5 Loaves Cafe in Sesser offers more than a meal

SESSER, IL –  Living in the community over fifteen years, I know first hand the work, generosity, and showing Christ’s love the Sesser-Valier Ministerial Alliance does for the community.  Please the link below to read the story from Holly Kee of the Benton news about the alliance’s newest ministry, Five Loaves Cafe, and their outreach to the community during the ministry’s thanksgiving dinner.  -sd


Students, leaders share stage at 2017 RLC Criminal Justice Scholarship Roundup

MT. VERNON, IL – The future of local law enforcement and some of their most ardent supporters gathered in Mt. Vernon this week for the sixth annual Rend Lake College Criminal Justice Program’s Roundup for Scholarships event.

Every year, the fundraiser brings in approximately $3,000 – enough for at least six students to receive financial help for classes in the criminal justice program. This year, the six students who received those scholarships were on hand to meet with members of local law enforcement who took the opportunity to share words of wisdom and encouragement.


Jefferson County State’s Attorney Sean Featherstun, center, presents a $1,000 donation to the Rend Lake College Criminal Justice Scholarship Fund. There to receive the gift was RLC Associate Professor of Criminal Justice, Ron Meet, left, and RLC President Terry Wilkerson, right.  (Reece Rutland, Rend Lake College public information)

Jefferson County State’s Attorney Sean Featherstun started the event off with a bang when he presented the criminal justice scholarship fund with a $1,000 donation out of the State’s Attorney’s Drug Forfeiture Fund.

“We seize money from drug dealers and hold on to it until we can find something positive to do with it. So, tonight we are here to donate this money to the scholarship fund. This is our opportunity to take money from the bad guys and use it to fight against them,” said Featherstun.

Dave Severin, State Representative for the 117th District, shared his message of gratitude and encouraged the students to remain local to help build Southern Illinois up.

“You are the future of Southern Illinois. I’m so glad to be here this evening to not only congratulate you but also to challenge you to go get an education or start your own business, have a family and stay in Southern Illinois,” Severin expressed.

Mt. Vernon Police Chief Chris Deichman echoed those thoughts.

“I would like to commend all these students on your chosen path. You’ve taken a great first step. Like Representative Severin made mention, I would challenge you as well to stay right here. Stay local. When we are recruiting, we are looking for folks who came from our local community colleges. What we have found in our department, the ones that have worked their way up and are now leaders in the department are local. So, when we are looking for new officers we like to look right here in our own back yard. Those people tend to love the community and stick around,” Deichman expressed.

Deichman also told the students that they were getting started with their careers by taking advantage of Rend Lake College. The chief shared his experience of being a RLC criminal justice student and how that helped him along the path that he is on today.

Jefferson County Sheriff Travis Allen, a fellow RLC criminal justice graduate, agreed wholeheartedly.
“Rend Lake gave me a great base where I was able to go on to graduate school. I believe all of that is because of the college and the Foundation, providing me the support and tools I needed. We have something in our backyard that we should take advantage of, and that’s Rend Lake College. You will not find a more intelligent and better prepared man than Ron Meek,” said Allen.

Two of the student scholarship recipients also took the opportunity to speak.

Six criminal justice students were on hand at the 2017 Roundup for Scholarships event. From left, Jordan Pike (McLeansboro), Alan Fox (Tamaroa), Anthony Amato (Ina), Jena Holden (Christopher), Associate Professor Ron Meek and Chelsey Bundy (Thompsonville). Not pictured was Amanda Queen (Reece Rutland – Rend Lake College Public Information.)

Chelsey Bundy (Thompsonville) has already begun working as a full-time officer with the Sesser Police Department while continuing her education. She hopes to use this opportunity to go on and earn her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

“I just want to thank everyone for coming tonight. It’s been an honor to receive a scholarship this year. It’s helped me out a lot. We all know college is expensive. Thank you professor Meek for being a great instructor and making class interesting and leading us all in the right direction,” Bundy stated.
Fellow scholarship recipient Alan Fox (Tamaroa) had nothing but praise for the program.

“I have personally learned more about criminal justice than I ever could have imagined over the past year and a half. Professor Meek is a great teacher. All of the teachers in the program are great and very knowledgeable,” Fox said.

Rend Lake College President Terry Wilkerson and Foundation CEO Kay Zibby-Damron also took a turn at the podium to thank the students for attending RLC and to encourage them to become quality representatives of the Criminal Justice Program as well as the college.

