Bud Light sales continue to plummet after transgender marketing controversy

ST. LOUIS — Sales of Bud Light have been plunging since the company enlisted the help of transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney in a marketing campaign a month ago.

Here’s the link to the story at St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Illinois lawmakers react to ‘ComEd Four’ convictions and actions that led to them: ‘Shockingly gluttonous and unhealthy to democracy’

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois lawmakers from both parties on Tuesday were quick to condemn the actions of the “ComEd Four” defendants, who were found guilty of charges they participated in a scheme to bribe former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan in exchange for favorable legislation.

Here’s a link to the story at the Chicago Tribune.

Defendants found guilty on all counts in ‘ComEd Four’ trial

In a sweeping verdict sure to reverberate in Illinois power circles, a federal jury on Tuesday convicted the “ComEd Four” defendants on all charges related to a conspiracy to bribe ex-Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan to win his support for the utility’s legislative agenda in Springfield.

Here’s a link to the story at the Chicago Tribune.

Tapes show Madigan’s ‘assignments’ carried out by McClain in corruption case

(The Center Square) – The so-called ComEd Four trial continues Monday with more phone-recorded evidence expected to show the inner workings of what federal prosecutors call “Madigan Enterprise.”

Here’s a link to the story.

“Night to Shine” — A celebration of God’s love for participants and volunteers

By Jim Muir

Beaming smiles, off-the-charts excitement, a few tears of joy and a heaping-helping of love were proudly on display Friday night when Immanuel Baptist Church, in Benton, hosted the annual “Night to Shine” event.

In 2014, the Tim Tebow Foundation launched “Night to Shine” – a complimentary event for people with special needs hosted by local churches around the world. The vision was simple…the foundation would work with churches around the country to provide an unforgettable prom night experience, centered on God’s love for people with special needs, ages 14 and older. The Night to Shine event at Immanuel on Friday night was one of more than 500 such events held around the world on February 10.

Ryan Mulvaney, who serves as youth pastor at Immanuel said the intricate planning and ironing out of every single detail for the well-organized annual event has gone on for weeks and included more than 200 special needs individuals and an additional 150 volunteers. From the smiles of all attending, it was virtually impossible to determine who was enjoying the event more – those with special needs or the caring volunteers who were there with a singular purpose — to make the night perfect.

The event is designed so that participants are given a warm welcome when they arrive, and then they are ushered to several stations set up throughout the church where they can receive a shoeshine, boutonnières and corsages, makeup and lip gloss and even get their hair fixed if they want. Once they are all “spruced-up” and “spiffed-up” each special participant is escorted to the south side of the large Immanuel Church complex where waiting limousines drive them around the church to the north side of the building where a red carpet entrance awaits.

At the entrance to the red carpet, participants walk through a large floor-to-ceiling star and are then introduced individually to a large crowd of volunteers who are lining the walkway ready to cheer-on, high-five and fist-bump the guests of honor as they make their special entrance.

From there a meal (or snacks) is provided, followed by karaoke and then the main event, a dance where each participant is given a crown or a tiara. In a single sentence, Night to Shine is a celebration of God’s love where everybody truly is a King or Queen!

Following is a pictorial start-to-finish of the remarkable night of activity at Immanuel Baptist Church.

Immanuel Youth Pastor Ryan Mulvaney (on riser) goes over final details with the more than 150 volunteers moments prior to the start of “Night to Shine.”

Kaden Lingafelder, of Carmi, IL, was the first one in the door at Night to Shine. Kaden attends Brownsville School, a special needs facility. He attended with his grandmother, Patty Hodgson.

Immanuel youth pastor Ryan Mulvaney, points to a map showing the various stations where participants and volunteers could navigate throughout the church complex.

Don Cruz, right, of Benton and a member at Immanuel, was busy shining shoes throughout the evening. Here is putting the finishing touches on a shoeshine for Hasten Vanhorn, of West Frankfort, who was attending his first Night to Shine.

Kinzi Loyd was all smiles and pretty in pink as she waited with her chaperone, Terra Clements (directly behind her) for the event to get started.

Mauretta Holman, from Herrin’s Our Directions, assisted living facility, is not certain she likes the corage on her wrist. The corsage/boutonniere station was a busy place throughout the evening.

Stephanie Dalton, (right) was busy throughout the evening. She is pictured here applying lip gloss for Sylvia Collins, from Our Directions, assisted living in Herrin.

Volunteer Shay Richey, left, is pictured putting the finishing touches on a “new-do” for Amelia Fox, of Our Directions, assisted living in Herrin.

After making their way through the various stations, participants are given a limousine ride around the building in preparation for the red carpet entrance.

While enthusiasm and excitement was in the air throughout Immanuel Church, the red carpet entrance, where each participant is recognized and introduced to loud cheers, high-fives and fist-bumping, provided the exclamation point on the evening!

Nurses at Illinois facility forced patients to dig through their own feces, new report says

Newly released reports from the Illinois Department of Human Services’ watchdog office reveal shocking instances of cruelty, abuse and poor care of patients who have mental illnesses and developmental disabilities at a state-run facility in rural southern Illinois.

