Illinois’ migrant health care subsidies projected to be $300 million over budget

(The Center Square) – Illinois will pause a program intended to provide taxpayer subsidized health care to the influx of non-citizen arrivals. The program is already up to $831.6 million in projected taxpayer costs.

Here’s a link to the story.

Lives changed after ‘chance’ parking lot meeting

I read the obituary and then I read it a second time more slowly. The name of the deceased was Eugene Thomas Moroni and as is always the case the obit told a brief chronological story about his life.

After reading the obit, paying particular attention about Moroni’s long history as senior vice president with Old Ben Coal Company, I laid the paper aside and thought about the countless times I’d heard his name mentioned. You see, as a kid growing up in a very middle-class, blue-collar family the name ‘Gene Moroni’ was revered and almost legendary around my house.

Let me explain.

As Southern Illinois residents are aware, coal mining has always been a cyclical industry, which means working as a coal miner has always been a feast-or-famine occupation.

My dad began his mining career in the late 1940s and in those ‘famine’ days tried to earn a living working two and three days a week at mines in Buckner, Coello and Valier. In 1956 Old Ben Coal Company started construction on Mine 21, located east of Sesser, and many miners believed a ‘feast’ era was about to begin.

The new multi-million dollar mine began hoisting coal in January 1960 and my dad was one of hundreds desperately trying to land a job there. I can recall many times sitting in the backseat of an old car at the Old Ben office on West Main Street where Benton City Hall was previously located, while my dad waited in the lobby to try and talk to somebody about getting a job.

After numerous failed attempts my dad came up with a plan that proves necessity truly is the mother of invention. Realizing that the Old Ben officials he was hoping to see were leaving the building at day’s end through another exit, my dad moved his job-seeking vigil to a parking lot at the rear of the building. I’ve heard him recall the story countless times.

The first person my dad encountered in the parking lot that day was Gene Moroni and he approached the vice president of Old Ben Coal and, point-blank, asked him for a job.

Moroni’s answer was probably the standard line he used on the throngs of men seeking his help.

“Do you have an application on file,” Moroni asked my dad.

My dad’s answer was one of quickest-thinking lines I’ve heard.

“Yes, I have an application on file … but I don’t need an application on file, I have a family to take care of … I need a job,” my dad told him.

As I write this, in my mind’s eye I can literally see the exchange that took place that spring day in 1960 between a successful mining executive and a man looking for a job to provide for his wife and four children.

I can let my mind wander and imagine that maybe Moroni looked my dad straight in the eye and tried to get a read on him or maybe he even considered my dad’s size – he was 42 years old and a big strapping man in those days. I’m more prone to believe that Moroni looked at my dad’s desire and his heart and realized that a man who would spend the afternoon standing in a parking lot trying to find somebody … anybody … to talk with about a job would surely make a good employee.

“Call my secretary in the morning and have her schedule you for a physical,” Moroni told him. “I’m going to give you a job.”

The significance of that meeting might not have been apparent to either man that afternoon, but it marked a turning point in my dad’s life and a turning point for his family. Mine 21 was called the ‘golden hole’ by miners and proved to be the best-ever Old Ben mine. My dad went from working two or three days a week to working six and seven days per week and everything he attained materially in life came after that meeting with Moroni.

Perhaps it was his attempt to pay Moroni back for giving him a job or maybe it was something in his make up – maybe it was a combination of both — but my dad would not miss a shift of work. He told Moroni he needed a job that day in 1960 and then for 25 years he went to work every day — regardless.

It’s my opinion that Old Ben Coal and my dad both benefited greatly because of Moroni’s decision that day.

Obituaries are adequate and purposeful when describing the highlights of a person’s life but they fail to reveal the real fabric of that person.

Today I would like to add a footnote to Gene Moroni’s obituary.

Along with the relevant facts that were listed Moroni should also be remembered as a man that helped shape and define the Southern Illinois coal industry, a good man that kept his word, a man of character and a person that undoubtedly possessed an uncanny knack for ‘sizing-up’ a man.

And most importantly it should be remembered that Moroni was admired by many working coal miners – particularly one he met by chance in a parking lot 45 years ago.