Ron Meek, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice, closed the night by thanking all the supporters of the program and making two announcements of his own.

“I just want to take a moment to thank the college, local law enforcement and the community for their support of the program. Because, without them, we wouldn’t have the success that we enjoy. We are always trying to come up with new things to keep our program on the cutting edge of the field. This year, I’m pleased to announce that in January we are starting a new class called Law Enforcement Scenarios. It will be a whole semester of spending one class period learning about a topic and then the next class period of actually roleplaying that scenario out,” said Meek. “A lot of our local law enforcement has come to me and expressed a need for scenario-based training. So, we are working towards addressing that need.”

“Also, with the president of the college’s support and the cooperation of local law enforcement, we are about to get Illinois to move the part-time Police Academy from Carbondale to Rend Lake College Starting in January. So, we are going to be the site for Southern Illinois part-time, police training program.”

To learn more about RLC’s Criminal Justice program, visit www.rlc.edu/criminal-justice, or contact Meek at 618-437-5321, Ext. 1239 or meekr@rlc.edu.


Dispatcher on administrative leave following sexual assault investigation


The Central Dispatch Board. (From WSIL-TV reporter Hannah Gebresialasse’s Twitter page

CHRISTOPHER, IL (Hannah Gebresilasse – WSIL-TV.  Please Click on the link for the full story.  Here is an excerpt below.

Board members of the Central Dispatch of West Franklin County voted Wednesday night to place former Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputy Christopher Hampton on unpaid administrative leave, indefinitely.

Hampton faces charges of criminal sexual assault and custodial sexual misconduct. The felonies stem from an incident in January of 2016. Following the incident, the Franklin County Sheriff placed Hampton on administrative leave and he later resigned then began work at the dispatch center.

Rebecca Whittington serves as general counsel for the West Franklin County Central Dispatch board. She told News 3 Hampton’s position will be held open, but he will not be on staff or payroll.

See You at the Pole: Sesser-Valier Schools

From the Sesser-Valier Fellowship of Christian Athletes Facebook page

WSIL TV’s – Sack Hunger: Sesser-Valier Lifeline Food Pantry



SESSER, IL (Evie Allen, WSIL-TV please click on the link above for the full story.  Here is an excerpt below.)

Get ready for another night of high school football and Sack Hunger. Last week, you helped us collect more than 8,000 items for pantries in Benton and Pinckneyville. Friday, News 3 will collect food in Johnston City as the Indians host the Sesser-Valier Red Devils.

Every month, around 70 families get food from the Sesser-Valier Lifeline Food Pantry. Pantry Secretary Larry Cook said that number jumps much higher during the fall to winter months.
“Especially, November and December, we may have upwards of 125 to 130,” said Cook.

“The thing that I find quite often is there will be somebody who will say, Pastor Larry could you, I’ve got a family member, I’ve got a sister, I’ve got a mother, somebody in need of prayer. Would you? And I’ll just stop and we have a word of prayer right there in the street,” added Cook.

You can find this pantry’s doors open every third Tuesday of every month from 9-11 a.m. The football game kicks off at 7 p.m Friday night.

50 Influencers Of Rend Lake College: Mildred Fitzgerrell, the Godmother

by Reece Rutland, Rend Lake College Public Information

The Godmother of the “Sesser Mafia” might sound like an intimidating title, but while Mildred Fitzgerrell was making offers people couldn’t refuse, her power was seated in everyone’s admiration for her dedication, persistence and commitment to her community those around her.

The moniker “Sesser Mafia” was born out of Fitzgerrell, and a dedicated group, fighting to save the Sesser Opera House.


Mildred Fitzgerell

But Fitzgerrell was so much more than a charismatic leader of volunteers working toward saving a historic landmark. She was no less than a local icon, working nearly four decades in the Sesser Post Office, retiring in 1973.

Her husband, State Rep. Wayne Fitzgerrell, was killed in an auto accident in 1965 on his way to the legislature in Springfield and she never remarried. However, she never quit caring about her hometown.

As the widow of a near-legendary State Representative and with a very recognizable last name, Fitzgerrell could have separated herself from the community, then Sesser Mayor Ned Mitchell said, but noted she did just the opposite. Mitchell said she had an “elegance” about the way she handled herself.

“But she was still one of us and probably one of the most unpretentious people I’ve ever known,” the Mayor said. “There were no airs about Mildred. She was just a genuine person, a good and kind person.”

