joseph-Ogden's Jordan Brooks takes a charge in SJO's home game against St. Thomas More on January 16, 2018. The Spartans held on to pick up their seventh straight victory after their State Farm Holiday Classic loss to Quincy Notre Dame, squeaking by the Sabers, 95-92. Brooks, a senior and prolific 3-point shooter, finished with season with program best of 82 treys. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Ameren Illinois customers will see smaller bills in 2021

Collinsville - Residents who rely on Ameren for their electricity will find their bills a little smaller in 2021. Under the plan approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), the typical Ameren Illinois residential customer will save approximately $12 per year on the delivery portion of their electric bill beginning next month.

"Under performance-based ratemaking, Ameren Illinois is constructing a smarter electric infrastructure, reducing the number and duration of outages and keeping customer rates stable," said Richard Mark, Chairman and President, Ameren Illinois. "As the electric grid continues to evolve, we must continue to make strategic investments to strengthen our system. Having a transparent and fair cost-recovery mechanism in place is allowing us to do just that while providing real and tangible benefits to our customers and the communities we serve."

Thanks to an approximately $48.7 million overall reduction in revenue, the rate reduction will be the third consecutive rate decrease for Ameren Illinois customers and the seventh overall rate decrease since the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act (EIMA) – or Smart Grid Bill – went into effect in 2011. The company says Ameren customers will pay 2.4% less each month for energy next year than they did 10 years ago. The company says their residential rates are 21 percent lower than the national average.

Typical Ameren Illinois customer will save money

"Today's residential energy customer wants affordable, reliable energy. They also want to know that we're looking to the future and working on providing them with cleaner energy options," said Mark. "In the last few years, we have developed and tested systems needed to produce and store renewable energy. Our customer satisfaction results show that these efforts, along with our daily work modernizing the energy grid, do matter."

Since the company began implementing its modernization action plan, 1.2 million smart meters have been installed, power poles and wires have been strengthened, and more delivery infrastructure is being placed underground. These improvements, along with new outage detection technology, have resulted in a 20% improvement in system reliability.

Photo of the Day - December 14, 2020

SJO Dance Team performs in 2012

All I want for Christmas

Members of the 2016 SJO Dance team perform to the song All I want for Christmas during halftime of the Leader Classic Holiday Basketball Tournament. The Spartans went on to win the 2016 title game by way of a 84-71 victory. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Santa is coming to Tolono Christmas parade

Sidney had one and St. Joseph has a Christmas parade in the works, too. Last week, the Tolono Fun Day committee and the Tolono Fire Protection District teamed up to sponsor a Christmas Parade for the Village of Tolono on Saturday, December 19.

Santa, on his way back north after doing a dry run for his December 24th activities, will make a guest appearance at the parade. The community is welcome to take part with floats, golf carts or other vehicles. Due to the length of route, organizers ask the walkers sit this one out. Click on the map below to view the official parade route.

The parade will start from Unity High School at 5pm. Residents interested in participating should arrive at the school's east entrance starting at 4:30pm to line up.

For more information contact the Tolono Fun Day by phone at (202) 630-0883 or via email at

Guest Column: People are what make Christmas special

By Glenn Mollette, Guest Commentator

On the first Christmas Mary and Joseph had traveled to Bethlehem to pay their taxes. They were among a multitude of other people who were making the same trip for the same reason.

The Bible says there was no room for them in the Inn. They found refuge in a stable and in the night, Mary delivered her baby. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a cow's trough.

Soon, Shepherds watching their sheep in the fields were alerted by a heavenly host of angels about the special baby who had been born. They quickly made hast to celebrate and worship the new baby Jesus. Eventually in the Bible story Wise men from the East traveled a long distance to see the new child. They brought with them gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh and worshipped him. When you read the first couple of chapters of Matthew and Luke's gospels you learn Christmas is about Jesus.

You also learn he was loved, held in the arms of his mother, adored by the shepherds and worshiped by wise astrologers who went to great effort and time to visit him

This Christmas we should all once again embrace the baby Jesus and celebrate his deity and mission to bring love and peace to our hearts. We need his love and peace. We need his joy to the world. Even in the hardest times of life people have found the joy of Jesus at Christmas time. Often the simplest things have a way of bringing the most joy. A baby in a manger. Peasant shepherds dropping by to say hello. Strangers visiting later to bring some gifts.