Scared Straight: The Great Sesser Homecoming Ticket Heist

This week will mark the 67th anniversary of the Sesser Homecoming Rend Lake Days. Coinciding with that event will also be the 58th anniversary of “The Great Sesser Homecoming Ticket Heist.”

As a kid growing up in Sesser the annual homecoming that was held in the city park in the third week of June, was always the highlight of the summer. My main goal through the months of April, May and early June was to save as much money as I could mowing yards (or whatever I could do to make a buck) so I’d have a pocket full of cash when the James Jackson Shows and Rides rolled into town.

Actually, back then a ‘pocket full of cash’ might have amounted to $15 or $20 but in those days it was a windfall. And knowing my enthusiasm my mom would always hand me three or four Eagle Stamp books a few days before the Homecoming – books that she know doubt had been saving for weeks. I would happily go redeem them – they were worth $1.50 apiece – and add the proceeds to my stash.

Also, every year when the ‘Carnies’ rolled into town I would head to the Sesser City Park on my trusty Schwinn Stingray bicycle where I was joined by an assortment of other knuckleheads. There, we would spend the entire day watching the workers assemble the assortment of rides while counting the minutes until the homecoming became alive with excitement.

One year, when I was 11 years old, we were at the park and we were all straddling our bicycles very near one of the small booths where ride tickets are sold. Noticing that no one was around one of my friends reached into the booth and grabbed an entire roll of carnival ride tickets. Looking back, there must have been 5,000 tickets on that roll.

As he headed out of the park with the stash shoved up under his shirt, for a reason to this day that I don’t understand, I tagged right along behind him. Much like the cowboys in the movies who rob a bank and then head to a safe house to divide the loot, we decided to ride our bikes to Sesser Lake, located a couple of miles southeast of town, to divvy up the cache of yellow ride tickets. To say that I had visions of endless Ferris wheel and tilt-a-whirl rides on my mind would have been an understatement. As a carnival junkie I had just hit the mother-lode.

We realized quickly that we had far more tickets than we could use so we played like Robin Hood – steal from the rich and give to the poor — and began dispersing yellow ride tickets all over town. Soon the word spread in the kid community throughout Sesser and we had guys looking for us hoping to ‘score’ some of the hot (in more ways than one) tickets.

Everything was going along without a hitch until the day that the homecoming was scheduled to start. I headed to town that morning and was soon met by my accomplice who was frantic and talking a mile a minute. During times in the conversation when he was coherent he related that he overheard his parents talking about some ‘stolen ride tickets.’ He said the police had been notified and that the color of ride tickets had been changed to blue. According to his story, anybody with a yellow ticket would be arrested.

As I listened to him talk, and my 11-year-old mind surmised the situation, I realized that this would be my last day of freedom. I was certain that I would be sent to prison and celled up with a guy with tattoos, body odor and no teeth. Life as I knew it and enjoyed it would be over.

Actually, the thought of being arrested, sent to prison and branded as a thief paled in comparison to what I knew would happen if my dad found out. The thought of the police and sharing a cell with Bubba was one thing, but the thought of Bill Muir planting a boot in the seat of my pants was something else. For those of you who consider that child abuse, my dad would quickly tell you it was the most successful way he found to deal with a heathen child.

After a few minutes of remorse followed quickly by panic we decided that we still had time to try and round up the stolen tickets. We must have ridden our bikes 50 miles that day trying to recover those blasted yellow tickets and were successful finding everybody but one person. Only minutes before the rides were scheduled to start we found out that the one person we were looking for was already at the homecoming, so we made a frantic run for the park. We found him happily standing in line at the Ferris wheel with a yellow ticket clinched in his hand. We managed to get to him before he got to the ticket-taker, and in the process spared ourselves a lengthy prison sentence.

I plan to attend the Sesser Homecoming this weekend and enjoy one of those delicious barbeques and some roasted corn. And in the highly unlikely event that I decide to venture on one of the many carnival rides, you can be certain that I will gladly pay for the ticket because I still vividly recall that harrowing June day 58 years ago when “The Great Sesser Homecoming Ticket Heist” scared me straight and quickly ended my life of crime.

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.

Benton, West Frankfort, Illinois News | Franklin County News