While Fitzgerrell’s devotion to her hometown is well-documented, the long-term effect of her work with the Rend Lake College Foundation has made an equally lasting mark on history.
Former RLCF CEO Pat Kern reflected on the remarkable impact Fitzgerrell made on the lives of RLC students.

“It’s an overused phrase these days, but she is truly a person who made a big difference in a lot of people’s lives,” Kern said. “There are over 20 RLC students who received their degrees because of the gift Mildred gave. It would be amazing to know how many lives those 20 have affected. She has been an integral part of the RLC Foundation.”

In 1984, Fitzgerrell was one of the first individuals to set up an endowed fund that provided an annual scholarship.

Fitzgerrell and Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Junkins contributed $5,000 during the RLC Foundation’s Sesser Fund Drive in ‘84 in order to set up the scholarship, which is awarded annually to a Rend Lake College student who has completed the freshman year and will be continuing at the Ina-based community college the following fall.

“Wayne was always very interested in education and helping students obtain scholarships,” said Fitzgerrell at the time the scholarship was announced. “I have had people tell me since his death that Wayne had helped them get scholarships.

“That is one of the main reasons why we wanted to do this. We know that if Wayne were still alive, he would have wanted to be a part of Rend Lake College.”

She went on to become a Foundation Board member in December 1989 and was an active participant thereafter. In 1995, she launched the “Generations of Excellence” capital campaign in Sesser with her lead gift of $10,000, encouraging others to do the same.

“I am all for Rend Lake College,” Fitzgerrell expressed. “It’s good students have a place like that to go their first two years (of college).”

When the RLC Foundation established its Presidential Award in 1995 to recognize deserving Foundation supporters, she was one of four recipients to be so honored the first year (along with Howard L. Payne, Hunt Bonan and fellow townsman Richard Garner).

In November 1992, Fitzgerrell was named “Person of the Year” by the Sesser Chamber of Commerce. In December 1993, she was recipient of the first “Southern Illinois Rural Genius Award” presented by the Southern Illinois Arts Council for her work in helping preservation efforts involving the Sesser Opera House.

In 2002, she was one of the two individuals who received Third Annual “Distinguished Alumni” Awards from Sesser-Valier High School. She was a graduate of forerunner Goode-Barren Township High School (Class of 1931).

At the time of her Alumni Award, her credentials … “Mildred (then 88) worked at the Sesser Post Office for 37 years and is a member of the Sesser United Methodist Church, Woman’s Club, Senior Citizens, the Opera House Board, Chamber of Commerce, DAR, Beta Sigma Phi, and a 50-year member of the Eastern Star. She has been the recipient of the Sesser Chamber of Commerce Member of the Year Award and Beta Sigma Phi’s First Lady of the Year,” RLC veteran Herb Winemiller Jr. said at a ceremony to honor Fitzgerrell.

“While her late husband left a lasting mark on the district that he served for more than a decade, Mildred has quietly established a legacy of her own that will long be remembered, especially by the many students who have attended Rend Lake College because of her generosity.”

The State Park that serves as a next door neighbor to RLC, the Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park, was dedicated in October of 1976.

Country Legend John Conlee to perform in Sesser IL

SESSER, IL – Country legend John Conlee (Mr. Rose Colored Glasses), a regular performer at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville will be performing on Saturday, October 7 at 7 PM at the Sesser Opera House in Sesser, IL.

During John Conlee’s 40 year career in Country Music, he has brought to audiences such classic songs as: “Rose Colored Glasses” (John’s signature song), “Friday Night Blues”, “Backside of 30”, “Common Man”, “Miss Emily’s Picture”, “I Don’t Remember Lovin’ You”, and more.

Overall, there have been 32 single releases throughout the years with 26 of them charting in the top 20 or better. Eight of those 26 have reached the coveted No. 1 spot on the national country charts.

Conlee’s fans are excited that he has returned to radio with singles “Walkin’ Behind The Star”and “Bread and Water”, released on his own RCR (Rose Colored Records) Label. “Walkin’ Behind the Star” was written by Nashville recording veterans Ronnie Scaife and Pil Thomas and the lyrics were inspired by Phil’s grandfather and great-grandfather both of whom served in their local sheriff’s department. The song had yet to be cut until recent events made it timely, the song was pitched to the Grand Ole Opry star, who was touched by the song’s honesty. “Recent deadly attacks against the people who keep us safe is unprecedented in America and I wanted to sing this song in honor of their sacrifice and willingness to serve,” Conlee said. The new CD will feature new material along with many of Conlee’s latter classics.