Here’s a link to the story.

Illinois lawmaker: Property taxes will ‘go to Mars’ if teacher pensions aren’t addressed

(The Center Square) – An Illinois lawmaker is warning of even higher property taxes if costs surrounding the Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System are not addressed.

Here’s a link to the story.

Three restraining orders in four weeks of Illinois’ gun ban with more cases pending

(The Center Square) – One month since Gov. J.B. Pritzker enacted a ban on certain semi-automatic firearms and magazines in Illinois, the stack of federal and state challenges continues.

Here’s a link to the story.

Jesus Cats & GG Severs: Moving Mountains!

By Jim Muir

She’s a 75-year-old bible-quoting great-grandmother that says what she means and means what she says. She’s a Jesus-loving role-model to countless young people who think she’s a super-hero and while there is no cape visible when you meet her, you realize there has to be one somewhere. She has big ideas and even bigger dreams. She’s part evangelist, part prophet, part comedian, part whirlwind and all business. And in less than a year’s time she has turned a dilapidated, run-down building into a sanctuary and a haven of hope for many area young people.

Meet GG Severs!

Severs, of Christopher, has been married to husband Perry for 55 years. They have five children, 10 grandchildren, two great-grand-children and two more greats on the way. She was born and raised in Mounds, a small community located in deep southern Illinois.
“I want to make one thing clear; I didn’t do any of this,” GG said as she waved her arm in a circular motion around the large and beautifully decorated building that formerly housed Tyrone Township, located on the south side of Christopher. “This was all God that made all this happen and brought us through the past year.”

Jesus Cats is the name given to the building by the scores of young people who attend there weekly. The “Cats” part of the title is for the Bearcats, the longtime moniker of Christopher High School. And of course, the “Jesus” part of the title is to honor the Savior that GG and a growing number of young people celebrate.

“I love the name of our building,” GG said. “The kids came up with it and I think it’s just perfect.”

So how did Jesus Cats come to fruition? GG said a planned church visit with two of her grandsons a couple years ago set the wheels in motion that eventually led to Jesus Cats becoming a reality.
“I was going to take Scout and Briar to visit a church one night and it snowed and we couldn’t go,” she said. “And they said ‘why don’t you just teach us,’ so I did. And two young people led to 5 young people…and 5 led to 10…and now we have more than 130 kids involved.”

A sign above the door of the former Tyrone Township Building is a symbol of the major change that has happened in the past year.

With not a bashful bone in her body, GG said she heard that township officials were going to get rid of the old Tyrone Township building, which also served as a polling place. She said she prayed about it and then contacted the officials with an unusual, and perhaps even a little brazen, request.

“I heard the building was going to be sold so I called the township and told them the Lord told me that they should give it to me,” she said matter-of-factly. “And they said: ‘Now Mrs. Severs, we can’t do that, people vote here, it was a government building.’ I told them, ‘I’m just telling you what God said you should do.’ They called me back three hours later and told me they were giving me the building.”

The transaction – she actually gave $1 for the building – took place on January 2, 2022. An important fact to GG and one that she emphasized is that the purchase took place “with no opposition.”

“Once they gave me the building, I knew there wasn’t going to be a problem because God told me that nobody would speak against this, because that’s how God works,” she said.

Enjoying Jesus Cats! Pictured left to right, GG Severs, Scout Hudgens, Layla Johnson, Mya Wilson, Breanna Ourada and Briar Rowland.

In one year’s time, GG has not only taken the Township building that was in a bad state of disrepair and turned it into a showcase, but also established a board of directors who oversee all the incoming donations and expenses.

“First, we don’t owe a dime to anybody for any of the remodeling or furnishings and we never had to borrow any money to get this started, it has all been through donations,” she said. “But I needed a board to control me because I can’t tell anybody “No.” We had a little boy come down here and he wanted one of our chairs and I sent him home with it. We have a great group of Godly people that make up our board. We have an accountant and our board is made up of people from outside of Christopher who don’t know any of the kids. I don’t get any money for doing this…I don’t want any money for doing this…and you can see what God has provided for us in only one year.”

Jesus Cats is decorated beautifully and has a variety of activities for young people, including pool, foos ball, table hockey, a lounge area and a staple for any teenager — an abundance of soft drinks, candy and snacks. One wall is decorated with prayer requests and on the wall of the same room is a locked box that young people can write out a prayer request that is personal. In all, there is a little something for everybody that attends Jesus Cats.

Games galore for the 130-plus youngsters who attend Jesus Cats each week.

GG teaches 34 classes a month and is at the building seven days a week while also serving as encourager, cheerleader, organizer and chief, cook and bottle-washer for more than 130 young people. Factoring all that, the question that begged to be asked is why would a 75-year-old retiree, with a big family of her own, tackle a huge project like Jesus Cats?

“That’s an easy question to answer,” she said. “I’m 75 years old and I am going to go home to see Jesus a long time before these young people and I want to see all them again someday. That’s the answer, it’s just that simple.”

Another staple for teens is plenty of snacks and Jesus Cats is well-stocked.