The people of Christmas are those who are the players of Christmas. We don't pay that much attention to the sheep of Christmas, the donkeys or the camels. The people are what make Christmas special. There would not be a Christmas story without the baby, Mary and Joseph.

Who are the people in your Christmas story? Growing up it was Mama Mollette, Mama Hinkle and Grandpa Hinkle, uncles and aunts, first cousins. Parents Walt and Eula Mollette, sisters and brothers and their children. Later my church families became very significantly involved in my Christmas story. Today there are new faces of extended family, their spouses and now grandchildren. The landscape has dramatically changed.

Years ago, I never imagined Christmas would change so much. Most of the people who I once celebrated Christmas with have passed on or live somewhere else. The people you and I celebrate Christmas with this year will soon pass on or relocate to live somewhere else. The point is this, embrace your Christmas while you can. Embrace your people while you can. The people in your life are your Christmas.

Christmas gifts, trees and decorations are all nice and fun. However, give love, and as safely as you can because of Covid-19, celebrate each other this year. It's always the people of Christmas who make up the Christmas story. While our celebrations this year may be remotely, use your telephone, computers and whatever means you have to connect with your most precious gifts of Christmas - the people in your life.


Dr. Glenn Mollette is a syndicated American columnist and author of American Issues, Every American Has An Opinion and ten other books. He is read in all 50 states. The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily representative of any other group or organization.


This article is the sole opinions of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of PhotoNews Media. We welcome comments and views from our readers.


Photo of the Day - December 13, 2020

Unity student fan section cheers for the team in 2016

Fantastic fans keep Unity fired up

Members of the Unity High School student fan section cheer for the team during their basketball team's home game against St. Joseph-Ogden of February 5, 2016. Unity kept the Spartans on the ropes for the first four quarters only to eventually fall in overtime by nine points, 76-67. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Sentinel holiday gift ideas for the 2020 Christmas season

Still shopping for that ideal gift this holiday season? A couple of weeks ago we asked a number of area merchants and artists for cool gift ideas for our readers. Discover unique Christmas presents that you haven't thought of yet from our list below.

The great thing about our guide is you can avoid the crowds and shop online! One of these items could be the perfect present for someone on your Christmas list!

Gifts Women & Girls Will Love

Handmade Beaded Cowl

Woven it by hand and with hand-twisted the fringe by artist Leann Gehm, this charcoal, lavender, silver & white cowl with glass beads in the fringe for extra sparkle. Her teardrop-shaped cowls are easy to wear, just put the seam towards your body and slip the cowl over your head, adjust the fringe. Made from renewable wood pulp fiber, its luxurious silky soft feel and lustrous sheen is an absolutely elegant.
Retail Price: $76
Available exclusively from
Miranda's Loom

Gifts for Everyone

Silver Bar Studs

Made in Peru with love, these are the perfect everyday stud in a modern geometric silhouette. Never worry about an accessory mismatch when you put on this endlessly wearable pair.
Retail Price: $38
Available from Noonday Collection
Amber Anderson, Independent Ambassador

Gifts Women & Girls Will Love

Let It Glow Gift Set

The ultimate gift of glow! Give smooth, hydrated + healthier-looking skin using our Hyaluronic Acid serum for a 200% hydration boost paired with our sugar + salt scrub for all-over exfoliation. Limited-edition.
Retail Price: $195
Sale Price: $139
Available from Rodan and Fields
Consultant Johanna Burke

Gifts Women & Girls Will Love

Luis Lopez Angel Wire Art

Custom Jewelry

Give a beautiful one-of-the-kind piece from Luis López who specializes in handmade wire jewelry and three-dimensional sculptures. Featured is a green Tourmaline gemstone pendant wrapped in gold wire.
Retail Price: $120
Luis López
Angel Wire Art

A great gift for anyone
Private Photography Instruction
This fun, five-week introductory course with veteran news photographer Clark Brooks will cover the basic information and techniques for 35mm and digital SLR photography. Go from taking snapshots to visually stunning photos in weeks.
Retail Price: $65

Publisher's note: One of the great things about an online gift guide is it can be updated regularly. Point your browser to this page regularly to check for the latest deals and ideals from The Sentinel area. If you are a local merchant or artist and would like to have your product or art piece featured here, it's not too late. Email us at for details.

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