Conlee recently celebrated the 38th anniversary of his breakthrough hit “Rose Colored Glasses,” and can be found on tour throughout 2017 as well as on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, where he has been a member since 1981.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.itickets.com or call 800-965-9324.

Retail outlets with eclipse glasses in stock

by Steve Dunford

The following list does not guarantee the quality, or if no longer in stock.  Franklincounty-news.com is not liable for any malfunction of the glasses.

Franklin County


Casey’s (East Main Street Location)

Heartland office supply – free with a can good donation

Benton Gazette

Walmart is sold out and they do not anticipate receiving any more


Hometown Shirts and Graphics

Bowlin’s Foodland






Mom’s Milk

West Frankfort Gazette

West Frankfort Public Library (Free to patrons with a library card)

Perry County


Walmart – They have a limited supply

Available tonight from 7:30-9:00 p.m. at the Alder Planetarium Mobile Crew Show at the St. Nicholas Hotel

Williamson County





Franklin County businesses are prepared for the eclipse

by Steve Dunford

Several emergency officials has labeled the Interstate 57. US 51, Illinois 13 corridor in Jackson, Williamson, Perry, and Franklin Counties, for having heavy traffic and an influx of tourists coming to see the total eclipse,  which the path will cut right through Southern Illinois on Monday.  Estimated totals will say hundreds of thousands will ascend on Little Egypt.

Carbondale McDonalds at University Place Shopping Center, that has was purchased by Moreland/Bishop enterprises.  Their corporate office is in West Frankfort  (File photo)

Moreland-Bishop enterprises, based out of West Frankfort, owns a chain of McDonald’s restaurants across Southern Illinois, including two that the company recently required in Carbondale in February.   They also own stores in, Benton-West City, West Frankfort, Johnston City, Herrin, Carterville and two in Marion, in the four county area that will experience the extra tourists.

Late last week, I spoke with John Moreland, who with his wife Mary, and daughter Stephanie who has been long time owners of the franchises.  In the conversation he told me that coupled with the eclipse, SIU students will be allowed to move in the dorms on Thursday, as classes start next Tuesday.

He said this is unprecedented, but they are going to have extra staff, shuffled from other stores.  Management has been meeting for months to prepare for this weekend.   Their suppliers are prepared to make extra runs to the stores if necessary.

Moreland was concerned about the weather, and people might go elsewhere   At the time, The Weather Channel, predicted showers and thunderstorms for Southern Illinois on Monday in their 15 day forecast.  The storm system forecasters had their eye on will hit the region on Saturday.

He said, “No matter what, there will be people here,” citing that most hotels in Jackson and Williamson counties were requiring at least a three night stay.

To deal with communication issues, he said all of the company cars are General Motors vehicles, and they will rely on OnStar if local cell services go down.

Moreland told me their family will be guests to several friends and relatives during that time, coming from as far away as Texas.

Moreland gave me a story suggestion, follow up with businesses and officials to see what went right, and what went wrong.

“We are preparing for a typical fourth of July Weekend.”  says Bob Brothers, Store Manager of Benton-West City Walmart.  He says the reason being with the campgrounds are full at Rend Lake during that time and he expects a similar bump in sales.

Brothers said the store will be well stocked, and nearly every register will be going for the weekend.  They put emphasis on extra camping supplies and emergency management supplies,  such as batteries and generators, in case the power grid would be overloaded.

He says some sales will be determined by how heavy the traffic is on Interstate 57, barring whether people will exit to avoid the congestion.

Brothers also said they are sold out of eclipse glasses, and do not expect to get any more in.

Karen Freeman of Benton KOA says there are no vacancies for camping spots.  It has been that way over a year now.  “Several are staying five and six days and making a vacation out of it, Freeman said.”

Trudy Phillips, Store Manager of Sesser Casey’s, says at this time they will not have any extra staffing.  The store just received more eclipse glasses in stock though.


SESSER, IL – The City of Sesser is proud to be distributing free solar eclipse sunglasses for the upcoming solar eclipse for all residents of the city.

They are available at City Hall & the Library. Limit 2 per person unless you have more people with you.

Benton, West Frankfort, Illinois News | Franklin County News