GG said she is not amazed at what has been accomplished but is amazed at the reaction, not only from those who have contributed financially and with labor but also with the reaction from droves of young people flocking to Jesus Cats.

“I am in awe of God every day and I praise God constantly so what has happened here really has not surprised me,” she said. “I am shocked, though, at the generosity of people and at the hearts of these kids. They love being here with me to hear about Jesus and that is amazing to me.”

And for anybody thinking she has hit her quota on the number of young people she teaches, think again!

“I want 1,000 kids coming through here, that’s what I’ve asked God for. He’s done everything else, so I just keep asking,” she said. “And I really believe that I am supposed to do this same type thing in Du Quoin. In fact, all I need is a building there and I will get it going.”

Each tag represents a prayer request that Jesus Cats students pray for each week.

Jesus Cats hosts a variety of ages, with the youngest group being 3–5-year-olds and then all the way to college age students. She said she currently has 17 in her 3–5-year-old group.

“They know the 10 Commandments and they know the Lord’s Prayer and they know what it means, they just don’t memorize it. They are precious…all the kids are precious,” she said.

GG also picks a “Hero and Shero” of the month from the older high school age students, an award that is based on service. She has many in her high school group who also help with younger ages. And she has baptized several of the young people during the past year, with pictures of those moments filling several of the walls in the large Jesus Cats facility.

A pulpit in the sanctuary area where more than 130 area students hear a weekly message.

GG bristled at the mention of retirement and (as always) had a quick reply.

“There is nobody in the bible that ever retired,” she said. “If the Lord’s willing I plan on being around for quite a while longer. I tell these teenagers that I am going to be bee-bopping at their kids’ weddings.”

While she refuses to take any salary for her long weeks of work, she also refuses to accept any credit for the remarkable accomplishments that have taken place in a building that might have been best suited for the wrecking ball.

“All the glory of what has taken place here goes to God,” she said. “Who in the world am I, that I am so privileged and honored to share Jesus with these young people? Every one of these kids is going to do more for God than I have every done and I believe that. That’s the true blessing and reward in this for me.”

She said the young people that come to Jesus Cats are from all walks of life.

“Many of the kids that come through here are from difficult backgrounds, some are struggling, but I love them and God loves them and everybody is accepted at Jesus Cats,” she said.

She said it gives her great joy that Jesus Cats has broken down invisible barriers that sometimes puts young people in certain social circles.

“We have a great mix of kids, some are great athletes and from great families and then we also have kids that come from struggling families and they all work together and learn about Jesus together,” she said. “Every one of these kids welcomes everybody that comes here. That has been amazing to watch how that has all taken place. And I think that has been a plus and a blessing for everybody.”

GG was asked if she would label herself a minister, pastor or preacher?

“I don’t think I am any of those, I think I’m a shepherd,” she said. “Because all these young people that come to Jesus Cats, all of them, are my sheep. I care about every detail of these kids’ lives.”

When asked about how long she plans to keep up her work with young people, GG gave a short but an immediate answer.

“Until my last breath,” she said.
And those who know her the best know that’s the truth.

Here are some testimonials from some regulars that attend Jesus Cats.

Scout Hudgens
Jesus Cats has impacted my life in so many ways! I was one of the “OG” that came to Jesus Cats. I am so happy that GG is my grandma and I

know I can go to her for anything that goes on in my life. I am also glad that there is this building that everyone can come to and feel loved, just like I feel with GG. I’m proud that Jesus Cats came to our community, and I know it will get bigger and bigger!

Mya Wilson
I really enjoy going to Jesus cats. It is a fun way for kids to learn about God and hang out with friends. I was one of the first few

people to start going to Jesus Cats and it is just amazing to see the growth in people that have been reached through it. I hope to see even more people start coming. I think a lot of kids my age feels the same way and enjoy Jesus Cats.

Breanna Ourada
I started going to Jesus Cats the middle of my 8th grade year. I have always gone to church since I was little but I stopped going when I

got older. The overall place makes me feel accepted even with my past that comes along with me. GG made me feel as welcome as she could. Last April I got baptized by GG and it was an amazing experience. Jesus Cats feels like a second family and I am so glad I started going.

Briar Rowland

I think it is a great thing what GG is doing. Jesus Cats has helped a lot of us draw closer together as friends, and has helped us with our

walk with Jesus. GG has always told us how important our relationship with God is, and that all the glory is for him. Personally Jesus Cats has showed me that God will always be with me, not only in school, and in sports, but in life.

Layla Johnson

I believe that Jesus Cats has helped kids in many different ways. It is led by a very encouraging and outgoing leader, GG. She has been a

lot of help in so many people’s lives. Every Wednesday, she always has a new topic to teach us kids and to show other kids what Jesus is really all about. Jesus Cats has really made me think about my relationship with God and how I need to focus more on him. It is also a place where kids can always go and just talk about anything they need to talk about.

Illinois GOP lobbies to be a part of the state budget process

(The Center Square) – Illinois House Republicans are calling for more transparency and oversight in the state’s budgeting process.

Here’s a link to the story.

Benton, West Frankfort, Illinois News | Franklin County News