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, or contact Meek at 618-437-5321, Ext. 1239 or


Two car accident on the east edge of Benton

by Steve Dunford 

There has been a two car accident on the edge of the city limits of Benton.

It is unsure whether there is any road blockage or not.  There are not any major injuries.

Information is given for traffic only.  I request there not be any comments on social media, especially pictures of the scene until released from law enforcement agencies.

UPDATE 5:45 p.m.  Officers have cleared the scene.

The Nelon’s performing tonight at Thompsonville First Baptist Church


by Steve Dunford

The Nelon’s will be in concert tonight at 7:00 at the First Baptist Church in Thompsonville.  Promoter Andrew Cooksey over the last year has brought some of the finest names in Southern Gospel Music in the past including the Kingsmen, Gold City, The Talley’s, The Wisnant’s and the Perry’s.

The Group’s motto is Faith, Family, Legacy, Vision.  With tight family harmonies, timeless songs and a passion for worship, The Nelons have been captivating audiences for four decades.

Standing on the legacy of founder and patriarch Rex Nelon; Kelly, Jason, Amber and Autumn continue the family tradition with unparalleled vocal excellence, incomparable harmonies and stunning live performances. The group has recorded more than 35 albums with chart-topping Southern Gospel classics like “We Shall Wear a Robe and Crown,” “Come Morning,” and “O For a Thousand Tongues.”

With a love for the old and a vision for the new, The Nelons embrace their traditional roots, all the while, bridging the generational gap by pushing musical boundaries.

Their awards and accolades include three Grammy Nominations, six Dove Awards, 14 Singing News Fan Awards and a People’s Choice Silver Telly Award for the concept video “Excuse Me, Are You Jesus?” They are frequently featured on the best-selling Gaither Homecoming recordings and videos and have performed on The Grand Ole Opry, among other historic venues. However, it’s their heart for people and uncanny gift to communicate God’s love that has helped to expand the audience for Gospel music around the world.

For original group member Kelly Nelon Clark, singing alongside her husband Jason and daughters Amber and Autumn, this is a full-circle moment as she reflects on the countless nights she shared the stage with her father, Gospel Music Hall of Fame member Rex Nelon.  “I can remember people saying, ‘I wish you could see your father when you sing.’ I didn’t understand it then. But now as I watch my girls sing, I glow with pride and totally understand it.”

When the Nelons are not on the road, they call Georgia home. Though whether on the road or at home, the creativity never stops… and neither does the family bond. Jason is a triple threat as a singer, songwriter and producer while Kelly is an accomplished actress of both television and film, appearing in movies like His Love Is Blind, The Cardinal Rule and Losing Faith.  Amber is signed to Daywind records as a solo artist and recently released her first adult solo album Just Sing.  Her powerhouse soprano vocals earned her the coveted Favorite Female Singer win at the Absolutely Gospel Music Awards. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Christian Counseling and is working on her Master’s. Autumn joined the group full-time just two years ago and has been wowing audiences ever since with her crystal clear soprano sound and musical talent on both the mandolin and banjolin. When she leaves the stage, Autumn is hard at work studying. She’s a freshman in college at Baptist College of Florida.

Together as The Nelons, Jason, Kelly, Amber and Autumn are a family devoted to God, each other, and ministering the Gospel of Christ through music and the Word.

The Church is located on State Route 34, one block east of the school.  Admission is free, and a love offering will be taken.  I encourage you to attend for a great night of Southern Gospel music.


Saline County Deputies looking for suspect who attemped to rob Galatia Dollar General

GALATIA, IL The Saline County Sheriff’s Office is looking for a man accused of trying to steal money from the Dollar General Store in Galatia, Illinois last week.

Deputies say on October 5th around 10:30 p.m. a man approached two employees, demanding cash. They say the man had a small gun with a silver top and black handle, but fled the store when the alarm was activated.

The suspect is described as a white man in his mid-to-late 20’s around 5’10” with blonde hair, blue-green eyes and facial hair. The man was wearing a dark colored hoodie and dark colored jeans.

The sheriff’s office released a sketch of the suspect and anyone with information about this incident should call 618-252-8661.

Music legend Little Richard makes a stop in southern Illinois

Little Richard at Three Angels Broadcasting in Thompsonville (WSIL TV Photo)

THOMPSONVILLE, IL (Colin Dorsey, WSIL-TV.  Please click on the link for the full story.  Here is an excerpt below.)

It was Little Richard’s first television news interview in years.

The music legend has only sat down to an interview with Danny Shelton of Three Angels Broadcast Network once before sitting down with News 3 on Saturday.

Known as the “Architect of Rock and Roll,” he said those days are well behind him.

“Well… back at the time, you would think about how you could become bigger and bigger and make more money,” Little Richard said.



See You at the Pole: Thompsonville Schools

Rolling Stone Magazine: See Hit Songwriter Kendell Marvel’s Gritty ‘Lowdown & Lonesome’ Video

Tunesmith behind hits for Gary Allan and Chris Stapleton steps out front with new LP

NASHVILLE, TN –  (Jon Freeman, Rolling Stone Magazine.  Please Click on the link above to read the full story, and the video to Low Down and Lonesone.  Here is an excerpt below.)

One Tuesday per month in 2017, singer-songwriter Kendell Marvel has been holding court at Nashville’s famed Exit/In, a humble venue with a long history in both rock and country circles. Marvel, a veteran Nashville songwriter with hits by Gary Allan (“Right Where I Need to Be”) and Chris Stapleton (“Either Way”), brings out fans and guests for rowdy evenings of outlaw-styled country rock, a sound he explores to the fullest on his new solo album Lowdown & Lonesome.

Lowdown & Lonesome” is a bluesy, riff-heavy rocker that calls to mind the restless Southern rock of the Allman Brothers Band and Hank Williams Jr.’s whiskey-soaked howl. A portrait of a man sinking into a deep depression after a rough breakup, “Lowdown” was penned by Marvel, Keith Gattis and Randy Houser and ultimately formed the stylistic center of the new album.

Accident on Route 34, East of Thompsonville

by Steve Dunford

THOMPSONVILLE, IL –  The Franklin County Sheriff’s and Cave-Eastern Fire Protection District are responding to a single car accident, east of Thompsonville on State Route 34.  It is where locals call Dead Man’s Curve.

There are no injuries.  I always request the name, description  and most of all pictures, do not be posted on Social Media for several hours.

Please avoid this area, as there is road blockage.

Several reporting no water service, low pressure in the Corinth Water District

by Steve Dunford

CORINTH, IL –There have been several social media reports of low water pressure in the Corinth Water District.

I just spoke with a representative from the district, and they are having trouble with their pump station.  She also said the district is under a boil water order till further notice, and it is district wide.

The Corinth Water District, covers rural areas east of West Frankfort and south of Thompsonville.  The also serve areas southwest of Galatia, and the northeast quadrant of Williamson County.



Local musicians plan music tutoring program at schools

AKIN, IL  – (Joe Ragusa, WSIL-TV.  Please click on the link for the full story.  Here is an excerpt below.

A local school teacher and musician wants to bring back music programs in schools that can’t afford to keep them.

Craig Tessone, an Akin Grade School teacher and musician, wants to bring students that experience by bringing music back to schools.

“It has taken me to places I’ve never dreamed of,” Tessone said. “I’ve gotten to sing and perform in front of lots of people. I’ve written original songs and gotten to record in Nashville.”

Tessone said his tutoring program remains in the planning stages but he hopes to teach groups of 15 kids once a week at several schools.

Benton, West Frankfort, Illinois News | Franklin County News